Bluegill - sunfish

The DNR wants anglers to weigh in on whether to keep fewer bluegills from some Minnesota lakes as a way to protect and improve the sizes of one of the state's most prized and frequently caught fish.

For years, anglers have been telling the DNR they are satisfied with sunfish (i.e. bluegill) numbers. But an increasing number of anglers are concerned about sunfish size quality.

The prevalent use of electronic fish finders and other technological advancements combined with rapid social media communication have heightened those concerns.

In response, fisheries managers aim to increase the number of lakes with reduced bag limits from 60 to 250 by 2023. Managers are using proven 5 or 10 sunfish bag limits to protect and improve sunfish quality on select lakes with both biological potential to produce large sunfish and strong public support.

In March 2021, nearly 100 lakes received bag limit reductions. Now, the DNR is proposing another 50 lakes for reductions that would go into effect in March of 2022. Some lakes have complimentary crappie regulation proposals.

Weigh in with your thoughts

We encourage you to watch the video presentation on this quality sunfish initiative and then comment.

Comments on proposed sunfish regulation changes can be submitted multiple ways! You can take an online survey or contact a nearby area fisheries office.

Take our online survey

Note: The DNR also is proposing minor changes to 63 lakes that received reduced daily and possession limits prior to 2021. The change would make the special regulations consistent with new special sunfish and crappie regulations by increasing the possession limit to the statewide limit but retaining the reduced daily limit.

Why do bag limits need to be reduced to improve or maintain size quality?

Studies show that angler harvest, especially of the large male sunfish, can have a huge impact on size quality. It takes a surprising amount of time to grow a large sunfish – you can grow three trophy bucks in the amount of time it takes to grow one 10 inch bluegill! Consequently, large fish are often removed faster than they can be replaced. Sunfish also have unique spawning behavior; large males create an incentive for other males to grow equally large and compete for good spawning sites – when large males are harvested other males have no reason to keep growing and tend to stay smaller. Because anglers usually keep the largest sunfish, reducing overall harvest can have noticeable benefits.

Do reduced bag limits work?

In most cases, yes! Lakes recently managed with 10 fish bag limits have generally maintained good size quality while average size increased in lakes managed with 5 fish limits. Around 30 lakes have been through a formal review process including feedback from anglers – generally anglers were supportive and the bag limits were maintained or further reduced in every case. Published scientific studies from Minnesota and Wisconsin show similarly positive results from bag limit reductions – most lakes showed improvements in average size of half of an inch or more. The gains angler’s saw in the size of the fillets taken home tended to offset the reduced total number of fish allowed.

How does that work? Take a look at this graphic, which depicts the relationship between bluegill length and weight of fillets. If an angler kept only 6 inch fish, she would need 25 bluegills for one pound of fillets. If the bluegills were all 8 inches, she would only need 6 fish for one pound of fillets.

What lakes are being considered?

Signs will be posted at public accesses of proposed lakes where special regulations are being considered. The public is invited to comment and public input meetings are planned for fall. If the proposal wins public support and is approved internally, changes should go into effect on March 1, 2022.

CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
Hubbard1st Crow Wing LakeSunfish5Park Rapids
PopeAmelia LakeSunfish10Glenwood
DouglasAndrew LakeSunfish10Glenwood
CassBeuber LakeSunfish5Walker
Otter TailBig Pine LakeSunfish10Fergus Falls
DouglasBlackwell LakeSunfish10Glenwood
CassBoy LakeSunfish & Crappie5Walker
CassCrooked LakeSunfish5Walker
Otter TailCrystal LakeSunfish10Fergus Falls
HubbardGarfield LakeSunfish5Park Rapids
BeckerIsland LakeSunfish10Detroit Lakes
CassIsland LakeSunfish5Walker
PopeLeven LakeSunfish10Glenwood
Otter TailLidalakeSunfish10Fergus Falls
CassLower Trelipe LakeSunfish5Walker
Otter TailMiddle LakeSunfish5Fergus Falls
DouglasMill LakeSunfish10Glenwood
PopeMinnewaska LakeSunfish10Glenwood
DouglasMoon LakeSunfish5Glenwood
CassOx Yoke LakeSunfish5Walker
DouglasRed Rock LakeSunfish10Glenwood
Pope/DouglasReno LakeSunfish10Glenwood
DouglasRound LakeSunfish5Glenwood
CassSanborn LakeSunfish5Walker
BeckerSand LakeSunfish5Detroit Lakes
PolkSarah LakeSunfish10Detroit Lakes
CassSugar LakeSunfish5Walker
BeckerTurtle LakeSunfish10Detroit Lakes
CassUpper Trelipe LakeSunfish5Walker
Otter TailVenstrom LakeSunfish10Fergus Falls
CassVermillion LakeSunfish5Walker
DouglasVermont LakeSunfish10Glenwood
PopeVillard LakeSunfish10Glenwood
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
St. LouisElliot LakeSunfish5Duluth
St. LouisFish Lake FlowageSunfish & Crappie5Duluth
Crow WingLake HubertSunfish & Crappie5Brainerd
ItascaLittle Turtle LakeSunfish5Grand Rapids
St. LouisMoosehead LakeSunfish & Crappie5Duluth
ItascaPokegama LakeSunfish5Grand Rapids
ItascaSand LakeSunfish5Grand Rapids
St. LouisStrand LakeSunfish & Crappie5Duluth
St. LouisWhiteface ReservoirSunfish & Crappie5Duluth
St. LouisWild Rice ReservoirSunfish & Crappie5Duluth
Central & southeast
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
PineCross LakeSunfish10Hinckley
PinePokegama LakeSunfish10Hinckley
Mille LacsShakopee LakeSunfish5Little Falls
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
KandiyohiGeorge LakeCrappie5Spicer
Blue EarthMadison LakeSunfish5Waterville
Le SueurLake WashingtonSunfish10Waterville
RiceShields LakeSunfish5Waterville