Catch a record fish!

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minnesota department of natural resources

Minnesota Fishing

March 1, 2024

Stay informed! Here’s a summary of upcoming fisheries and habitat management activities and ways you can discover, explore and experience Minnesota’s outdoors.

former northern pike record holder for catch-and-release

Changes for anglers hoping to catch a record fish 

Anglers will have new opportunities to claim the glory of catching a Minnesota state record fish!

Starting today, anglers can earn catch-and-release records for 18 species beyond the four current species that are recognized, a change the Minnesota DNR is making in response to the increasing popularity of catch-and-release fishing and to raise the profile of native rough fish.

Records established prior to requiring weight to be documented on a certified scale will continue to be recognized as historical records. Going forward, the Minnesota DNR will recognize three categories of record fish: historical weight records, catch-and-release documented by photos, and certified weight documented by keeping a fish and weighing it on a state-certified scale.

Anglers can also apply for a certified weight record for yellow bass, added to the category because the species has dramatically increased in both presence and popularity, particularly in south-central Minnesota.

Photo: Maddy Ogg caught and released this 43 1/2 inch pike in October 2018 on Mille Lacs Lake, and set the first northern pike state record in the DNR’s catch-and-release category.

young angler with a walleye he caught

Which fish next for records?

Species being added to the catch-and-release category are blue sucker, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin, brook trout, brown trout, channel catfish, freshwater drum, lake trout, largemouth bass, longnose gar, rainbow trout, sauger, shortnose gar, shovelnose sturgeon, smallmouth bass, smallmouth buffalo, tiger muskellunge and walleye. The category will continue to include muskellunge, northern pike, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. There will be a minimum fish length requirement for new submissions, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught sizes. 

Certified weight records will be available for black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, channel catfish, common carp, flathead catfish, lake trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch. For each species, anglers will be required to meet a minimum weight to apply for a record, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught weights.   

The record fish program has been managed by the state’s fisheries resource agency in various forms for nearly 100 years. More information, including minimum fish length and weight requirements for new submissions, is available on the Minnesota DNR record fish page.

“My son Gauge with a 26 walleye” photo courtesy of Dan Koski

Minnesota fishing regulations cover image

Get the updated fishing regulations!

The 2024 Minnesota fishing regulations are available today on the Minnesota DNR website and printed copies will be available starting the week of March 4 anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold.

In addition to the record fish program changes, other regulation changes for 2024 include two changes that enhance protection for Minnesota’s native turtles, and new and modified regulations will also be in effect for a variety of individual waters.

This year’s fishing regulations feature a photo by Joshua Duplechian, featuring Scot Simmons and son, Cooper. As a child, Scot grew up in the Twin Cities fishing the metro lakes with his family. Fast forward, he’s now a fly fishing guide on his home waters.

turtles on a log

Turtle protections enhanced

Anglers need both an angling license and a recreational turtle license to harvest turtles using angling gear like hook and line, landing nets and gaff hooks. In the past, only an angling license was required. Traps are not allowed for turtle harvest. Individuals under 16 do not need a recreational turtle license and may still collect turtles for turtle races.

Commercial harvest of western painted turtles and snapping turtles is no longer allowed in Minnesota. People will still be allowed to raise turtles for commercial purposes under an aquaculture license with a turtle endorsement.

angler with large northern pike caught ice fishing

Check regulations for waters where you’re fishing

New and modified regulations will be in effect for a variety of other waters. Anglers are advised to check the regulations book available today for updated regulations pertaining to:

  • Sunfish in Winnibigoshish Lake and connected waters, Beltrami, Cass and Itasca counties
  • Northern pike in Gull Lake chain, Cass and Crow Wing counties
  • Sunfish in First, Second, Third and Fourth Crow Wing lakes, Hubbard County
  • Walleye in Big Sand Lake, Hubbard County
  • Northern pike in Balsam, Haskell and Scrapper Lakes, Itasca County
  • Northern pike in Pearl Lake, Stearns County
  • Crappie and sunfish in Clearwater and Maple lakes, Stearns and Wright counties.

“Nice fight for a pike” photo courtesy of Eric Johnson

angler holding rainbow trout she caught

Time to buy new licenses

Now is the time of year for anglers and hunters to buy new fishing and hunting licenses. Minnesota fishing, hunting and trapping licenses for 2023 expired Feb. 29. Licenses for 2024 are now available wherever fishing and hunting licenses are sold, online and by telephone at 888-665-4236. Online buyers can print the license or choose to receive a text or email that when displayed on a mobile device serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers.

Caught a 22-inch rainbow trout while jigging for crappies” photo courtesy of Melissa Wagner

crappie held near a net with other crappies

Fishing deep? Consider keeping crappies 

If you fish for crappies in deep water, please read up on barotrauma. Barotrauma refers to injuries caused by rapid changes in barometric or water pressure.

Symptoms in fish include bulging eyes, bleeding gills, gas bubbles under the skin or an expanded swim bladder that pushes the stomach out of the fish’s mouth.

Minnesota DNR fisheries biologists are studying the effects of barotrauma. Preliminary results suggests:

  • Barotrauma is not a major concern for crappies shallower than 25 feet.
  • The chance of released fish suffering injury or death from barotrauma increases deeper than 25 feet.
  • If you’re fishing for crappie in deep water, consider keeping what you catch and moving to shallower water once you've reached your legal limit.

a fishing pier with ice and open water

Stay safe, ice is melting fast

While there may not be much ice left in your area, folks up north should remember to remove their fish houses soon. The ice is melting fast and it will be unsafe to retrieve shelters soon. Consider removing them earlier than normal.

The shelter removal deadline for the southern two-thirds of the state is 11:59 p.m. on March 4. Many lakes are almost totally open.

In the northern third of the state, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. March 18, but we urge anglers to remove them earlier. Ice conditions are already deteriorating. Exceptions for border water removal deadlines are listed on the Minnesota DNR website.

Remember a new litter law is in effect. It’s not lawful to dispose of garbage, sewage or wastewater on the ice. Find public dump stations to drain your wheelhouse’s water tanks, and stay safe as you retrieve your property.

Send us your fishing photos

Anglers, we’d love to see your fishing photos! Here are a few of the memories. Photos submitted are used in Minnesota DNR publications including social media, newsletters, news releases, webpages and more. Upload your photos online!

angler with a fish caught

“What a fight!” photo courtesy of Nicolette Shegstad 

young kid holding a burbot caught while ice fishing

“Vanna’s first eelpout” photo courtesy of Mo Vang 

angler holding a trout caught through the ice

“A birthday wish come true!” photo courtesy of Bailey Lange

angler holding a walleye caught ice fishing

“23 3/4” photo courtesy of Ryan Anderson

angler holding a pike on the ice

“40 1/2 inches 15 1/2 pounds. Took measurements and weight and back in the water for someone else to catch another day” photo courtesy of Alex Feldhege

Find fishing information

You can find the information you need about learning to fish, regulations, where to fish, aquatic invasive species, contacting a conservation officer and more on the DNR fishing page.

Have Minnesota fishing photos to share? You can upload your photos and we may use them in emails notifications, social media or the DNR website.