Many lakes in Douglas County are part of the new list of waters that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing for reduced sunfish limits in 2022 in an attempt to create a fishery with bigger sunfish.
Douglas Count lakes with a proposed daily limit of 10 sunfish under the DNR’s Quality Bluegill Initiative include Andrew, Blackwell, Mill, Red Rock, Reno and Vermont. A 5-fish daily limit is being proposed for Moon Lake and Round Lake in Douglas County. In Pope County, Lake Minnewaska, Amelia, Leven and Villard are on the list of waters that the DNR would like to see daily limits reduced to 10.
These local waters are among approximately 50 lakes around the state that could have lower bag limits that would go into effect in March 2022.
Under the proposal, sunfish daily bag limits would be reduced from the statewide limit of 20 sunfish to five sunfish on some lakes and 10 sunfish on others. Some lakes also have similar proposals for lower crappie daily bag limits. Anglers are encouraged to comment through an online survey that will be open through Oct. 31.
Other lakes in Otter Tail and Becker counties that could see reduced limits under the proposal include North and South Lida (near Pelican Rapids) and Big Pine (near Perham), Crystal, Island, Turtle and Venstrom, which is adjacent to South Lida. All would have daily limits reduced to 10 from 20.
The 50 lakes are added to nearly 100 that were included in the first phase of the Quality Bluegill Initiative, which went into effect in March 2021. Many of those lakes had their sunfish limit reduced to five, in an effort to increase quality fishing with bigger fish.
The reduction of sunfish limits to 10 is meant to maintain quality fishing.
The DNR began working on QBI several years ago, in an effort to improve the quality of sunfish angling in lakes capable of growing bigger fish. Anglers, lake association members, resort owners and other stakeholders told the DNR they were willing to sacrifice numbers of fish for better quality fish. So DNR biologists identified lakes that have the biological capacity to grow bigger sunfish and targeted those lakes.
Biologists say there has been a discernible shift of attitudes in recent years. Where lake-property owners and resorters once pushed back against reduced bag limits, they now support them for better quality panfishing.
In a press release, the DNR also said anglers "have voiced concern about the added pressure on fisheries as a result of electronic fish finders and other technological advancements, including rapid social media communication between anglers when fish are biting."
"These new regulations would continue our response to angler concerns about the declining sizes of some of our state’s most prized and frequently caught fish," Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor Dave Weitzel said in the release. "We’re aiming to protect and improve sunfish sizes on select lakes with the biological potential to produce large sunfish."
(Mike McFeely of the Forum News Service contributed to this story)