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Ask a conservation officer: Culling fish is legal, but not a good idea

Q: What is “culling” of fish, and is it legal to do it on Minnesota lakes?

A: Culling, or live-well sorting, is the replacement of one fish in the live well with another fish of the same species. State law allows the culling or sorting of fish while you are on the water up to the point that an angler has reached his daily limit. Once a limit of fish is in possession, those fish cannot be returned to the water or sorted out with other fish caught later. Some border waters and other waters with special regulations do not allow any culling or sorting, regardless of whether an angler has reached his/her limit. Check the Angling Synopsis for further information on special-regulation waters. Although legal in many situations, consideration must be given to the condition of the fish and how long it has been in a live well or fish basket if it is to be released. Warmer water temperatures and longer periods of time in a live well or basket will greatly reduce the fish’s chance of survival after being released. If you think you will not be keeping a fish to take home, it is better to release it immediately after being caught than to haul it around in a live well or basket for part of a day.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Conservation Officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to