ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The DNR wants anglers to throw back their sunfish this season in order to preserve the state's population.
According to a release from the DNR, Minnesotans harvest around 16 million sunfish each year, which is the most of any species.
For that reason, the department is asking fishermen to keep smaller fish for eating and to release the largest of the sunfish back into Minnesota’s lakes, streams and rivers.
The largest sunfish tend to be males who are guarding nests, so by harvesting those large fish, it puts the greater population in jeopardy.
The spawning fish are more prone to harvest because they are aggressive while they guard the nests.
By releasing the large, nesting males, they can survive and finish the spawning cycle at their nests.
“To maintain a high quality fishery, it’s important that anglers, guides and resort owners, all understand the important role these large nesting fish play, and that we all work together to exercise a conservation ethic that ensures these fish thrive,” said Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor Dave Weitzel.