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.
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.
County Lake Species Proposed regulation Area office Hubbard 1st Crow Wing Lake Sunfish 5 Park Rapids Pope Amelia Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Douglas Andrew Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Cass Beuber Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Otter Tail Big Pine Lake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls Douglas Blackwell Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Cass Boy Lake Sunfish & Crappie 5 Walker Cass Crooked Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Otter Tail Crystal Lake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls Hubbard Garfield Lake Sunfish 5 Park Rapids Becker Island Lake Sunfish 10 Detroit Lakes Cass Island Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Pope Leven Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Otter Tail Lidalake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls Cass Lower Trelipe Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Otter Tail Middle Lake Sunfish 5 Fergus Falls Douglas Mill Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Pope Minnewaska Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Douglas Moon Lake Sunfish 5 Glenwood Cass Ox Yoke Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Douglas Red Rock Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Pope/Douglas Reno Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Douglas Round Lake Sunfish 5 Glenwood Cass Sanborn Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Becker Sand Lake Sunfish 5 Detroit Lakes Polk Sarah Lake Sunfish 10 Detroit Lakes Cass Sugar Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Becker Turtle Lake Sunfish 10 Detroit Lakes Cass Upper Trelipe Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Otter Tail Venstrom Lake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls Cass Vermillion Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Douglas Vermont Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Pope Villard Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood
County Lake Species Proposed regulation Area office St. Louis Elliot Lake Sunfish 5 Duluth St. Louis Fish Lake Flowage Sunfish & Crappie 5 Duluth Crow Wing Lake Hubert Sunfish & Crappie 5 Brainerd Itasca Little Turtle Lake Sunfish 5 Grand Rapids St. Louis Moosehead Lake Sunfish & Crappie 5 Duluth Itasca Pokegama Lake Sunfish 5 Grand Rapids Itasca Sand Lake Sunfish 5 Grand Rapids St. Louis Strand Lake Sunfish & Crappie 5 Duluth St. Louis Whiteface Reservoir Sunfish & Crappie 5 Duluth St. Louis Wild Rice Reservoir Sunfish & Crappie 5 Duluth
- Central & southeast
County Lake Species Proposed regulation Area office Pine Cross Lake Sunfish 10 Hinckley Pine Pokegama Lake Sunfish 10 Hinckley Mille Lacs Shakopee Lake Sunfish 5 Little Falls
County Lake Species Proposed regulation Area office Kandiyohi George Lake Crappie 5 Spicer Blue Earth Madison Lake Sunfish 5 Waterville Le Sueur Lake Washington Sunfish 10 Waterville Rice Shields Lake Sunfish 5 Waterville