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Special fishing regulations put humble sunfish in the spotlight

Area assistant supervisor Calub Shavlik with Park Rapids DNR Fisheries said First Crow Wing and Garfield lakes in Hubbard County will be especially affected by the new regulations.

The Minnesota DNR is proposing special regulations that would lower bag limits on bluegills on some lakes in an effort to produce bigger sunfish in many waters around the state.

Sunfish anglers in Hubbard County may be especially interested in proposed special fishing regulations that, if adopted, would become effective next year.

Most of the changes proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are aimed at protecting and improving sunfish sizes by lowering daily limits on 52 lakes.

Area assistant supervisor Calub Shavlik with Park Rapids DNR Fisheries said First Crow Wing and Garfield lakes in Hubbard County will be especially affected by the new regulations.

“The majority of the proposed regulations make up the second and final year of the DNR’s Quality Sunfish Initiative, which is intended to address concerns by some anglers that the size of sunfish is either declining or in danger of declining,” said Jon Hansen, fisheries program consultant for the DNR. “We’re proposing daily limit reductions and invite people to share their input via an online survey or by attending an in-person meeting.”

The proposed lower daily limits on 52 lakes 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.


“The overall consensus across Minnesota now, in the last couple years, has been moving towards protecting those panfish species,” said Shavlik. “They think that the opportunity to catch a big one is on a lot of people’s minds, and that’s why the regulations of a daily limit of five is a way that we can hopefully achieve that goal.”

The DNR made an online presentation and comment opportunity available for the proposed changes in June. Thus far, the DNR has received nearly 450 comments through the online survey. The online survey is open through Sunday, Oct. 31.

Consistent with state law, the DNR also will host in-person open houses in each county where the proposed changes would apply and one in the Twin Cities metro area to cover all proposals. For those who want to attend an in-person meeting, information can be found on the DNR website or by calling an area fisheries office.

There will be two public input meetings about the proposed regulations for First Crow Wing and Garfield lakes from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Park Rapids Area Library and 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Lakeport Township Fire Hall.

Shavlik said the Sept. 28 meeting will also involve public input on a change in the statute language regarding black crappie on Big Mantrap Lake.

“There will be an opportunity to comment on both proposals,” he said.

Check the DNR webpage for any changes based on the evolving COVID-19 response.

Notification of the proposed changes to special fishing regulations have been posted at the accesses to each lake included in the proposal.


In addition to the 50 lakes where the DNR is proposing new special sunfish and crappie regulations, the DNR also is proposing minor changes to 63 lakes that already have special reduced possession limits. Under these changes, the reduced possession limit will change to a reduced daily limit, which will allow an angler to take a daily limit from a lake multiple days in a row until reaching the statewide possession limit (20 sunfish, 10 crappie). The change will create consistency with the newly implemented Quality Sunfish Initiative regulations and is not expected to have additional biological impacts.

Minnesota fishing regulations use sunfish as the generic name for bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, warmouth and their hybrids.

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