New sunfish regulations in effect on nearly 100 Minnesota waters

Sunfish anglers will need to closely check the 2021 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet and signs at water accesses for new sunfish limits that are now in effect on 94 waters.
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.
“Robust public input and support helped us move forward with the Quality Sunfish Initiative. We had more than 3,700 comments and over 85% of them were in favor of trying to improve sunfish sizes,” said Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor. “It’s clear Minnesota anglers treasure sunfish and want to make sure we have lots of large sunfish in our lakes.”
The new regulations only modify daily limits on the affected waterbodies. Anglers can only keep the prescribed number of fish per day from the water, but can return the next day for another limit as long as they don’t exceed the statewide inland water possession limit of 20 sunfish per angler.
The new sunfish regulations only include inland waters of Minnesota. Specifically, 44 waters will have a new daily limit of five sunfish, 31 will have a limit of 10 sunfish, 17 will have a limit of five sunfish and five crappie, and two will have a limit of 10 sunfish and five crappies.
In addition to the new waters, there are 57 waters that previously had reduced limits for sunfish and these regulations remain in effect.
“We’ve evaluated previous special sunfish regulations and found that reducing harvest can indeed produce large sunfish,” Weitzel said. “Sunfish grow slowly - about an inch per year - so a large sunfish can be more than a decade old. It’s critical to protect these large fish from excessive harvest because they aren’t easily replaced.”
Sunfish spawn in large nesting colonies during the spring and early summer. Parental male sunfish build and defend nests. Females will select a male, lay eggs, and leave the eggs for the male to protect and fan with his fins. These nest-building male sunfish play an important role in repopulation, with the largest sunfish often getting the best spawning sites.
When anglers keep the largest sunfish, the remaining small males don’t need to compete with larger males to spawn. Once the larger males are gone, the smaller males devote less energy to growing. Instead, they devote energy to spawning at younger ages and smaller sizes.
Minnesota fishing regulations use sunfish as the generic name for bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, warmouth and their hybrids. More about sunfish biology and the Quality Sunfish Initiative is available on the DNR website.

Other new regulations
* Other fishing regulation changes in the 2021 regulations book include new experimental regulations on Island Lake Reservoir near Duluth. On this lake, which has abundant, but very small walleye, fisheries managers aim to increase the size of walleye by increasing the possession limit and applying a protective slot limit.
* New experimental lake trout regulations also are being implemented in Yawkey, Sagamore, Pennington and Mahnomen lakes. These mine pit lakes in Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area have the potential to support naturally reproducing lake trout populations. Anglers there will be limited to harvesting one lake trout, which must be more than 20 inches, from each water.
Experimental regulations mean that the regulation is temporary. Fisheries managers must then evaluate the regulation to determine whether it had the intended effect, usually after 10 years.
The 2021 Minnesota fishing regulations are available online and anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold. The new sunfish regulations are found in the special regulations that begin on page 38 of the booklet.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


DNR sets meeting on Mille Lacs Lake fisheries management

Minnesotans can learn about and comment on fisheries management goals and objectives proposed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for Mille Lacs Lake.
Public review of a five-year lake management plan is taking place now through Friday, April 2. Members of the public can comment via an online survey or during an online public meeting scheduled from 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, Mar. 23. Visit the Mille Lacs Lake webpage at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/millelacslake/index.html for links to the draft management plan and meeting registration information.
The draft plan for Mille Lacs Lake includes species-specific goals for walleye, northern pike and bass. It also acknowledges the DNR’s commitment and obligation to share harvest with eight Ojibwe bands within the 1837 ceded territory and has goals for involving the public and the local community in lake management.
“Mille Lacs Lake is an important fishery resource,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “Given that importance, it’s essential to have a long-term comprehensive fisheries management plan based in sound science and public input, similar to our planning for other large lakes.”
During the March 23 public meeting, DNR staff will give a presentation summarizing the draft plan, answer questions and take written and spoken comments. Those who wish to speak can select that option when they register for the meeting. Participants who attend the meeting may also respond to the online survey.
In 2019, the DNR collected public input on what is important to people about Mille Lacs Lake, its fish, the activities that take them to the lake and the area's communities. The DNR carefully considered that in developing the draft management plan on which the DNR is now seeking comments.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Wisconsin’s sturgeon spearing harvest picks up on Day 14

