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Minnesota Fishing Licenses and Regulations

The North Star State has a smorgasbord of Fishing opportunities. Its ponds, lakes, and rivers are home to plenty of gamefish; including pike, walleye, largemouth bass, and more. If you’re a resident, or looking to take a fishing trip to Minnesota, you’ll need a fishing license. You’ll also need to know the current fishing regulations. With that in mind, here’s a guide to fishing legally in Minnesota.

Recreational fishing licenses 

Whether you’re fishing for sport or for supper, you’ll need to know which fishing license to buy. You’ll also need to get the costs.

The price of your license depends on how long it’s valid, and whether you’re a resident or nonresident. Resident fishing licenses are less expensive. Keep in mind that you may be exempt from needing a Minnesota fishing license. To find out if you need a fishing license and to learn the criteria for residency click here.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has typical angler licenses, or spearing licenses. Short-term licenses can be valid for hours, or days. Long-term licenses may be valid for months or years. Which type of fishing license you should buy depends on your age, and how long you’ll be in Minnesota. The kind of fish you’re targeting also matters.

For example, Minnesota residents who love fishing would get more value from a lifetime fishing license, whereas a nonresident visitor may do best with a seven-day fishing license.

The MDNR offers special stamps and certificates for certain species of fish. Trout, salmon, and sturgeon require individual validation for designated lake fishing.

Commercial fishing licenses 

If you plan on selling the fish you catch, you’ll need a commercial fishing license. The MDNR offers resident and nonresident commercial licenses. There are only six types of commercial fishing licenses available to nonresidents. Residents have more commercial fishing license options, plus they get more perks.

You can get various types of credentials for commercial fishing. These include permits that allow you to legally pack and transport fish. However, you cannot apply for your Minnesota commercial fishing license online. You must apply in person at the Department of Natural Resources in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In Minnesota, certain fish are considered to be commercial species. Here’s the full list. 

Now that you know a bit about getting your Minnesota fishing license, let’s move on to the fishing rules that are in place.

Minnesota fishing regulations 

To protect the fish population, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made rules for fishing its waters. These rules vary, depending on the body of water in which you’re fishing. The main bodies of water in Minnesota are –

  • Inland waters
  • Streams and rivers
  • Lakes and tributaries

Each body of water has a set of general fishing regulations. There is also a list of special regulations for certain fishing areas. You can find both by clicking here.

There are some things you’ll need to know about fishing in border waters, as well. You can also find that information on the above link.

Let’s take a look at some of the general fishing regulations:

Daily catch limit

There is a limit to how many fish you can catch per day. Each body of water may have its own limit.

Different species of gamefish have different limits, as well. If you’re fishing inland waters for walleye, your daily catch limit would be six. However, if you’re targeting walleye in Lake Superior, your bag limit would be two. Rainbow trout in Lake Superior have a daily catch limit of two, while lake salmon in Lake Superior have a daily catch limit of five.

Most gamefish have a daily limit. However, few non-game fish have a daily catch limit.

Length limits

Certain fishing areas have restrictions on fish length. There are minimum and maximum size limits. Here’s an example of each: 

In Lake Superior, brook trout must be at least 20 inches in length to keep them. 

Conversely, you’re allowed to keep one flathead catfish over twenty-four inches in length, per day. This rule applies to inland waters. Anglers are expected to measure their catch to make sure it’s of legal length. You can use a fish ruler to do this.

However, it’s not all about the fish. Let’s change gears and talk about fishing equipment regulations.

Fishing lines

There are rules for how many lines you can use at one time. It depends on the season. When it’s open water season, you’re limited to just one line. When the water is frozen, you can ice fish using two lines.

Designated lakes and streams allow a single fishing line. In certain border waters and areas of Lake Superior, multiple lines may be legal.

Fishing tackle

There are rules when it comes to your fishing lure. There are specific regulations, like how many hooks you can use. For example, you can’t add extra hooks to a lure or bait while in designated waters.

Otherwise, you can add them —but there are specific rules that apply.

Live bait regulations

When it comes to live bait, using minnows and leeches has its own set of rules. You’ll need to learn to legally harvest your bait. There’s also important information about how to transport minnows. Live suckers and bullheads have regulations, as well.

Certain rules also apply to using dead bait. You can get the specifics on live and dead bait here.

Now that you know what it takes to legally fish in Minnesota, perhaps a fishing trip is in order. Don’t be afraid to explore Minnesota fishing. Now go catch a pike or two—whichever is the legal limit.

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Minnesota Fishing Licenses and Regulations


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