New sunfish regs in effect on 52 Minnesota lakes

(Minnesota DNR)

Sunfish anglers need to closely check the 2022 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and signs at water accesses for new sunfish limits in effect on 52 lakes and connected waters starting March 1.

The new regulations lower limits on specific waters as part of a Minnesota DNR initiative to protect and improve sunfish sizes. These changes are in response to angler-driven concerns over the declining sizes of sunfish in Minnesota.

“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 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.”

The new regulations modify daily limits on the affected waterbodies. 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. Beginning in 2022, nearly all lakes with special regulations for sunfish will use the same reduced daily limit approach where the statewide possession limit still applies. There are a few exceptions so anglers should read the regulations book carefully.

These regulations are designed with sunfish biology in mind. 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 the generic name for bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, warmouth and their hybrids.

Other new regulations

Other fishing regulation changes in the 2022 regulations book include removal of an experimental 17-inch minimum length for walleye on Clear Lake in Washington County. The regulation was removed because management objectives were not achieved. The statewide regulation now applies and is expected to perform equally well.

Some of the lakes getting new sunfish limits will also see changes to crappie limits. Eight lakes will have the crappie limit reduced to five — five lakes in the Duluth area and one lake each in the Brainerd, Spicer and Walker areas. Finally, special sunfish regulations were reviewed on Ox Yoke and Sanborn lakes, both in Cass County, and the new regulation will be a five fish daily limit after the 10 fish limit failed to meet management objectives.

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