Commercial fishing license information

A person may not buy or sell fish taken from the waters of this state, except:

  • minnows;
  • rough fish excluding ciscoes;
  • smelt taken from Lake Superior and rivers and streams that flow into Lake Superior;
  • fish taken under licensed commercial fishing operations; and
  • fish that are private aquatic life.

Commercial Fish

The following species of fish are defined as commercial fish:

  • carp;
  • bowfin;
  • burbot;
  • cisco;
  • goldeye;
  • rainbow smelt;
  • black bullhead;
  • brown bullhead;
  • yellow bullhead;
  • lake whitefish;
  • members of the sucker family, Catostomidae, including:
    • white sucker;
    • redhorse;
    • bigmouth buffalo; and
    • smallmouth buffalo
  • members of the drum family, Sciaenidae, including sheepshead; and
  • members of the gar family, Lepisosteidae.

Commercial Fishing of Inland Waters

A person may not commercially fish inland waters without a commercial fishing license. Nonresidents may only be licensed to fish waters not previously assigned to residents. In the license application the applicant must list the number of feet of seine of each depth to be licensed. Inland commercial fishing operators area issued licenses to fish a specific area (see link to map of inland commercial fishing areas below) and each operator shall be obligated to fish in the area that has been assigned to them. Licenses to net commercial fish in inland waters are issued to residents and nonresidents annually and shall be valid for commercial fishing during the open season for commercial fishing in inland waters from the day after Labor Day to the day before the open season for walleye. All commercial fishing operators must submit reports, on forms provided by the commissioner, on their commercial fishing activities containing all information as required by the commissioner. Issuance of licenses, contracts, or permits may be delayed until all reports have been received. The commissioner may revoke a commercial fishing license, contract, or permit of a person who fails to submit reports.

Lake Superior

Commercial fishing in Lake Superior is limited to 25 licensed commercial fishermen. Fish species allowed to be commercially fished are: lake trout, ciscoes, chubs, alewives, lake whitefish, round whitefish, pygmy whitefish, rainbow smelt, and rough fish. Some of the considerations for issuing a license are based on experience with fishing Lake Superior, such as having apprenticed with a licensed commercial fisherman, and having the necessary equipment to fish Lake Superior.

Commercial fish netting on inland portion of the Mississippi River

A license is required to commercially take rough fish with seines in the Mississippi river from the St. Croix River junction to St. Anthony Falls. A person may take rough fish in the Mississippi River, from the St. Croix River junction to St. Anthony Falls, only with the following equipment and methods:

  1. operations shall be conducted only in the flowing waters of the river and in tributary backwaters prescribed by the commissioner;
  2. seines may be used only as prescribed by this section and rules adopted by the commissioner;
  3. seines must be hauled to a landing immediately after being placed;
  4. two seines may not be joined together in the water; and
  5. a seine may not be landed between sunset and sunrise.

Minnesota Wisconsin Boundary Waters

On Minnesota Wisconsin boundary waters, a commercial operator may operate only in the territorial waters of the state of licensure. Commercial gear authorized under a commercial fishing license includes set lines (trot lines), seines, and gill nets. Species of fish allowed to be commercial harvested are rough fish and a limited number of catfish.

Apprentice License

A person with a commercial fishing license may list one person as an apprentice on the license. A person acting as an apprentice for a commercial fishing licensee must have an apprentice license. The commercial fishing licensee or the apprentice listed on the license must be present at all commercial fishing operations including going to and from fishing locations, or in setting or lifting nets, or removing fish from nets. A person possessing an angling license may assist the holder of a master's or apprentice license in going to and from fishing locations, or in setting or lifting nets, or removing fish from nets. An apprentice license is transferable to another by the holder of a master's license applying to the commissioner.


Inland Commercial Fishing Areas

map of Inland Commercial Fishing Areas

Click to enlarge

Aquatic Invasive Species Training

If you are a Commercial Fishing licensee or an apprentice working under the licensee's commercial fishing license, you are required by law to annually complete an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) training course prior to taking, selling, or transporting for sale minnows within the state.

Questions? Contact us!

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