The Quality Bluegill Initiative
Late ice and spring fishing is just around the corner, and of course panfish come to mind at this time of year. Crappies and perch are very popular, and bluegills are a fish anglers of all ages and skill levels appreciate. In many waters across the Midwest, however, the size structure of bluegills has been declining for many years. The reason for this trend is the selective removal of large male bluegills. When big large parental males are gone, bluegills mature at a younger age and growth rates decline. The sad result is lakes full of stunted silver-dollar sunfish.
Due to harvest, big bluegills have been increasingly rare over the past few decades. I believe it may be easier to catch a 50-inch muskie in the state of Minnesota than it is a one-pound bluegill. Many passionate anglers are concerned and want to see a change. And it looks like change is coming. In Minnesota, a group of stakeholders, called the Panfish Technical Committee, has been working on ways to improve the quality of bluegill fishing and to maintain fisheries that still contain numbers of large fish. It’s a delicate balance between science and public support, and after much deliberation, they’re launching what’s called the Quality Bluegill Initiative, or QBI.
Rather than implementing new regulations statewide, Quality Bluegill Initiative will establish special regulations on fisheries that have a history of, or are producing big bluegills. A large sample of experimental lakes across that state already have such special regs and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been able to measure their success in both improving the size of fish, and also increasing the quality of fishing experiences anglers report.
Regulations on selected lakes will include a reduced daily bag limit of 5 or 10 fish, instead of the statewide limit of 20. When you visit these lakes this summer, you’ll likely see signs at public accesses where these new regulations have been proposed and the DNR will be accepting public input from stakeholders before deciding to move forward. Be sure to weigh in on this issue, your voice matters.
Working in the fishing industry, we’ve been talking about this problem for years, so we’re extremely excited that there’s action moving forward. Believe it or not, bluegill regulations today are more relaxed than they were in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. Back then, there were closed seasons and limits were lower. In the mid-1950’s, a continuous season was implemented and the decline in big ‘gills began.
While some may view reducing harvest as more restrictions on angling, I’d argue it’s the opposite. These regulations offer to lay the groundwork for more quality fishing opportunities in the future. At Lindner Media, we fish for just about everything that swims in freshwater.
Minnesota arguably offers the best multi-species fisheries in the country. When we set out to film television shows on bass, walleye, muskie, catfish, crappie, or even less common species like sturgeon, it’s generally not difficult to shoot a great show with quality fish.
The most challenging subject matter has been catching big bluegills. Finding lakes with good numbers of fish over 10 inches and true giants over a pound is really tough. The lakes that contain them often are small and remote, so they receive little to no ice fishing pressure and are hard to access. When we find them, they’re top secret because it doesn’t take much harvest to wipe them out.
It’s gonna take time and effort to turn things around, but if anglers can begin harvesting fewer big bluegills, we have a real shot at bringing the big boys back. Keeping a limit of mid-sized fish remains a fine option, but we hope the norm can become letting the big males go, especially fish over nine inches. This initiative will be well worth the effort and we’ll wonder why it took so long.
For more information, visit the Quality Bluegill Initiative.