The Department of Natural Resources announced a change in fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake that officials say will help attract more national bass tournaments to the area.

National bass tournaments could draw thousands of anglers to the region, benefiting area resorts and businesses, the DNR says. The rule change, announced Tuesday by DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, will allow anglers to sort bass that are shorter than 18 inches, and keep the largest fish – a rule change that the DNR says is essential in securing national bass tournaments.

“This is one of the ways DNR is actively responding to the economic needs of the Mille Lacs Lake area,” Landwehr said. “The change has potential economic benefits and will not hurt bass populations.”

Anglers on other lakes in Minnesota already can sort bass that they catch. But currently, anglers on Mille Lacs cannot sort fish they have kept by releasing a smaller fish from a livewell and replacing it with a larger fish. The rule change will allow anglers to sort smallmouth and largemouth bass before reaching their possession limit of six fish. The no-cull rule will remain in effect for all other fish species on Mille Lacs.

Mille Lacs is one of the premiere bass fishing lakes in the country, ranked the 10th-best bass lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine. The lake is a world-class smallmouth bass fishery, attracting anglers from around the United States. The lake also has abundant largemouth bass.

 “Fishing is a major draw for out-of-state visitors, generating $2.8 billion in retail sales and 43,000 Minnesota jobs,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. “Eliminating one of the hurdles to attracting more national bass fishing tournaments gives the Mille Lacs area another tool to draw national attention and help improve its economy.”

A difference of only a few ounces often determines the winner of a bass tournament. Having the ability to cull allows tournament anglers to keep the biggest fish that weigh the most.

Mille Lacs fishing regulations allow anglers to keep only one bass 18 inches or longer. The new rule would not allow anglers to replace a bass 18 inches or longer even if a larger fish is caught later during that same trip. In addition, anglers could not cull bass once they have caught their limit of six.

The new rule goes into effect in the next few weeks.

More information about bass fishing is available on the DNR website at

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