The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages to the public to weigh in on proposed special fishing regulations that would allow anglers to keep fewer sunfish from 50 lakes. The proposed regulations are part of the ongoing Quality Sunfish Initiative.
“These new regulations would continue our response to angler concerns about the declining sizes of some of our state’s most prized and frequently caught fish,” Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor Dave Weitzel said. “We’re aiming to protect and improve sunfish sizes on select lakes with the biological potential to produce large sunfish.”
The proposed lower bag limits on 50 lakes would go into effect in March 2022. Under the proposal, sunfish daily bag limits would be reduced from the statewide limit of 20 sunfish to five sunfish on some lakes and 10 sunfish on others. Some lakes also have similar proposals for lower crappie daily bag limits.
Comments on the proposed regulation changes may be submitted multiple ways, including through an online survey that is open through Sunday, Oct. 31, by contacting an area fisheries office, or by attending an in-person meeting this fall. Details about the meetings will be posted and publicized later this summer. More information about comment options, including a link to the survey, is available online at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fish/sunfish/index.html.
Through the Quality Sunfish Initiative, nearly 100 lakes received bag limit reductions in March of 2021. In total, the DNR plans to increase the number of lakes with reduced bag limits to approximately 210 by 2023, up from 60 before the initiative began.
Although anglers have told the DNR they are satisfied with sunfish numbers, they have voiced increasing concerns about sunfish size quality. They also have voiced concern about the added pressure on fisheries as a result of electronic fish finders and other technological advancements, including rapid social media communication between anglers when fish are biting.
“Sunfish grow only about an inch per year, so a large sunfish can be more than a decade old. It’s critical to protect these large fish from excessive harvest because they aren’t easily replaced,” Weitzel said.
In addition to the 50 lakes where the DNR is proposing new special sunfish and crappie regulations, the DNR also is proposing minor changes to 63 lakes that already have special reduced possession limits. Under these changes, the reduced possession limit will change to a reduced daily limit, which will allow an angler to take a daily limit from a lake multiple days in a row until reaching their statewide possession limit (20 sunfish, 10 crappie). The change will create consistency with the newly implemented Quality Sunfish Initiative regulations and is not projected to have additional biological impacts.
Minnesota fishing regulations use sunfish as the generic name for bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, warmouth and their hybrids. More about sunfish biology, the Quality Sunfish Initiative, and lists of lakes proposed for special sunfish regulations can be found on the DNR website.