May 22, 2023

North Dakota Governor Signs Fishing Contest Bill

Article Contact: Bob Matthews,

Why It Matters: Fishing tournaments benefit communities in multiple ways. Large-scale professional tournaments can have significant economic impacts on communities that surround popular fisheries while simultaneously bringing in nonresidents, resulting in additional funding to state fish and wildlife agencies through license and fishing equipment sales. Smaller and/or youth tournaments can introduce new anglers to the sport and create lifelong anglers, which is essential to the continued advancement of one of America’s favorite pastimes.


  • HB 1538 passed the North Dakota Legislature in late April of this year and was signed into law in early May. The bill eliminates barriers to hosting both large-scale and youth fishing tournaments.
  • North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Todd Porter introduced the bill, which maintains the tournament oversight authority of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (GFD) and ensures that the GFD will receive funding generated by tournaments hosted in the state.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is committed to eliminating barriers to our time-honored outdoor traditions and enhancing the societal benefits that those traditions offer.

Earlier this year, North Dakota House Bill 1538, which was signed by Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) member Gov. Doug Burgum on May 18, passed the North Dakota Legislature with overwhelming support. Upon its effective date in April of 2024, the new law will eliminate unnecessary and burdensome constraints on fishing contests in the state. Introduced by North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Todd Porter, CSF was instrumental in crafting the bill’s language.

The bill maintains the tournament oversight authority of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (GFD) while encouraging competitive angler participation, eliminating barriers for youth fishing contests, and benefiting the fundraising capabilities of charitable organizations, all while positively impacting local economies surrounding popular fishing destinations in the State.

Under the existing law, tournament organizers are subject to a 10% conservation fee of the gross proceeds of a tournament. However, despite misconceptions, large fishing tournaments often pay at or near 100% of proceeds back to participants, meaning that they do not generate significant revenues and therefore often run in the negative with expenses even before the 10% conservation fee is applied. For this reason, large multi-day professional fishing tournaments simply have not hosted events in North Dakota, which has resulted in lost economic gains for the local communities that surround popular fishing destinations. By replacing the mandatory 10% conservation fee with a negotiated fee that is agreed upon by the tournament sponsor and a representative of the fishing tournament, the new law alleviates the burdens that have kept major tournaments out of North Dakota.

Additionally, the bill established a Fishing Conservation Fund, which is appropriated annually to the Game and Fish Department for the express purpose of fishery conservation, public access projects, and fish and wildlife conservation grant programs. Nonresident fishing licenses were increased by $5.00, which will be deposited into the fishing conservation fund, to ensure that the Game and Fish Department does not lose revenue that would have been previously realized by the 10% conservation fee applied to tournaments.

Finally, HB 1538 removed requirements that had previously hindered the ability to organize high school fishing tournaments. High school fishing competitions are one of the fastest-growing youth sports in the United States. By creating a distinction for youth tournaments, high schools in the State will be able to organize fishing teams more easily, which are presently not commonplace given the hurdles currently in place.

CSF is proud to have had a hand in this legislation championed by Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Porter and signed by GSC member Gov. Burgum. CSF will continue to work to eliminate barriers to our time-honored traditions and enhance the benefits that hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping has on our society.

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