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New sunfish regulations in effect for 2022 on 52 Minnesota lakes

New waters impact daily limits on many Douglas, Otter Tail and Pope County lakes, including popular fisheries like Minnewaska and Reno.

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A total of 52 Minnesota waters have new special regulations starting in March of 2022 with lower daily sunfish limits that are in place to try to grow bigger sunfish in the selected lakes across the state. (File photo)
Forum News Service file photo
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ST PAUL — Sunfish anglers will 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.

Included on the list are multiple lakes in Douglas, Pope, and Otter Tail Counties. That includes popular fisheries of Lake Minnewaska and Lake Reno, which now have daily limits of 10 sunfish. A total of 94 Minnesota waters were also part of regulation changes in 2021.

Currently, the statewide daily limits on waters that do not have special regulations are 20 sunfish and 10 crappie daily.

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

The below 52 lakes (along with connected waters) will now have reduced daily limits on sunfish and/or crappie. See the special regulations pages 37-55 at mndnr.gov/sunfish for more details.

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Amelia Lake (Pope, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Andrew Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Beuber Lake (Cass), Blackwell Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Boy Lake (Cass), Crooked Lake (Cass), Cross Lake (Pine), Crow Wing Lake, 1st (Hubbard), Crystal Lake (Otter Tail, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Deer Lake (Itasca), Elliot Lake (St. Louis), Fish Lake Flowage (St. Louis), Garfield Lake (Hubbard), George Lake (Kandiyohi), Hubert Lake (Crow Wing), Island Lake (Becker), Island Lake (Cass), Lake Minnie-Belle (Meeker), Lake Ripley (Meeker), Lake Washington (Le Sueur), Leven Lake (Pope, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Lida Lakes (Otter Tail, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Little Turtle Lake (Itasca), Lower Trelipe Lake (Cass), Middle Lake (Otter Tail, daily limit of 5 sunfish), Mill Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Minnewaska Lake (Pope, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Moon Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 5 sunfish), Moosehead Lake (Carlton), Ox Yoke Lake (Cass), Pine Lake, Big (Otter Tail, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Pokegama Lake (Itasca), Pokegama Lake (Pine), Red Rock Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Reno Lake (Pope/Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Round Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 5 sunfish), Sanborn Lake (Cass), Sand Lake (Becker), Sand Lake (Itasca), Sarah Lake (Polk), Shakopee Lake (Mille Lacs), Shields Lake (Rice), Strand Lake (St. Louis), Sugar Lake (Cass), Turtle Lake (Becker), Upper Trelipe Lake (Cass), Venstrom Lake (Otter Tail, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Vermillion Lake (Cass), Vermont Lake (Douglas, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Villard Lake (Pope, daily limit of 10 sunfish), Whiteface Reservoir (St. Louis), Wild Rice Reservoir (St. Louis).

“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 water bodies. 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. More about the Quality Sunfish Initiative is available on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/fish/sunfish).

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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The 2022 Minnesota fishing regulations are available online (mndnr.gov/fishing) and anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold. The new sunfish regulations are found in the special regulations that begin on page 37 of the booklet.

(Echo Press sports and outdoor editor Eric Morken contributed to this story)

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