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New Statewide Fish Limits Approved

DNR NEWS 12/17/02

New limits for crappie, sunfish, lake trout and catfish took effect on the 2003 fishing opener.  The limit changes affected all inland waters and the Minnesota-Canada border waters.

Daily and possession limits were reduced for three species, with crappie limits going from 15 to 10, sunfish from 30 to 20, and lake trout from three to two. The daily and possession limit for catfish  remain at five, but only one over 24 inches and two flathead catfish are allowed in the total limit.

The limit changes are the result of extensive biological
analysis and public input that began about two years ago. Most Minnesota game fish limits have remained unchanged for the last 40 to 70 years, yet fishing pressure and technology have increased dramatically during that time, according to Ron Payer, director of the DNR Fisheries Division.  

"Our limits have been in place for so long that whatever
rationale there may have been for them has been lost," Payer said. "We wanted to do an extensive review to see if limit changes could help improve fishing."  DNR data showed that lake trout harvests have been above
recommended levels on many waters in northeast Minnesota and the average size of crappie and sunfish has been declining statewide. 

The new limit on lake trout is expected to decrease the statewide harvest by as much
as 30 percent on average and will help maintain lake trout populations at a higher level.

The crappie and sunfish limit changes are expected to reduce harvest by only 3 to 4 percent, but the harvest reduction could be greater on lakes with exceptional fisheries. The changes could help stabilize the declining trend in average size for those species.

Limit changes were also considered for northern pike, walleye, brown trout, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. The biological analysis showed that statewide population trends for walleye, brown trout, and
largemouth and smallmouth bass were stable or increasing. As a result, limit changes were not proposed for those species.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to improve fishing for walleye, bass and brown trout with special regulations on specific lakes and streams," Payer said.
The analysis did show a decline in the number of large northern pike, but most anglers rejected a statewide slot limit during the public input process. The DNR decided instead to propose special regulations for northern pike on a number of lakes around the state, which received
support from anglers. This proposal is being finalized and details will be announced soon.

"We had to balance the interests of anglers who wanted more drastic changes with others who preferred no changes," said Payer. "We learned a lot in this process and had a great dialogue with anglers. One conclusion most of us reached is that we will need to review fish limits more often in the future."

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