The DNR wants anglers to weigh in on the second round of proposals comprising the quality sunfish initiative.
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 complementary crappie regulation proposals.
For years, anglers have been telling the DNR they are satisfied with sunfish/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.
With the quality sunfish initiative, fisheries managers aim to increase the number of lakes with reduced bag limits from 60 to approximately 200 by 2023. Managers are using proven daily limits of five or 10 sunfish to protect and improve sunfish quality on select lakes with both biological potential to produce large sunfish and strong public support.
You're invited to provide input on proposed changes to fishing regulations for 2022. Comments on proposed sunfish regulation changes can be submitted multiple ways: take a survey, contact an area fisheries office directly or attend an in-person meeting scheduled in your area.
Comments will be taken through Oct. 31, 2021.
Questions & answers
- 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 the graphic, which depicts the relationship between bluegill length and weight of fillets. If an angler kept only six-inch fish, she would need 25 bluegills for one pound of fillets. If the bluegills were all eight inches, she would only need six 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 Waters Species Limit Area office 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 and connected Swift Lake Sunfish; Crappie 5 Walker Cass Crooked Lake and connected Welsh Lake Sunfish 5 Walker Hubbard Crow Wing Lake: 1st Sunfish 5 Park Rapids 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 (near Longville) Sunfish 5 Walker Pope Leven Lake Sunfish 10 Glenwood Otter Tail Lida Lakes: South and North including connecting Mud Lake 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 and connected Talac and Sorenson Lakes 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 Waters Species Limit 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 (near Marcell) Sunfish 5 Grand Rapids St. Louis Moosehead Lake Sunfish; Crappie 5 Duluth Itasca Pokegama Lake (near Grand Rapids) Sunfish 5 Grand Rapids Itasca Sand Lake: Upstream to CSAH 35 bridge including Portage; Birdseye; Little Sand; Rice; and the Bowstring River downstream to the County Road 145 bridge 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 Waters Species Limit Area office Pine Cross Lake and connected waters including the Snake River upstream to Pokegama Lake and downstream to the Cross Lake Road (Co. Rd. 9) bridge. Sunfish 10 Hinckley Pine Pokegama Lake and connected waters including the Snake River upstream to the Little Walleye landing (east of Grasston) and downstream to Cross Lake. Sunfish 10 Hinckley Mille Lacs Shakopee Lake near Onamia: Highway 27 bridge to lake outlet of Lake Onamia at Highway 27 Sunfish 5 Little Falls
County Waters Species Limit Area office Kandiyohi George Lake Crappie 5 Spicer Meeker Lake Minnie-Belle Sunfish 5 Hutchinson Meeker Lake Ripley Sunfish 5 Hutchinson Le Sueur Lake Washington Sunfish 10 Waterville Blue Earth Madison Lake Sunfish 5 Waterville Rice Shields Lake Sunfish 5 Waterville
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. A series of public meetings will be held in September and October. Check back for more details.
Our online survey is open through Oct. 31
The DNR implemented reduced daily limits for sunfish and/or crappie on nearly 100 waters as part of the quality sunfish initiative this year; however, possession limits on those lakes remained at the statewide level, which is 20 sunfish and 10 crappie. This created inconsistencies with older special regulations on 55 lakes, which reduced both the daily and possession limits on sunfish and/or crappie.
The DNR is proposing to make these similar regulations more consistent by retaining the reduced daily limits on the waters listed below but increasing the possession limit to statewide levels. This change is not expected to have any biological effects since anglers are primarily regulated by the daily limit but the change will reduce regulation complexity.
- Waters affected
Region County Name Species Area Northeast Aitkin Aitkin Sunfish Aitkin Northeast Itasca Bass Sunfish Grand Rapids Northeast Itasca Battle Sunfish Grand Rapids Northwest Hubbard Big Mantrap Crappie Park Rapids Northeast Aitkin Big Sandy Sunfish Aitkin Northwest Beltrami Blackduck Sunfish Bemidji Central Stearns Carnelian Sunfish Sauk Rapids Central Morrison & Todd Cedar Crappie Little Falls Northeast Aitkin Davis (a.k.a. Steamboat) Sunfish Aitkin Northeast Itasca Deer Sunfish Grand Rapids Northeast Itasca Dixon Sunfish Grand Rapids Northeast Cook Dyers Sunfish and Crappie Finland Northwest Becker Eunice Sunfish and Crappie Detroit Lakes Northeast Aitkin Flowage Sunfish Aitkin Central Otter Tail Franklin Crappie Sauk Rapids Northeast Crow Wing Gilbert Sunfish and Crappie Brainerd Northeast Crow Wing Goodrich Sunfish and Crappie Brainerd Central Chisago Goose Crappie Hinckley Northeast Itasca Grave Sunfish Grand Rapids Northwest Beltrami Gull Sunfish Bemidji Central Cass Horseshoe Sunfish Sauk Rapids Northwest Cass Inguadona Sunfish and Crappie Walker Northwest Clearwater Itasca Sunfish and Crappie Bemidji Northwest Cass Lind Sunfish Walker Northwest Becker Little Cormorant Sunfish and Crappie Detroit Lakes Northeast Itasca Little Splithand Sunfish Grand Rapids Northwest Becker Little Toad Sunfish Detroit Lakes Northwest Stearns Little Webb Sunfish and Crappie Walker Central Chisago Mandall Crappie Hinckley Central Douglas Maple Crappie Sauk Rapids Northwest Hubbard Mary Sunfish and Crappie Bemidji Northwest Becker Maud Sunfish and Crappie Detroit Lakes Central Wright Mink Sunfish and Crappie Sauk Rapids Northwest Cass Moccasin Sunfish and Crappie Walker Northwest Otter Tail Norway Sunfish and Crappie Fergus Falls Northwest Cass Ox Yoke Sunfish Walker Northwest Clearwater Ozawindib Crappie Bemidji Northeast Itasca Pickerel Sunfish Grand Rapids Northwest Beltrami Pimushe Sunfish Bemidji Central Stearns Pleasant Sunfish Sauk Rapids Northeast Aitkin Prairie River from confluence with Tamarack River downstream to Big Sandy Lake Sunfish Aitkin Central Chisago Rabour Crappie Hinckley Northwest Cass Rice Sunfish and Crappie Walker Northeast Crow Wing Rogers Sunfish and Crappie Brainerd Central Cass Sanburn Sunfish Sauk Rapids Northeast Lake Sand Sunfish Finland Northeast Aitkin Sandy River Sunfish Aitkin Northeast Aitkin Sandy River from State Highway 210 downstream to confluence with Mississippi River Sunfish Aitkin Central Wright Somers Sunfish and Crappie Sauk Rapids Northeast Itasca Splithand including Moody's Creek upstream to County Road 432 Sunfish and Crappie Grand Rapids Northwest Otter Tail Star Sunfish Fergus Falls Central Wright Sugar Crappie Sauk Rapids Northeast Cass Sylvan Sunfish and Crappie Brainerd Northwest Cass Thirteen Sunfish Walker Northeast Aitkin West Savanna River from County Highway 14 downstream to Prairie River Sunfish Aitkin