Catch that? Bass fishing opportunities expand this year 

Anglers get more bass fishing opportunities this year starting on the traditional Saturday, May 9, walleye and northern pike fishing opener. Read on for answers to questions about the upcoming bass fishing seasons from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Q: What’s changing?
A: There is a new statewide catch-and-release bass fishing season in all but northeast Minnesota that starts May 9 and runs until the regular harvest season opens Saturday, May 23. Additionally, in northeast Minnesota, the DNR has lifted the fall closure on harvest of smallmouth bass.

Q: Why were these changes made?
A: Anglers have long asked for more chances to fish for bass in the early part of the season. In regards to the northeast fall closure being lifted, anglers had expressed interest in continuing to fish for smallmouth and harvesting fish for meals, especially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Because smallmouth populations have grown in the northeast, increased harvest is predicted to have minimal impact on these populations.

Q: How do you define northeast Minnesota?
A: In the fishing regulations, northeast Minnesota is north and east of U.S. Highway 53, including Ash and Pelican lakes in St. Louis County.

Q: What do the season changes mean for northeast Minnesota?
A: As in the past, anglers in northeast Minnesota can catch and keep bass during the two weeks between May 9 and Memorial Day weekend. In the fall, anglers can harvest smallmouth bass through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016 in northeast Minnesota, a change that lengthens the harvest season there.

Q: What is a catch-and-release bass season?
A: All smallmouth or largemouth bass must be immediately released. Outside of a catch-and-release or harvest season for bass, it is illegal to fish for them.

Q: How concerned is the DNR that a catch-and-release season will result in too many bass being harvested?
A: The new catch-and-release season has a low risk of harming bass populations for two main reasons: Bass anglers release most of the bass they catch, and bass populations have been expanding in Minnesota and other northern states.

Q: In the past, once the walleye opener began, how did conservation officers know that anglers were fishing for bass and not walleye?
A: Fishing tackle and tactics generally differ for the two species. However, the season changes this year were made to increase fishing opportunities – not for enforcement reasons.

Q: What about special regulations for bass?
A: Anglers should always check for special regulations on the waters they are fishing. To check online for special regulations, anglers can go to and type the name of the water they plan to fish in the LakeFinder search box. Special regulations are also listed in the 2015 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet available at any license agent.

Q: Where can I learn more about bass fishing in Minnesota?
A: See the DNR’s bass page at

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