Minnesota passes new law to manage misunderstood fish

Legislation will make significant changes to how native rough fish are regulated and protected.

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River redhorse (dexternienhaus/iNaturalist)

Minnesota governor Tim Walz signed legislation last week that will change how the state manages several species of fish that have long been loosely regulated as “rough fish.” Passed earlier by the state legislature, the law is the result of several years of advocacy and education by citizens, scientists, and anglers.

The new “No Junk Fish” law could affect management of several fish found in the St. Croix and its tributaries. The legislation changes key language, redefines how several species are categorized by the Department of Natural Resources, and sets the stage for the first significant regulations of their harvest.

“Our native rough fish play a vital role in Minnesota’s aquatic ecosystems,” said Rep. Sydney Jordan, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “The legislation we’ve authored will help protect our native species while updating state statute to differentiate from invasive fish. I want to thank the many fish advocates across Minnesota and Native Fish for Tomorrow in particular for leading this charge.”

The changes are the result of a long and complicated process. Based on earlier legislation, the DNR recommended several changes to state law last year, after conducting a series of meetings with anglers, scientists, commercial fishing companies, bowfishers, and others with an interest in the topic.

There are several parts to the changes authorized by the latest bill. First, the term “rough fish,” which has been proven to be arbitrary and often confused with invasive fish like carp, has been replaced. Carp were removed from the category and it was renamed as “native rough fish.”

Perhaps most significantly, the legislation opens the door for the DNR to conduct rulemaking for new regulations for harvest of native rough fish. The species have long been loosely managed, with high harvest limits if any, and little monitoring of population or research into their biology, reproduction, and habitat. The agency is now authorized to develop daily and possession limits for these species as needed.

Species included in the “native rough fish” category now include: bowfin; bigmouth, smallmouth, and black buffalo; white, blue, spotted, and longnose sucker; northern hogsucker; quillback; river and highfin carpsucker; black, river, shorthead, golden, silver, and greater redhorse; black, brown, and yellow bullhead; longnose and shortnose gar; and freshwater drum.


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19 responses to “Minnesota passes new law to manage misunderstood fish”

  1. Troy Howard Avatar
    Troy Howard

    Thanks for the article!

  2. Sam Huston Avatar
    Sam Huston

    Are you kidding me??? This is a total waste of money and resources

    1. Robert McManus Avatar
      Robert McManus

      So, intelligently managing a limited resource so we can all have a healthy river continuing into the future is somehow a waste of that resource…?

      1. Nick Thielen Avatar
        Nick Thielen

        The buffalo grow so very slowly that bow hunting was reducing the numbers way too quickly. So the law was needed. Robert well said

    2. Joshua Wurst Avatar
      Joshua Wurst

      I don’t know, Sam. I can’t seem to wrap my head around state sanctioned wanton waste of native species when habitats continue to be under growing pressure from human expansion. The hands off approach of much of our history will only lead to the extermination of more species from the planet.

    3. David S Avatar
      David S

      Sam, every single fish in the rivers play a part of the ecosystem. Just because we can’t pinpoint that role doesn’t mean we have the right to justify their dwindling numbers.
      I’ve met so many people that will just will a Bowfin on site because their dad taught them to.. You’re not helping anybody by doing that. Only making messes and taking lives.

  3. Jarda Cervenka Avatar
    Jarda Cervenka

    Czech tradition: deep fried card for Christmas Eve lives in MN

    1. John Guild Avatar
      John Guild

      It wasn’t so long ago that crappies weren’t managed. Glad the state is trying to manage all fish. Thanks for the article

  4. John Brainard Avatar
    John Brainard

    This is signaling the demise of our traditional game fish and beginning to set forth the new ones. As our waters warm and degrade for so many reasons this is the logical step it would seem.

  5. Native Montanan Avatar
    Native Montanan

    Sounds a bit fishy to me.

  6. Ron Avatar
    Ron

    Sounds like more legislation that is not necessary to try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

    1. Allen Avatar
      Allen

      Sounds like an uninformed position that didn’t need to be expressed.

  7. joe Avatar
    joe

    This is great news! I’ve watched quill back suckers get netted on the St Croix and thrown on the bank to die, as if they were some sort of nuisance fish. As an angler, I understand that these species all have a roll in the ecosystem and benefit the “game fish” that I am after, among other benefits. Good job letting the scientists at the DNR do their jobs and not the moron legislators.

  8. Fish guy Avatar
    Fish guy

    Glad to hear. Some of the fish on the list very interesting and fun to catch. Red horse are a good barometer of water quality.

  9. minnesotabeercompany Avatar
    minnesotabeercompany

    As a native of New England moving to Minnesota is quite a shock to see that unlike back East catch and release is not really a thing here in Minnesota. You Minnesota fisherman are really hungry.
    I fish for the pure joy of fishing and catching fish I don’t care about eating them I actually find the cleaning and cooking process of chore that I don’t want to do. I love fishing and for me not being from Minnesota the Common Carp was the penultimate game fish in the state. There has been no greater fishing thrill in my life than the day I caught a 48 lb common carp.
    It’s saddens me how misunderstood these fish are and how the folks of Minnesota don’t appreciate what they have. I used to have a gentleman from England who would come here to fish with me and he would talk about how fishing was in England and how lucky we are.

  10. Shelly Webster Avatar
    Shelly Webster

    I remember a time, a long time ago when I was a kid, I would listen to my dad talk about how huge the common Buffalo fish was. There were stories about how something was pulling down bleach bottles being used as bobbers or markers. The DNR was brought in, and they sent down divers. When the divers encountered these fish, they panicked and swam to the surface. The divers claimed that they were as big as men! It was later confirmed that they were indeed as big as men. Not so, anymore. Or, is there?

    1. Sam .k Avatar
      Sam .k

      I heard similar stories about huge fish the size of men years ago. They were seen in the deep water bye one of the many lock dams by scuba diver’s . The water seems pretty murky to see anything unless it was really close to you. I’M sure there’s big fish still hiding somewhere in the Mississippi.

  11. Mark hayes Avatar
    Mark hayes

    Well it took 20 years but they finally came around. I had a lake restoration project and to make it work I wanted to stock the lake with some brown and yellow bullheads because the ecosystem was out of whack the DNR emphatically said they would never stock raw fish for any reason and now we’re going to manage them. And just to show how screwed up the DNR is 20 years ago they considered the black Bullhead to be an invasive species

  12. Tyler W Avatar
    Tyler W

    Thanks Greg for your great reporting on this topic! And thanks to everyone who left a positive comment! Public opinion has come a long way since 1875 when the first fish commision planned to exterminate the “vermin of the waters”.
    And, if you oppose these basic reforms… just think… you are supporting a management goal from 150 years ago that biologists have known was wrong since Aldo Leopold wrote about ecology 75 years ago.

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Minnesota passes new law to manage misunderstood fish