Modest license fee increase needed to sustain Minnesota’s great fishing

Minnesotans will celebrate great fishing when the season officially kicks off on Saturday, May 13.

Just how great is fishing in the land of 10,000 lakes? Minnesota ranks second in the nation in the number of resident anglers — 1.4 million Minnesotans cast a line each year.

Minnesota is the third most-popular inland fishing destination for out-of-state visitors.
Whether you’re chasing walleye in Lake of the Woods, casting for trout in southeastern Minnesota’s clear, cold streams or in search of monstrous sturgeon and muskellunge, you’ll find many opportunities among Minnesota’s 5,500 fishable lakes and 18,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers.

But the fantastic fishing that creates $4.2 billion in economic activity and 35,000 private sector jobs doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s the careful fisheries management work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that creates a myriad of opportunities for anglers each year.

Fisheries staff in 29 offices across Minnesota perform lake surveys and population assessments on a regular basis. The data collected allow informed decisions to be made about regulations that can sustain and enhance a fish population, fish stocking, water quality and habitat conditions.

Stocking of walleye, muskellunge and trout occur throughout Minnesota. Stocking can provide opportunities to catch a particular species of fish that anglers might otherwise not have. Provided habitat and forage conditions are appropriate, stocking also can introduce new species that enhance and improve fishing.

Sometimes, fisheries management can correct the past. Here in Minnesota, sturgeon have been reintroduced into the rivers where they once lived. Lake trout are fully recovered in Lake Superior. Habitat improvements that enhance spawning and conservative regulations are rehabilitating these and other species in our state’s most iconic lake.

Throughout Minnesota’s 87 counties, DNR fisheries staff use their knowledge and expertise to benefit area aquatic resources and fish. Whether it’s setting and checking nets to count fish and record the data, stocking fish, surveying habitat or working with community, educational and outdoor groups, all the work combines to make fishing in Minnesota a truly world class experience.

Fishing license dollars pay for the majority of this work. But – like any business – operating costs rise over time. While prices for products and services aren’t fixed; fishing license fees have been the same since 2013. That’s why DNR is asking for a $3 increase for an individual fishing license.

“Anglers will see a noticeable difference in their fishing experience this season without a license fee increase,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Lake and stream surveys and assessments that give us the information we need to make the best management decisions will be significantly curtailed. Fewer fish will be stocked in more than 200 lakes.

And there will be much less time to monitor habitat quality and needs, land use and other factors that have major impacts to Minnesota fisheries.”

The modest fee increase isn’t being sought to create new staff positions or build programs. What drives the fee increase are the decline in buying power due to increasing costs for pickup trucks, boats, trailers, motors and other equipment.

The DNR’s fisheries section has a long tradition of belt-tightening and the proposed fee increase won’t change that. Staffing levels are down about 13 percent from 10 years ago and, overall, fisheries area offices have fewer employees. Office operating budgets are leaner, too.

“For about the cost of a scoop of minnows and not much more than what a gallon of gas costs, anglers can support the necessary and important work that 29 area fisheries offices do across Minnesota,” Landwehr said. “That modest $3 increase will allow DNR to sustain and improve fishing quality and opportunity and meet the expectations of outdoor-loving Minnesotans.”

Learn more at Support the Outdoors.