Bigger bluegills: Goal for six lakes proposed in Kandiyohi County
Six lakes in Kandioyohi County are being considered for special regulations as part of the Quality Bluegill Initiative. Angler input sought as DNR looks to reverse decades-long decline in size structure.
SPICER — Six lakes in Kandiyohi County are being considered for special regulations as part of the Quality Bluegill Initiative being launched by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Big Kandiyohi, Diamond, Florida and George lakes are being considered for five-fish bag limits, and Long by Hawick and Nest lakes are being considered for 10-fish limits.
Two Pope County lakes are also among those in the area under consideration. Gilchrist Lake is proposed for a five-fish limit and Grove Lake for a 10-fish limit.
Current regulations allow anglers to harvest 20 bluegills or sunfish in the lakes.
Dave Coahran, Spicer area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota DNR, submitted the lakes for consideration based on their potential to produce populations of quality bluegills. He also gathered input from lakes associations and anglers in the area. Coahran said the response has been positive, with many supportive of efforts to improve the size structure of bluegill populations in area lakes.
The state currently has special regulations on bluegill harvests in about 60 lakes. The Quality Bluegill Initiative aims to increase the number to 250 in 2023, according to the DNR.
The DNR reports that special regulations limiting harvest have proven effective at improving bluegill size.
The state’s record bluegill was caught in 1948, and ever since the state has seen a general decline in the size of bluegills. Increased angling pressure and effectiveness due to electronics, social media and improved equipment are all believed to be factors in the decline. The larger, bull bluegills are especially vulnerable to angling pressure when they are on their beds in the spring.
Coahran said he is hoping the special regulations will help rebuild the size structure of bluegills in the selected lakes to what they were in the 1960s, 1970s and perhaps in the early 1980s. The area still has lakes holding good-sized bluegill. Diamond has put out 10-inch bluegills. And while bluegill numbers are not great in Big Kandiyohi, the lake is reputed for holding some larger bluegills, he pointed out.
But overall, Coahran said the area’s experience certainly mirrors that of the rest of the state. The overall size of bluegills has declined.
The lakes being considered for five-fish limits — Big Kandiyohi, Diamond, Florida and George — have histories of producing big bluegills. Consequently they have the best potential for seeing the size structure improve to what they were like in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The goal in the lakes proposed for 10-fish limits — Long by Hawick and Nest — is to maintain a good-size structure.
The current proposal only calls for limits on the number of bluegill an angler can harvest in the lakes, and not the size of the fish kept. From a scientific standpoint, it would be beneficial to place a limit on how many bluegill over eight inches an angler may keep, Brad Parsons, fisheries supervisor for the DNR, told attendees at the agency’s Roundtable last January. But Parsons is concerned about public acceptance for a size limit. At the Roundtable, he said the DNR has received a lot of feedback over a size limit. Lots of young people are introduced to fishing by pursuing panfish, he pointed out.
Down the road, there is discussion about possibly allowing only five fish greater than eight inches to be harvested while encouraging anglers to keep larger numbers of smaller bluegill in some lakes where bluegill numbers are high.
There is also discussion about reducing crappie limits in some lakes. Diamond and George are likely to be proposed for consideration in the future for five-fish limits.
Coahran said the DNR is planning to host public input meetings in the fall to hear what anglers think about the proposed five- and 10-fish limits on the six lakes. The DNR also has information on the Quality Bluegill Initiative on its website, where anglers can also respond to a survey and offer their input.
The local fisheries supervisors said he also encourages anglers to contact him with their thoughts on the proposal and the area lakes under consideration. He can be reached at the Spicer fisheries office 320-796-2161 or by email: email@example.com