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Ask a Conservation Officer: Rules against intentionally snagging fish

Q: I was standing near the Lester River this week and watching anglers hooking salmon that were coming into the river to spawn. It appeared most of the fish were hooked somewhere in the body, and the anglers' use of large hooks certainly led to that. Is it legal to snag these fish if they aren't kept, since they are coming into the river to spawn and die anyway?

A: Intentionally snagging fish (hooking them in a part of the body other than the mouth) is illegal throughout Minnesota.

The use of large hooks, treble hooks, weighted hooks, etc., and a jerking action with the lure across or with the current or at the end of a drift are all actions which conservation officers note in taking enforcement action against people snagging.

These salmon, mostly pink salmon, are game fish that are coming into the river to spawn. They may be legally targeted and kept by anglers using normal fishing methods, but not by snagging.

Additionally, a fish hooked anywhere other than in its mouth may not be kept in Lake Superior tributaries, whether intentionally snagged or by accident.

If you see this kind of activity, please note as many details about the snagger's description, tackle and location, and immediately call the TIP line at (800) 652-9093 so a conservation officer can address the violation.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to