DNR announces new special angling regulations

Special fishing regulations will change March 1 on a number of Minnesota waters following an annual public input and review process, according to the Department of Natural Resources. 

“Anglers need to know special regulations because they take precedence over statewide regulations,” said Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the DNR. “We have special regulations to improve fish populations and make fishing better or more sustainable.”

Special regulations for individual waters are listed in a separate section of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and at mndnr.gov/fishmn, and are posted at public accesses.

For this spring, new statewide northern pike zone regulations that take effect on inland waters will make it possible to do away with several previously existing special regulations that apply to individual waters and aim for similar outcomes as the zone regulations. The new statewide pike regulations go into effect in time for the fishing opener on Saturday, May 12.

On waters that have a special fishing regulation, anglers are required to follow the special regulation and unless otherwise mentioned, all other regulations apply.

Public process for special regulations
Special regulations are put in place after fisheries managers write plans for the lakes they oversee and each provides objectives for achieving management goals. Before changes are made to special regulations, the DNR evaluates each regulation, shares what’s found in the evaluations and angler surveys, hosts public input meetings in the fall and reviews comments from the public about the regulations. Goals of individual lake management plans also are considered.

“We need the public to tell us what they want for the process to work well, and we do value the input,” Stevens said.

For this spring, 29 lakes and connected waters were reviewed.

Changes detailed
Pelican Lake in St. Louis County: A special regulation on bass will be made permanent, while a regulation on northern pike will be dropped. An evaluation of the regulations showed that the 14-20 inch protected slot limit with one over 20 inches in possession on bass maintained a quality bass fishery, while allowing for an opportunity to harvest smaller bass. The regulation was generally popular with anglers and will continue. The 24-36 inch protected slot limit on northern pike provided some benefit to the pike population; however, the benefits of the regulation are similar to the new statewide zone regulation, which provides the opportunity to drop the regulation and simplify regulations complexity for anglers.

Sand Lake and connected waters (Little Sand, Portage, and Birds Eye lakes) in Itasca County: A special regulation for northern pike will be dropped, and the lakes will change to the statewide limits. The new statewide zone regulation for northern pike will likely be just as effective as the special regulation in encouraging harvest of abundant small pike while improving sizes of pike.

Big Swan Lake in Todd County: A 24-36 inch protected slot limit with only one fish over 36 inches will be made permanent after the review showed sizes of pike have improved. Also, the regulation’s expanded possession limit of six, with only one fish over 36 inches, will remain in effect as the number of small pike has continued to remain higher than desired.

Balm, Big Bass, South Twin and Deer lakes in Beltrami County; Portage Lake in Cass County; and Flour, Hungry Jack and Two Island lakes in Cook County: These eight lakes with restrictive size regulations (either a 12-20 inch protected slot or catch-and-release only regulation) on bass will be modified to a less restrictive, 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches to allow additional harvest of small bass while still protecting quality sized fish. Although the existing regulations were shown to be effective, the new protected slot is expected to provide a similar protection to quality fish and with the added benefit of allowing additional harvest of abundant smaller bass.

Itasca, Ozawindib and Mary lakes in Itasca State Park: Special regulations on sunfish, black crappie and bass for three lakes in the park will be standardized among the lakes. While the existing regulations largely have been effective and have been generally popular with park visitors, the DNR will standardize sunfish and crappie possession limits to five, drop a minimum size restriction on crappie for Ozawindib Lake and modify the current restrictive bass regulations (catch-and-release on Mary Lake and the 12-20 inch protected slot on Ozawindib Lake) to a 14-20 inch protected slot with one over 20 inches for both lakes. The goal is to simplify regulations for park visitors while maintaining fishing quality.

Sissabagamah and Long lakes in Aitkin County: Special regulations on northern pike will be dropped in favor of the new statewide zone pike regulation. Some benefits to the sizes of pike have been seen since a protected slot regulation was enacted; however, the north-central zone pike regulations may provide a similar or even better outcome and also serve to reduce regulation complexity.

Bass Lake in Todd County and Cedar Lake in Morrison County: Trophy regulations (40 inch minimum length requirement, possession limit of one) on northern pike will be modified to a 26 inch maximum with a possession limit of three. While trophy northern pike still exist, growth rates of smaller pike in these lakes have declined. Allowing harvest opportunity on pike under 26 inches may help the population while still protecting medium to large pike.

Kraut, Peanut, North Shady, Squash and Tomato lakes in Cook County: Catch-and-release regulations on trout in these five lakes will be dropped this spring. Additionally, the ban on winter fishing and special tackle restrictions for these lakes will go away. The catch-and-release with tackle restrictions and the winter fishing closure did not meet management goals for these stocked trout fisheries. They are remotely located and special regulations and the closed winter season did not provide quality fishing in these lakes. But the same special regulations will continue on three other lakes – Thompson, Thrush and Turnip lakes – that were reviewed at the same time.

Moody Lake in Crow Wing County: This lake will reopen to fishing after having been closed to fishing since 2001. Entirely located within an aquatic management area, the lake has been used as a fisheries research lake and at times was used for rearing walleye. It no longer is needed for that purpose and plans are to reclaim the lake by using rotenone to remove undesirable fish and then restock with walleye, yellow perch and bass, and implement a catch-and-release regulation to maintain quality sized fish for anglers to enjoy.

Little Boy and Wabedo lakes in Cass County: These lakes will have an 18-26 inch protected slot, with one over 26 inches, in a possession limit of four walleye – which will be in effect for 10 years and then re-evaluated. The regulation was proposed in response to local requests to improve and protect the walleye population, which will likely benefit from restrictions on harvesting walleye longer than 18 inches.

Visit mndnr.gov/fishmn for more information on special fishing regulations. Special regulations that change March 1 will be listed in the 2018 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.