Day 14 of the 2021 Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season picked up Friday around Lake Winnebago as a total of 49 fish were speared.
Friday’s total harvest consisted of 8 juvenile females, 23 adult females and 18 males, bringing Lake Winnebago season totals to 231 juvenile females, 619 adult females, and 523 males.
Blackwolf Landing was the busiest registration station, with a total of 15 fish brought in.
Winnebago System sex-specific harvest totals have increased to 273 juvenile females, 696 adult females, and 768 males for a total of 1,737 fish. The 90% trigger for either Lake Winnebago or system-wide sex-specific harvest caps are still in the distance as 79 juvenile females, 151 adult females, and 312 males remain.
Although Friday’s harvest improved from previous days, the DNR predicts harvest caps will not be reached this weekend, resulting in a full Lake Winnebago spearing season for the 6th straight year.
Harvest caps will likely not be met this season even though water clarity and ice conditions were favorable. Although average water clarity around the lake was better than in recent years, there was noticeable variability in water clarity by lake region. For example, the east shore of Lake Winnebago was averaging approximately 10-12 feet of visibility, whereas the north and west shores were closer to 15-18 feet of visibility.
The harvest may rise for the remainder of the season as spearing effort will likely increase over the final two days. Moreover, reports from successful spearers are that the water remains clear despite the warmer weather and snow melt.
Good luck to the spearers heading out this weekend to pursue their harvest during the final days of the 2021 season.
The largest fish harvested on Lake Winnebago on Friday was the 157.8-pound (78.3 inches) giant speared by Lana Freiberg. Lana’s fish was an F4 female and was registered at the Oshkosh registration station.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Wisconsin’s sturgeon spearing season closes

The 2021 Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season is history with Sunday’s closing.
It was a unique year with good water clarity and solid ice throughout the entire season. The state DNR heard numerous stories from around the system, including first-timers, good family time and some giant sturgeon.
Across the system this season, 291 juvenile females, 737 adult females, and 803 males were harvested for a total of 1,831 fish.
The Lake Winnebago harvest accounted for 1,467 fish consisting of 249 juvenile females, 660 adult females, and 558 males. This year's Lake Winnebago harvest was the highest since the 2015 season.
This season lasted the entire 16 days, although the DNR did come close to reaching the 90% triggers. This year's Lake Winnebago harvest was driven by the favorable water clarity around portions of the lake as spearers fishing zones 1,2,3 reported they could see the bottom in most areas.
The final day's harvest looked much like Saturday's as 50 fish were harvested on Lake Winnebago.
Many spearers had already pulled their shacks for the season resulting in minimal spearing effort around the lake during the final day. The busiest registration station was Blackwolf Landing, with 13 fish registered.
This year, Stockbridge Harbor led all registration stations recording 303 fish. It was closely followed by Harrison Town Hall, which registered 290 fish.
Sunday’s largest fish harvested on Lake Winnebago was the 135.8-pound (75.3 inches) fish speared by Kevin Ward. His fish was an F2 female and registered at Blackwolf Landing.
Overall this season, 77 harvested fish weighed more than 100 pounds, making up 4.2% of the total system-wide harvest. The percentage of fish weighing over 100 pounds in the 2021 harvest is similar to the 2019 and 2020 harvests.
Over the past few seasons, the fish have been generally leaner, likely due to a diet consisting of more red worms than shad in recent years.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Lake Michigan whitefish virtual meeting scheduled March 11

