Field Notes: Lower Limits
The DNR is proposing rules to lower bag limits for crappies, sunfish, lake trout, and catfish.
The new regulations, if approved, would take effect with the 2003 fishing season. The DNR is proposing no changes to long-standing bag limits on walleye, northern pike, stream trout, and largemouth and smallmouth bass.
The decision came after more than two years of discussion and analysis. Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries Division director, said the agency received unprecedented public input. "Anglers definitely got a chance to make themselves heard on this issue," Payer said.
An advisory committee representing fishing interests met several times over the past year and a half to provide recommendations. DNR officials said they carefully considered the committees recommendations along with opinions of citizen anglers and fishing industry representatives and the biological findings of DNR research scientists.
Payer said that any regulation changes had to be both biologically and socially reasonable.
"To lower a bag limit, there had to be a biological need to do so," he said. "But at the same time, it wouldnt make sense to lower limits beyond what anglers would support, because the only way limits work is if most anglers comply. So we looked at each species and weighed those factors."
The DNR is proposing the following changes in possession limits:
Lake trout (from three to two): Overharvest is of great concern to DNR biologists. Lowering the limit had strong support among anglers, including those in the Arrowhead region, where most of Minnesotas 100 lake trout lakes are located.
Crappies (from 15 to 10): Biologists have been concerned about steep declines in the species average size in many lakes. One of the proposals would have lowered the limit to six, but there seemed to be little public support for the reduction. So the DNR proposed a 10-fish limit, which surveys showed would be acceptable to most anglers.
Sunfish (from 30 to 20): Sunfish have also declined in size. There was little public support for lowering the limit to 10. Most anglers indicated they would accept a limit of 20, which biologists believe may help slow the decline of average size.
Catfish (from five channel catfish and flathead catfish of any size to five with only one over 24 inches and only two of which may be flathead catfish): The size regulation, already in place on the Red River and tributaries, will help protect trophy fisheries on rivers such as the Mississippi and Minnesota. The two-flathead limit will help further protect trophies of that species.