Field Notes - New Fish Limits
New limits for crappie, sunfish, lake trout, and catfish will take effect on the 2003 fishing opener in May. Daily and possession crappie limits will go from 15 to 10, sunfish from 30 to 20, and lake trout from three to two. The catfish limits will remain at five, but only one may be more than 24 inches and only two may be flathead catfish.
Most Minnesota game fish limits have not changed for 40 to 70 years, yet fishing pressure and technology have increased dramatically, says DNR Fisheries director Ron Payer. "Our limits have been in place for so long that whatever rationale there may have been for them has been lost," he says. "We wanted to do an extensive review to see if limit changes could help improve fishing."
DNR data show lake trout harvests have exceeded recommended levels on many northeastern Minnesota waters. The new lake trout limit is expected to decrease the statewide harvest by as much as 30 percent on average and to help maintain populations at a higher level.
The average size of crappie and sunfish has been declining statewide. Limit changes are expected to reduce harvest by only 3 to 4 percent, but the reduction could be greater on lakes with exceptional fisheries. The changes could help stabilize the declining trend in average size.
Biological analysis showed statewide population trends for walleye, brown trout, and largemouth and smallmouth bass were stable or increasing. As a result, limit changes were not proposed for them.
"We will continue to look for opportunities to improve fishing for walleye, bass, and brown trout with special regulations on specific lakes and streams," Payer says.
The analysis did show a decline in the number of large northern pike. During the public input phase, most anglers rejected a statewide slot limit. The DNR decided instead to institute special regulations for northern pike on 66 lakes and one stream. The regulations will take effect in May.