Updated sunfish regulations in effect on nearly 100 Minnesota waters | KSTP.com

Updated sunfish regulations in effect on nearly 100 Minnesota waters

Updated sunfish regulations in effect on nearly 100 Minnesota waters Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Tommy Wiita
Updated: March 02, 2021 12:01 PM
Created: March 02, 2021 11:52 AM

Sunfish anglers will need to closely check the 2021 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and signs at water accesses for new sunfish limits that are now in effect on 94 bodies of water.

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

"Robust public input and support helped us move forward with the Quality Sunfish Initiative. We had more than 3,700 comments and over 85% of them were in favor of trying to improve sunfish sizes," said Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor. "It's clear Minnesota anglers treasure sunfish and want to make sure we have lots of large sunfish in our lakes."

The DNR says the new regulations only modify daily limits on the affected waterbodies. Anglers can only keep the prescribed number of fish per day from the water but can return the next day for another limit as long as they don't exceed the statewide inland water possession limit of 20 sunfish per angler.

Specifically, 44 bodies of water will have a new daily limit of five sunfish; 31 will have a limit of 10 sunfish; 17 will have a limit of five sunfish and five crappies; two will have a limit of 10 sunfish and five crappies.

In addition to the new waters, there are 57 waters that previously had reduced limits for sunfish; those regulations remain in effect, according to the DNR.

"We've evaluated previous special sunfish regulations and found that reducing harvest can indeed produce large sunfish," Weitzel said. "Sunfish grow slowly—about an inch per year—so a large sunfish can be more than a decade old. It's critical to protect these large fish from excessive harvest because they aren't easily replaced."

Sunfish spawn in large nesting colonies during the spring and early summer. Parental male sunfish build and defend nests. Females will select a male, lay eggs, and leave the eggs for the male to protect and fan with his fins. These nest-building male sunfish play an important role in repopulation, with the largest sunfish often getting the best spawning sites.

The DNR states when anglers keep the largest sunfish, the remaining small males don't need to compete with larger males to spawn. Once the larger males are gone, the smaller males devote less energy to growing. Instead, they devote energy to spawning at younger ages and smaller sizes.

To learn more about these fish and further regulations for the 2021 season, click here.


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