State Parks May 2010

Introducing Free Fishing in MN State Parks

by Michelle Kelly

May 2010


n. a harbor or anchorage; a port; a place of refuge or rest; a sanctuary

family fishing Families can try fishing for free at a MN State Park.

Free Fishing in Minnesota State Parks

Fishing is one of the most popular activities for Minnesotans. More than one million residents go fishing each year in this Land of 10,000 Lakes.

As of July 1, 2009 Minnesota residents do not need a fishing license when fishing in waters within a MN State Park boundaries. Free fishing legislation waives the normal fishing license requirements for adults over the age of 15 within most Minnesota State Parks.

Specifically, the Minnesota state parks fishing license exemption allows park

A Minnesota resident may fish in a state park without a fishing license when:

  • the body of water does not require a trout stamp.
  • fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park.
  • fishing from a boat or a float on a designated lake that lies entirely within a Minnesota state park

Please note:

Fishing licenses are still required in city, county, regional, and federal parks - as well as the six Minnesota State Recreation Areas:

While this new law provides for free fishing in some Minnesota state parks, it does not amend, adjust or alter any other park rules or rules and regulations relating to the taking of game and fish.

"There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenitly of the mind." ~Washington Irving

visitors to take fish without a license when shore fishing or wading on state-owned land within a state park. All limits and special regulations in effect for the body of water being fished apply. When angling from a boat or float, the law applies only to those water bodies that are completely encompassed within the statutory boundary of the state park.

Once you've paid the  regular park entrance fees, no one needs a fishing license, adult or child, as long as they're inside the state park (with some provisions as noted in the sidebar). All bag limits, length limits, and other fishing regulations still apply. (Non- residents and those fishing in rivers still need a fishing license.)

“Minnesota has amazing state parks, most of which are located on lakes and rivers,” said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife director. “By eliminating the license requirement, it is our hope that those who have never fished before will try it during their state park visit.”

“Studies have shown that most people would gladly go fishing if someone simply asked them,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s parks and trails division. “It’s our hope that while friends and families are together in a park someone who fishes will share their rod and reel with someone who hasn’t. That’s how traditions are passed on. That’s how connections to nature are made. And that’s the start of fishing friendships that last a lifetime.”

Thirty state parks have free loaner rods and reels available. This is a great opportunity to try the lifetime sport of fishing without needing a license.


Free “I Can Fish” Family Fishing Programs

This summer, come join a MinnAqua Program Nature Corps staff and seasoned fishing Mentor for weekly I Can Fish Family Fishing Programs. Participants mostly just fish - helpful tips, unstructured instruction, and positive support, equipment, and bait are all available if needed. Attend once or throughout the summer at a state park near you – come with your kids, bring your best friend, or come out on your own.

You might want to get some help learning how to introduce your kids to fishing, or just hone your own skills with an “expert” nearby. You might even want to try your luck at a different park each week!

The I Can Fish programs are free, and no fishing license required with free fishing in MN state parks! Find I Can Fish Program Schedules and times in the MN State Parks Summer Guide and click on “Fishing Haven”, or go to the State Park Events Calendar on the DNR website.

Fishing in Minnesota has never been so accessible! If you have any questions about I Can Fish programs in Minnesota State Parks, contact your nearest MinnAqua Program Education Specialist.

rod and reel

Our Minnesota State Park System


Minnesota’s State Park System is the second oldest State Park System in the United States (after New York’s). In 1861, the Minnesota State Legislature established Itasca State Park to "maintain intact, forever, a limited quantity of the domain of this a state of nature."

Currently, the Minnesota State Park System includes 66 state parks and 6 recreation areas, 8 waysides, 11 state trails, and 56 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas that comprising a total of 267,251 acres. Minnesota’s diverse state parks provide peaceful havens where visitors can enjoy wildlife, scenic beauty, tranquility and year-round outdoor recreation. The MN DNR is the state agency entrusted with the maintenance and management of this public trust.

Minnesota State Parks are a natural legacy set aside for future generations, and you!

Why wait? Make plans now to visit a Minnesota State Park and remember to bring your fishing gear!