Minnesota DNR expands fish species eligible for catch-and-release state records

Mar. 1—ST. PAUL — Anglers in Minnesota now have more options for landing a catch-and-release state record fish, the Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday, Feb. 29.

As of Friday, March 1, anglers can earn catch-and-release records for 18 species beyond the four species already recognized. The DNR said it made the change in response to the increasing popularity of catch-and-release fishing and to raise the profile of native rough fish.

"Angler stories and photos of the huge fish caught from Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams generate major excitement," Mandy Erickson, DNR fisheries program consultant, said in a statement. "We also hope the buzz around some of these records brings more attention to native rough fish, which, besides being fun to catch, are important to aquatic ecosystems."

Species added to the catch-and-release category and the minimum length requirements are blue sucker, 28 inches; bigmouth buffalo, 32 inches; bowfin, 31 inches; brook trout, 18 inches; brown trout, 24 inches; channel catfish, 38 inches; freshwater drum, 31 inches; lake trout, 40 inches; largemouth bass, 22 inches; longnose gar, 46 inches; rainbow trout, 23 inches; sauger, 22 inches; shortnose gar, 30 inches; shovelnose sturgeon, 32 inches; smallmouth bass, 22 inches; smallmouth buffalo, 31 inches; tiger muskellunge, 44 inches; and walleye, 32 inches.

The category will continue to include muskies, 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.

"Before making these changes, we discussed possible approaches with angling organizations and tribal interests, and sought input via fishing-related Facebook pages and DNR email lists," Erickson said. "Overall, we received very positive feedback."

In a news release, the DNR said records established before requiring weight to be documented on a certified scale will continue to be recognized as historical records. After March 1, 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.

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.

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.

Of the current catch-and-release records, two came from the St. Croix River. Mark Mosby of St. Anthony, Minnesota, holds the flathead catfish record with a 52 1/2 -inch fish he caught Aug. 2, 2017. Darren Troseth of Jordan, Minnesota, landed a 78-inch lake sturgeon Feb. 9, 2019, to set the catch-and-release record for that species. The catch-and-release record muskie, a 58 1/4 -inch fish caught by Eric Bakke of Princeton, Minnesota, came from Mille Lacs Lake on June 11, 2022, and two northern pike are tied for the catch-and-release record. Brecken Kobylecky of Geneva, Illinois, released a 46 1/4 -inch pike June 19, 2021, on Basswood Lake, and Brad Lila of Hudson, Wisconsin, released a 46 1/4 -inch pike Jan. 22, 2023.

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 webpage



Other fishing regulation changes for 2024 include two changes that enhance protection for Minnesota's native turtles. These protections went into effect Jan. 1 as the result of a new law enacted in 2023.

Anglers need both an angling license and a recreational turtle license to harvest turtles using angling gear such as 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 younger than 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.

New and modified regulations also will be in effect for a variety of other waters. Anglers are advised to check the regulations book, which became available available March 1, 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.

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