Several OTC lakes included in new regulations

Sunfish anglers 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.

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.

“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. 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.”

Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor

The new regulations modify daily limits on the affected waterbodies. 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.

Otter Tail County lakes included in the initiative include: Bass Lake, Big Pine Lake, Crystal Lake, Deer lake and connected Otter Tail River, East Lost Lake and connected Otter Tail River, Fish Lake, Franklin Lake, Long Lake, Middle Lake, Prairie Lake, Red River Lake, Lida Lakes, Stuart Lake, Venstrom Lake, Wall Lake, West Lost Lake and West Lost Lake.