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources  will be developing new regulations for the lake whitefish commercial industry.
To gain stakeholder participation from a wide variety of sources, the DNR will host a virtual public meeting on Thursday, March 11, to hear from anyone interested in Lake Michigan whitefish and discuss the lake whitefish rules for the Green Bay emergency rule.
This will be the fifth of several public meetings that have been held over the past five months to get feedback on the Lake Michigan whitefish fishery.
This meeting will take place virtually via Zoom on at 6 p.m. Members of the public can access the meeting beginning at 5:45 p.m., using the Zoom link or by dialing 301-715-8592 and using meeting ID 818 4602 9847.
DNR staff will share information using a PowerPoint presentation during this meeting. The call-in number will allow attendees to listen to the discussion. However, to view the presentation, the DNR recommends attending using a computer via the Zoom link.
Find information, meeting notes and presentations from previous meetings on the DNR’s Lake Michigan Whitefish Management webpage.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Wisconsin sturgeon spearers harvest 44 on Saturday

Day 15 and the second to last day of the 2021 Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season followed this week’s trend as a total of 44 fish were speared.
Sunday marks the final day of the 2021 sturgeon spearing season.
Saturday’s total harvest consisted of 9 juvenile females, 24 adult females and 11 males bringing Lake Winnebago season totals to 240 juvenile females, 643 adult females, and 534 males for 1,417 fish. There was a three-way tie among Stockbridge Harbor, Harrison Town Hall and Blackwolf Landing registration stations for the most fish registered at 9. Stockbridge Harbor registration station still leads the lake in most fish registered this season with 294.  
Winnebago System harvest totals have risen to 282 juvenile females, 720 adult females and 779 males for a system-wide total of 1,781 fish.
The story around the lake on Saturday was the beautiful spring-like Wisconsin weather. It is not often that spearers take to the ice and leave their winter jackets at home, but Saturday was an exception. Reports from successful spearers are that despite the warm weather, lake access points remain in decent shape. However, make sure to check with the local fishing clubs for updates on ice conditions.
So far, water clarity and spearing conditions remain unaffected by the warmer weather, and favorable spearing conditions will likely last through the final day of the 2021 season.
The largest fish harvested on Lake Winnebago on Saturday was a 120.5-pound (73.5 inches) fish speared by Marcel Cardinal. Cardinal’s fish was an F2 female and was registered at the Grundman Lane registration station. Four fish harvested weighed 100 pounds or greater, bringing the season total on the system to 75 fish speared weighing over 100 pounds.   

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Deadline to remove fish houses approaching quickly

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the deadline to remove fish houses from Minnesota lakes is coming up.
Although the coldest spell of winter occurred just days ago, fish house removal deadlines are set in state statute and not dependent upon seasonal conditions.
The removal deadline in the southern two-thirds of the state is the end of the day Monday, March 1. Anglers in this area should note it’s just one day after the close of the walleye-fishing season.
In the northern one-third of the state - which is defined as north of the east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border - the deadline is the end of the day Monday, March 15.
“Anglers need to plan ahead and make sure they’re able to meet the deadline,” said DNR conservation officer Leah Kampa, who is stationed in Annandale. “And don’t just remove your fish house - make sure you clean up everything around it and leave only an impression in the ice or snow. It’s been heartening this winter to see people’s willingness to clean up the litter other people leave, but it’s unfortunate some people don’t take the time to clean up after themselves.”
Anyone who’s caught leaving litter - including any part of a fish house - on the lake may be cited for littering.
If shelters aren’t removed by the deadline, owners will be prosecuted and structures may be confiscated and removed or destroyed by a conservation officer. If conditions or other circumstances are making it difficult for people to meet the deadline, they should contact their local conservation officer to explain the situation.
The removal deadline does not mean anglers no longer can use fish houses on the ice. After the deadline, fish houses may still be on the ice, but they must be occupied if they’re out between midnight and one hour before sunrise. Shelters may not be left or stored at public accesses. Anglers always should keep in mind that ice conditions vary widely and that ice is never 100 percent safe.
Exceptions to the removal deadlines are Minnesota-Canada border waters (March 31), Minnesota-South Dakota and North Dakota border waters (March 5), Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters (March 1) and Minnesota-Iowa border waters (Feb. 20).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR