New Minnesota gar possession limit takes effect March 1
Spearers, anglers and bowfishers will be allowed to keep up to 10 gar — the toothy, prehistoric fish native to Minnesota waters — starting March 1, when a new gar possession limit is in effect on all Minnesota inland and border waters.
The limit applies to longnose and shortnose gar, which previously could be kept in unlimited numbers, and is among other new regulations in the 2023 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet.
The gar regulation change is part of a larger effort to sustainably manage gar and other native fish including buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum, bowfin, goldeye and bullhead, because they are critical contributors to aquatic ecosystems. The gar limit was established after 2021 legislation requiring the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determine and set a limit for that species.
“It’s a first step toward a more proactive and conservative approach to managing these native ‘rough fish’ species,” said Shannon Fisher, fisheries monitoring and regulations manager. “We value these native fish. They are important elements of health rivers and lakes, and yet we don’t know a ton about them.”
While the DNR has less information about gar compared to fish species like walleye, pike or bass, DNR research is underway to track their populations, with initial results expected in the latter part of 2024. Additionally, the DNR will form a new work group with members of conservation organizations, members of the bowfishing community and interested stakeholders to identify conservation strategies for other native rough fish.
“Historically there have been a lot of misconceptions about fish like gar. People thought that having gar around as predator fish created competition for fish like walleye. We know that’s not the case,” Fisher said. “The more we learn, the more we find out that these fish have important roles and value in the ecosystem.”
Other new regulations
Other fishing regulation changes for 2023 include opening the Vermillion River in Dakota County to a catch-and-release season that mirrors the season in place for southeastern Minnesota, which allows catch and release trout fishing from Jan. 1 each year to the mid-April stream trout season opener. Additionally, the brown trout catch-and-release only regulation applies to the entire Vermillion River starting March 1.
New and modified regulations will also be in effect for a variety of other waters. Anglers are advised to check the regulations book for regulation details for these waters, listed here alphabetized by county:
Big Sandy Lake and connected waters, Aitkin County
A portion of the upper Turtle River chain of lakes, Beltrami County
Three Island and Turtle River lakes, Beltrami County
Fox Lake, Beltrami County
Caribou Lake, Itasca County
Round Lake, Itasca County
Otter Tail Lake, Otter Tail County
West Battle Lake, Otter Tail County
Cloquet and Otter rivers of Island Lake Reservoir, St. Louis County.
The 2023 Minnesota fishing regulations are available online (mndnr.gov/fishing) and anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold.