Fish diversity and habitat
May 12, 2023
All fish have value whether or not anglers typically pursue them. Native fish species benefit their ecosystems and the DNR is bringing more attention toward, and focus on, responsibly managing native fish species.
Although not every kind of fish lives everywhere, 162 species of fish can be found in Minnesota waters. Walleye are the most sought-after fish in Minnesota, followed by crappie, then sunfish, northern pike and bass, and all these are native to Minnesota. But there is a whole array of other fish that anglers try to catch, or sometimes catch accidentally. Lesser known, native fish include species such as gar, redhorse, suckers, bowfin, buffalos, carpsuckers, drum (sheepshead), sturgeon and paddlefish.
Culvert improvements, dam removals and habitat restorations have major benefits for fish populations across watersheds and major rivers like the Minnesota, Mississippi, Red, St. Croix and St. Louis. Since 2015, the DNR and its partners have restored fish passage at 26 dams, replaced 33 culverts and completed 19 habitat restorations.
Protecting and restoring fish habitat supports the millions of naturally reproduced fish caught by anglers each year. For example, roughly 85 percent of the walleye caught and kept by anglers are the product of natural reproduction, from lakes where walleye grow naturally.
Improving opportunities for fish habitat connectively also makes the fishing better, as fish are allowed to move into additional habitats. Some migratory native fish like paddlefish, blue sucker and black buffalo are threatened or of special concern and directly benefit from increased habitat connectivity.
The aquatic resources, including fish, in our lakes, rivers, and streams reflect both natural and human influences. Important influences include those directly affecting the waterbody in question and those present further away within the watershed (i.e., the land and water that flow to that waterbody). Better water quality and diverse, intact plant communities support a greater diversity of fish, birds, frogs and other aquatic animals.