MOORHEAD — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a plan to grow bigger bluegills in lakes in which that is biologically possible. In some lakes, it is not. In others, conditions like fertility, habitat and available food make it possible that bluegills can grow to be 9, 10 or 11 inches long. An 11-inch bluegill is probably near a pound, a trophy by today's standards.
The DNR's plan, released earlier this year, includes 18 lakes in Becker and Otter Tail counties.
The Otter Tail County lakes are:
- Bass (near Underwood)
- East Lost
- Fish (near Weetown)
- Fish (near Parkers Prairie)
- Long (near Vergas)
- Red River Lake
- West Lost
- West Silent
The Becker County lakes are:
- Height of Land
- Little Sugar Bush
- Big Floyd
The plan is for these lakes to have a five-fish limit for bluegills in an effort to reduce the harvest of bigger fish. Minnesota's statewide bluegill limit is 20.
The DNR believes it has support of property owners and lake association members on the targeted lakes, but will hold virtual town halls and in-person meetings (as required by law) in early October to get more input.
"The DNR’s bluegill initiative is a way to address concerns by some anglers about bluegill sizes by lowering the number of them people can keep on some lakes,” Jon Hansen, fisheries program consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said in a press release. “We know there are a large number of lakes involved in this initiative, so we want to make sure we provide a variety of input opportunities, including offering online options to the traditional in-person meetings.”
Here is a piece of advice: Let them have it.
Feedback, that is. Tell them that bigger bluegills is a wonderful priority and that you support the Bigger Bluegill Initiative.
Have your voice be heard. If you believe reducing bag limits on bluegills is a good thing — and it is — let the DNR know that you support a five-fish limit because you want the opportunity to catch bigger fish.
Trophy bluegills are among the rarest of fish in Minnesota lakes these days. For years, panfish generally and bluegills specifically haven't garnered much respect among anglers. They've been viewed as a "kid's fish" or "meat fish." But there is little more exciting for some than to see a round, bull-nosed bluegill nearing a pound coming out of the water.
These reduced limits will help in that regard. Reduced limits, and minimum size limits, for panfish are a proven way to improve the size structure of bluegills and crappies.
So let the DNR know what you think.
You can do so virtually by region on these dates:
- Northwest: Monday, Oct. 5, Noon-1 p.m.
- Northeast: Wednesday, Oct. 7, Noon-1 p.m.
- Central/Southeast: Monday, Oct. 12, Noon-1 p.m.
- South: Wednesday, Oct. 14, Noon-1 p.m.
- Statewide: Thursday, Oct. 13, 6-7 p.m.
The in-person meetings are as follows:
Becker County: Thursday, Oct. 8, 5-9 p.m. at the DNR Area Office, 14583 County Highway 19, Detroit Lakes.
Otter Tail County: Thursday, Oct. 8, 5-7 p.m. at the DNR Area Office, 1509 1st Ave. N., Fergus Falls.
"We are excited to offer these town halls and encourage people to use these and our online comment option as an alternative to the more traditional in-person meetings in each county,” Hansen said in the press release.
Yes 79% No 21%
Do you support the Minnesota's DNR proposal to have a five-fish bluegill limit on some lakes?
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Another nugget the DNR offered in announcing the virtual town halls and in-person meetings: Among the lakes being proposed for bluegill bag limit reductions, the DNR is proposing that 24 also have reductions in crappie bag limits.
For those who love catching big crappies, this is big news. None of the two dozen lakes are in Becker or Otter Tail counties. They are in Carver, Cass, Crow Wing, Dakota, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Scott and Wright counties.
But panfish lovers can hope, and encourage the DNR, that similar reduced crappies bag limits are coming on many other Minnesota lakes, too.