The continuous fishing season in North Dakota and South Dakota coupled with warming weather and rumors of a hot bite in any given location can bring anglers out in droves, particularly in those combat fishing areas along spawning creeks and channels from Devils Lake to the Missouri River basin to smaller waters in between. With these high-density congregations inevitably come the reports of over-limits, fish snaggers, and the one percent trouble-making portion of the population putting a black eye in the otherwise greening time of spring. Whatever the issue is, having a means to contact the authorities is what sportsmen need to keep honest anglers honest and to report the bad apples.
While a single warden is often tasked with covering multiple counties which contain many spring fishing hot spots too numerous to police on a daily basis, the work many times comes down to sportsmen who are out and about doing right by the regulations and enjoying their time outdoors to help keep offenders in check. With a camera and voice recorder on every cell phone and one of those in nearly every angler’s pocket nowadays, the two most important tools for reporting violations on the water and in the field are readily available to help sportsmen prevent exploitation and damage to the hunting and fishing resources of the upper Midwest.
In a previous life as a prosecutor, it was a quick lesson learned that eyewitness accounts can vary, and based on their role in the situation, even the most sober and reasonable set of people can see a situation more than three different ways. Descriptions of individuals and events can vary, what was said ends up having just two or three words the same in each account, and the reliability of each person’s story – even those not involved as a defendant or the victim – comes into question. That’s why, when monitoring the outdoors, it’s key for sportsmen have those technological tools on hand in the moment. A quick snap of a photograph takes the picture of an alleged violator, captures the letters and numbers on the side of a boat or locks down a license plate in a digital file. Popping up a voice recorder allows for a quick rattling of descriptions, activities and other pertinent facts in the moment to help file a report when violations of game and fish regulations or state laws are occurring. Those items can then be quickly sent via email or text to a personal account for processing and transmission at home, or sent to the local warden if immediate action is required.
Phone Tag Both North Dakota and South Dakota offer in-the-field means for contacting wardens and reporting violations along with forms to complete online after the event, if cell service isn’t available or the situation won’t safely allow for it. Each state started their respective tip line for hunters and anglers in 1984 and in the past 35 years, contacting the authorities has resulted in thousands of arrests, convictions and confiscations by violators throughout the seasons. The phone number for North Dakota’s Report All Poachers (RAP) hotline is 800-472-2121 and the number for South Dakota’ Turn in Poachers (TIPs) program is 888-683-7224. Both programs offer rewards for reports which lead to arrests and convictions.
Reports in both states can be issued anonymously, and South Dakota offers an online submission form while North Dakota has a printable PDF that can be completed and emailed or turned in physically to a warden. Having these numbers programmed into a phone and ready in a moment’s notice allows for faster reports, better details to an event fresh in the mind and quicker law enforcement action from a warden that may be in the area. Now is also a good time to look up a warden’s contact information for areas that are frequently fished or hunted each year, and have that in a contact list as well.
Hunters and anglers should not take any action which may place themselves or others in danger and should avoid interacting with potential violators if it can be avoided during the observation and reporting process, particularly in instances where suspects are visibly armed. Spring provides many with a chance at excitement in the outdoors after a long winter, and the opportunity at making some memories in the field and on the water. It also gives sportsmen a chance to renew their commitment to protecting the resource and to be set to act as the situation calls for it.
More information on each state’s program in place for reporting game and fish violations from the slightest over limit to a major big game poaching issue can be found at the North Dakota Game & Fish Department RAP landing page (gf.nd.gov/rap) and the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks’ TIPs program site (gfp.sd.gov/tips).