Know Your Fish Cleaning and Possession Rules in a Sleeper Fish House
Each winter, thousands of anglers, families, and friends enjoy staying overnight on Lake of the Woods in a sleeper fish house. Resorts offer a variety of sleeper houses normally with bunk beds, a strong propane furnace to keep everyone warm on the coldest of nights, and of course, a stove for cooking meals. Naturally, while fishing the Walleye Capital of the World, most will bring along the fixings for a fresh fish fry. There is nothing like fresh walleye, sauger or perch filets out on the ice. It is important to understand your fish possession rules while staying on the ice.
With opportunity comes responsibility. It us up to us as anglers to know and understand the rules of the MN DNR who manages natural resources in the state. We thought it might be helpful to shed some light on what the rules are regarding cleaning, cooking and possessing fish while on the ice.
Over the years, one learns when discussing rules of any type to mention a disclaimer that our intent is to help with understanding and ultimately, it is your responsibility to know right from wrong. The fish possession rules are not difficult, but one needs to be educated before hitting the ice. Resorts are a great resource for additional questions.
Individuals may not possess fillets in their day/sleeper houses unless they are in immediate preparation of a meal or unless a licensed fish packer has filleted and packaged them to be consumed while their guests are on the lake and the fish packer is present with you and carcasses are available for inspection. Any filleting for transport should be done on shore or at the resort just prior to individuals traveling. For those who really like to dig into state law, click here for the link.
State Rule 6262.0100 Subp. 5. (D)
Subp. 5. Possession of fish while on state waters.
- While on or fishing in state waters with size restrictions that differ from statewide regulations, including experimental waters, special management waters, boundary waters, or any other waters with size restrictions, all fish for which the different size restrictions apply must be undressed and measurable when in a person’s possession, regardless of where taken, except under the following conditions:
(1) when a watercraft is docked or moored to shore or when on the ice and a person is in the act of preparing and using the fish for a meal; or
(2) when a person is on an experimental or special management water and the fish were lawfully taken, have been packaged and labeled by a licensed fish packer, are to be prepared for a meal while on the ice or shore of that water body, and do not otherwise exceed the statewide possession limits.
When fish are consumed under subitem (1), the angler must maintain the carcass of a fish with size limits in such a way that the carcass may be readily unpacked, unwrapped, and separated so that the carcass may be examined, measured, and counted to ensure compliance with size restrictions for that day, as defined under Minnesota Statutes, section 645.45.
In a nutshell, if you are going to have a fish fry, do not clean the fish until your oil is hot. Fillets basically need to be cooked right away and not stored while staying on the ice. In addition, when you clean fish, make sure to keep the carcasses so they can be measured. This doesn’t mean frozen in a ball outside of the fish house. With a slot limit on walleyes of 19.5 inches – 28 inches must be returned to the water immediately with the ability to keep one per day over 28 inches. The pike slot is 30 inches – 40 inches must be returned with one fish in possession of over 40 inches. It is vital that the MN DNR can measure fish to ensure compliance.
Also remember that in MN, the possession limit is equivalent of one day’s limit. The winter limit on Lake of the Woods up until the rule change March 1st is a combined limit of 8 walleyes and saugers, with up to 4 of those fish being walleyes. Come March 1st, the new winter limit ongoing will be a combined limit of 6 walleyes and saugers, with up to 4 being walleyes. This rule change matches the summer regulations.
Many folks will have fish to bring home the day of departure. Make sure to keep those fish in their whole form and do not clean them until you reach shore.
If you have further questions on regulations for possessing and cleaning fish while staying in a sleeper, contact your resort, outfitter or the MN DNR.
Sleeper fish houses provided a ton of winter fun and memories. Whether it is stepping out on the ice at night and marvel at the stars and galaxy so far north with very little light pollution, waking up in the morning and fishing in your pajamas with a hot cup of coffee or simply having quality time with people whom you care about, a sleeper fish house can provide hundreds of great experiences.