Minnesota Fishing Regulations

Minnesota Fishing Regulations
Minnesota has endless fishing opportunities since the state contains thousands of lakes, streams and rivers. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regulates all aspects of fishing in the state. These regulations cover a variety of things including licenses, legal methods and creel limits. Darkhouse spearing, a popular way to catch fish through the ice in Minnesota, has very stringent regulations that the anglers in Minnesota must follow.


Anyone fishing in Minnesota over the age of 15 has to have a fishing license, with some exceptions. The state defines a resident as someone that has been living in a legal residence for no less than 60 straight days. Residents that are not yet 16 do not need a license to legally fish. Non-residents over 15 years old must purchase a license to fish in Minnesota, but their children under 16 do not--as long as the parent or guardian has a valid license. United States Armed Forces personnel based in Minnesota can buy a resident license and when deployed, Minnesota considers their spouses as residents. Full-time students may buy resident licenses to fish as well with student status proof. Soldiers home on leave, U. S. Veterans Administration Hospital patients, nursing home residents and residents discharged from the military within the last two years do not need a fishing license. The developmentally disabled over age 16, veterans with a disability acquired from duty and the legally blind are not required to pay a fee for a license. Lifetime licenses with fees based on the individual's age are available for both the residents of Minnesota and those that live elsewhere but frequently visit the state to fish.

General regulations

An angler can use just one hook at a time while fishing in Minnesota. While a treble hook is legal if attached to an artificial lure such as a spoon, it is not legal under any other circumstances. Regulations allow an angler one line in the water during open water season and two during ice fishing. This rule translates into an ice fisherman allowed two tip-ups or a tip-up and a jigging pole in the water at once. The angler has to attend her tip-ups and he cannot legally be more than 200 feet from one that is in the water and baited. Minnesota, like all states, has some specific creel and possession limits that an angler should familiarize himself with. For example, an angler can keep just one muskellunge per day and the fish must not measure less than 40 inches. There are also defined seasons for species such as trout, walleye, bass, pike and muskies, with fish like crappie and sunfish legally caught year round.

Darkhouse spearing

Darkhouse spearing is a legal method of ice fishing in a handful of northern states, including Minnesota. It involves chiseling out a large hole within an ice shelter--the darkhouse--and setting up decoy fish in the hole. The angler in the shelter is in the dark while waiting for a fish to investigate the decoy. The angler then spears the fish. Regulations forbid non-residents from participating in darkhouse spearing and permit the angler to spear only northern pike, whitefish and catfish employing this method. A resident between the ages of 15 and 64 requires both the regular fishing license and a darkhouse spearing license to engage in this practice legally. Those over 64 years of age need only possess a regular fishing license. Hand held jigging within the confines of the darkhouse is legal as long as just one line is the water at any given time. It is illegal to use any type of artificial light to help the angler see any fish in the water.

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