News release: Minnesota DNR makes changes to record fish program

February 29, 2024

Anglers will find these and other changes in the 2024 fishing regulations booklet

Anglers will have new opportunities to claim the glory of catching a Minnesota state record fish.

Starting March 1, anglers can earn catch-and-release records for 18 species beyond the four current species that are recognized, a change the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is making in response to the increasing popularity of catch-and-release fishing and to raise the profile of native rough fish.

“Angler stories and photos of the huge fish caught from Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams generate major excitement,” said Mandy Erickson, fisheries program consultant. “We also hope the buzz around some of these records brings more attention to native rough fish, which, besides being fun to catch, are important to aquatic ecosystems.”

Records established prior to requiring weight to be documented on a certified scale will continued to be recognized as historical records. After March 1, the Minnesota DNR will recognize three categories of record fish: historical weight records, catch-and-release documented by photos, and certified weight documented by keeping a fish and weighing it on a state-certified scale.

Anglers can also apply for a certified weight record for yellow bass, added to the category because the species has dramatically increased in both presence and popularity, particularly in south-central Minnesota.  

Species being added to the catch-and-release category are blue sucker, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin, brook trout, brown trout, channel catfish, freshwater drum, lake trout, largemouth bass, longnose gar, rainbow trout, sauger, shortnose gar, shovelnose sturgeon, smallmouth bass, smallmouth buffalo, tiger muskellunge and walleye. The category will continue to include muskellunge, northern pike, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. There will be a minimum fish length requirement for new submissions, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught sizes. 

Certified weight records will be available for black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, channel catfish, common carp, flathead catfish, lake trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch. For each species, anglers will be required to meet a minimum weight to apply for a record, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught weights.   

“Before making these changes we discussed possible approaches with angling organizations and tribal interests, and sought input via fishing-related Facebook pages and DNR email lists. Overall, we received very positive feedback,” Erickson said.  

The record fish program has been managed by the state’s fisheries resource agency in various forms for nearly 100 years. More information, including minimum fish length and weight requirements for new submissions, is available on the Minnesota DNR record fish webpage.

Other new regulations

Other fishing regulation changes for 2024 include two changes that enhance protection for Minnesota’s native turtles. These protections went into effect Jan. 1 as the result of a new law enacted in 2023.

Anglers need both an angling license and a recreational turtle license to harvest turtles using angling gear like hook and line, landing nets and gaff hooks. In the past, only an angling license was required. Traps are not allowed for turtle harvest. Individuals under 16 do not need a recreational turtle license and may still collect turtles for turtle races.

Commercial harvest of western painted turtles and snapping turtles is no longer allowed in Minnesota. People will still be allowed to raise turtles for commercial purposes under an aquaculture license with a turtle endorsement.

New and modified regulations will also be in effect for a variety of other waters. Anglers are advised to check the regulations book available March 1 for updated regulations pertaining to:

  • Sunfish in Winnibigoshish Lake and connected waters, Beltrami, Cass and Itasca counties
  • Northern pike in Gull Lake chain, Cass and Crow Wing counties
  • Sunfish in First, Second, Third and Fourth Crow Wing lakes, Hubbard County
  • Walleye in Big Sand Lake, Hubbard County
  • Northern pike in Balsam, Haskell and Scrapper Lakes, Itasca County
  • Northern pike in Pearl Lake, Stearns County
  • Crappie and sunfish in Clearwater and Maple lakes, Stearns and Wright counties

The 2024 Minnesota fishing regulations will be available March 1 on the Minnesota DNR website and printed copies will be available starting the week of March 4 anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold.

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