Minnesota DNR tells anglers: Only eat small sunfish

They're asking anglers to put larger ones back in the water.
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Sunfish

There are few finer Minnesota experiences then chowing down on a plateful of freshly caught panfish, but the DNR is making a request for anglers catching sunfish this summer.

The sunfish is the most commonly harvested fish in Minnesota, with 16 million caught in our lakes each year.

However, the DNR is now taking steps to ensure a healthy sunfish population by asking anglers to throw back larger fish they catch.

Typically, the DNR says that sunfish measuring larger than 8-9 inches are good ones to release, while those smaller than that can be kept and eaten.

The reason for this is that many of the larger sunfish caught are parental males, who during the spring and early summer build and defend the nests filled with eggs laid by females.

If these larger males are caught, then the remaining smaller males "don't need to compete with larger males to spawn," and instead of growing, they "devote their energy to spawning at younger ages and smaller sizes."

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The DNR points out that spawning sunfish that are released back into the water have a high survival rate and "return to their nests to complete the spawning cycle."

It cites surveys that Minnesota anglers are happy with the number of sunfish they catch, but not with the size of them.

"To maintain a high quality fishery, it’s important that anglers, guides and resort owners, all understand the important role these large nesting fish play, and that we all work together to exercise a conservation ethic that ensures these fish thrive,” said Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor Dave Weitzel in a press release.

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