Studies show that angler harvest, especially of the large male sunfish, can have a huge impact on size quality. It takes a surprising amount of time to grow a large sunfish – you can grow three trophy bucks in the amount of time it takes to grow one 10 inch bluegill!
Consequently, large fish are often removed faster than they can be replaced. Sunfish also have unique spawning behavior; large males create an incentive for other males to grow equally large and compete for good spawning sites – when large males are harvested other males have no reason to keep growing and tend to stay smaller. Because anglers usually keep the largest sunfish, reducing overall harvest can have noticeable benefits.
In most cases, yes! Lakes recently managed with 10 fish bag limits have generally maintained good size quality while average size increased in lakes managed with 5 fish limits.
Around 30 lakes have been through a formal review process including feedback from anglers – generally anglers were supportive and the bag limits were maintained or further reduced in every case. Published scientific studies from Minnesota and Wisconsin show similarly positive results from bag limit reductions. Most lakes showed improvements in average size of half of an inch or more. The gains angler’s saw in the size of the fillets taken home tended to offset the reduced total number of fish allowed.
How does that work? If an angler kept only six-inch fish, she would need 25 bluegills for one pound of fillets. If the bluegills were all eight inches, she would only need six fish for one pound of fillets.
County Lake Species Proposed regulation Area office
Becker Island Lake Sunfish 10 Detroit Lakes
Otter Tail Crystal Lake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls
Otter Tail Lida Lake Sunfish 10 Fergus Falls
Becker Sand Lake Sunfish 5 Detroit Lakes
Becker Turtle Lake Sunfish 10 Detroit Lakes