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 – including guides, resort owners and fishing celebrities – 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 will use 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.

Weigh in with your thoughts

Comments on proposed sunfish regulation changes can be submitted multiple ways! You can take an online survey, participate in one or more of the virtual meetings listed below, contact the area fisheries office, or attend an in-person meeting scheduled in your area. Comments are being accepted through Oct. 25.

Virtual meetings will include a brief presentation on the Quality Bluegill Initiative with highlights on proposals followed by a question and answer session with local fisheries staff. Each meeting is intended to cover a region of the state:

  • Northwest: Monday, Oct. 5, Noon-1 p.m.
  • South: Wednesday, Oct. 14, Noon-1 p.m.
  • Statewide: Tuesday, Oct. 13, 6-7 p.m.

Check back for details on how to join the virtual meetings. We encourage you to watch the video above and our presentation.

Take our online survey

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, 2021.

Northwest
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
BeckerBig FloydSunfishbag limit 5Detroit Lakes
BeckerBuffaloSunfishbag limit 5Detroit Lakes
BeckerHeight of LandSunfishbag limit 5Detroit Lakes
BeckerLittle Sugar BushSunfishbag limit 5Detroit Lakes
BeckerNorth TamarackSunfishbag limit 5Detroit Lakes
BeltramiAndrusiaSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiBeltramiSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiBigSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiBig BassSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiBig RiceSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiCampbellSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiDeerSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiJuliaSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiKitchiSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiLittle TurtleSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiMedicineSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiMovilSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiThree IslandSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiTurtle (Big Turtle)Sunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
BeltramiTurtle River LakeSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
Beltrami & CassCassSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
Beltrami & CassWolfSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
CassBig PortageSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Walker
CassLeechSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Walker
CassLower SuckerSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Walker
CassMiddle SuckerSunfishbag limit 5Walker
CassMiddle SuckerSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Walker
CassPike BaySunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
CassUpper SuckerSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Walker
ClearwaterMinervaSunfishbag limit 5Bemidji
DouglasIreneSunfishbag limit 10Glenwood
DouglasWhiskeySunfishbag limit 5Glenwood
Douglas & ToddOsakisSunfishbag limit 10Glenwood
HubbardFourth Crow WingSunfishbag limit 5Park Rapids
HubbardSecond Crow WingSunfishbag limit 5Park Rapids
HubbardThird Crow WingSunfishbag limit 5Park Rapids
Otter TailBassSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailDeerSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailEast LostSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailFishSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailFishSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailFranklinSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailLongSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailPrairieSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailRed River LakeSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailStuartSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailWallSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailWest LostSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
Otter TailWest SilentSunfishbag limit 5Fergus Falls
PopeGilchristSunfishbag limit 5Glenwood
PopeGroveSunfishbag limit 10Glenwood
Northeast
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
AitkinClearSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinDamSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinGunSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinHorseshoeSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinMinnewawaSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinRatSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinVanduseSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
AitkinWaukenaboSunfishbag limit 10Aitkin
Crow WingBordenSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingEast TwinSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingEdwardSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingGladstoneSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingMississipi River - Brainerd dam u/s to Hwy 6Sunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingNorth LongSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingPerchSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingUpper MissionSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
Crow WingWhitefish ChainSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Brainerd
ItascaBearSunfishbag limit 5Grand Rapids
ItascaIslandSunfishbag limit 5Grand Rapids
Itasca"Jay GouldLittle Jay Gould"Sunfishbag limit 5Grand Rapids
ItascaLittle BowstringSunfishbag limit 5Grand Rapids
ItascaLittle Cut Foot SiouxSunfishbag limit 5Grand Rapids
St. LouisBear HeadSunfishbag limit 5Tower
St. LouisBlackduck LakeSunfishbag limit 10International Falls
St. LouisElephant LakeSunfishbag limit 10International Falls
St. LouisLowSunfishbag limit 5Tower
Central & southeast
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
AnokaCentervilleSunfishbag limit 5East Metro
AnokaMartinSunfishbag limit 10East Metro
CarverParleySunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
CarverRileySunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
DakotaMarionSunfishbag limit 10East Metro
HennepinDutchSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
HennepinMedicineSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
HennepinSarahSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
MorrisonRound (NE)Sunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
RamseyOwassoSunfishbag limit 5East Metro
ScottLower PriorSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
ScottUpper PriorSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5West Metro
StearnsBecker LakeSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsBolfingSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsCedar IslandSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsGreat NorthernSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsHorseshoeSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsKnausSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsKraysSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsLongSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsSchneiderSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
StearnsZumwaldeSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
ToddBeautySunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddBuckSunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddCedarSunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddLadySunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddLily-LongSunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddMarySunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
ToddMooseSunfishbag limit 5Little Falls
WashingtonBig MarineSunfishbag limit 10East Metro
WashingtonShieldsSunfishbag limit 5East Metro
WrightEast SylviaSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Sauk Rapids
WrightIndian LakeSunfishbag limit 5Sauk Rapids
WrightWest Lake SylviaSunfish & Crappiebag limit 5Sauk Rapids
Southern
CountyLakeSpeciesProposed regulationArea office
KandiyohiBig KandiyohiSunfishbag limit 5Spicer
KandiyohiDiamondSunfishbag limit 5Spicer
KandiyohiFloridaSunfishbag limit 5Spicer
KandiyohiGeorgeSunfishbag limit 5Spicer
KandiyohiLongSunfishbag limit 10Spicer
KandiyohiNestSunfishbag limit 10Spicer
Le SueurTetonkaSunfishbag limit 5Waterville
RiceMazaskaSunfishbag limit 5Waterville