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Sunfish limits lowered on more than 50 Minnesota lakes

The new regulations aim to protect and boost the size of panfish in response to concerns voiced by anglers across the state.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Some anglers may be coming in with a few less fish in the live well or on the stringer after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) updated fishing regulations on more than 50 lakes across the state. 

The regulations involve the number of sunfish anglers can keep on 52 lakes and connected waters beginning March 1. They are part of a DNR initiative to protect and improve the size of panfish, after anglers expressed concern over the declining size of sunfish they were encountering. 

“This is the final batch of new sunfish regulations that will be part of the Quality Sunfish Initiative. We’re pleased to be at our overall goal of 200 to 250 lakes with these special regulations,” said Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids area DNR fisheries supervisor. “We’ve had an impressive amount of public support all along for these regulations. Anglers spoke up that they want large sunfish in our lakes.”

Under the regulations, anglers can keep only the prescribed number of fish per day but can return the next day for another limit if they don’t exceed the statewide inland water possession limit of 20 sunfish per angler. 

Signs will be posted at the water access points of lakes with lowered limits. Those lakes will also be posted in the 2022 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.

Here is the DNR explanation for reducing the number of sunfish anglers can keep. 

Sunfish spawn in large nesting colonies during the spring and early summer. Parental male sunfish build and defend nests. Females select a male, lay eggs, and leave the eggs for the male to protect. The largest sunfish often get the best spawning sites. These nest-building male sunfish play an important role in regulating the population’s size structure.

When anglers keep the largest sunfish, the remaining small males don’t need to compete with large males to spawn. With the large males gone, the small males devote less energy to growing, mature and spawn at smaller sizes, and fail to grow to the size preferred by anglers.

Minnesota fishing regulations use sunfish as a generic name for varied species that include bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, warmouth and their various offshoots.

For more about the Quality Sunfish Initiative, check out the DNR website. 

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