Which State's License Plate Features a Big Fish?

Minnesota: The State That Put a Big Fish on Its License Plate – An Angler’s Paradise

Minnesota, known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” is a haven for fishing enthusiasts. This midwestern state boasts a rich fishing culture, with anglers from all over the world flocking to its pristine waters in pursuit of their favorite catch. Among the many fish species that call Minnesota home, one stands out as a true icon: the walleye. In fact, Minnesota’s love for this fish runs so deep that it proudly features a walleye on its license plate, making it the only state in the nation to showcase a fish on its vehicle registration tags.

Why Did Minnesota Choose the Walleye as Its State Fish?

The Importance of Walleye in Minnesota

The walleye, a member of the perch family, is a highly prized game fish in Minnesota. Known for its delicate flavor and challenging nature to catch, the walleye has become a symbol of the state’s fishing heritage. Minnesota is home to some of the best walleye fishing spots in the country, including Lake Mille LacsLeech Lake, and Lake of the Woods. These lakes, along with countless others, have helped establish Minnesota as a top destination for walleye anglers.

Walleye fishing is deeply ingrained in Minnesota’s culture, with generations of anglers passing down their knowledge and techniques to their children and grandchildren. The state even hosts numerous walleye fishing tournaments throughout the year, attracting both local and out-of-state participants eager to test their skills and compete for prizes.

Walleye and Minnesota’s Fishing Economy

Fishing is not just a recreational activity in Minnesota; it is also a significant contributor to the state’s economy. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the state’s fishing industry generates over $2.4 billion annually and supports nearly 35,000 jobs. Walleye fishing, in particular, plays a crucial role in this economic impact. Each year, thousands of anglers visit Minnesota specifically to target walleye, bringing in revenue through fishing licenses, lodging, dining, and other tourism-related activities.

The economic benefits of walleye fishing extend beyond the direct revenue generated by anglers. Many small businesses, such as bait shops, fishing guides, and resort owners, rely on the influx of walleye enthusiasts to support their livelihoods. Additionally, the demand for walleye has created a thriving commercial fishing industry in the state, with many restaurants and markets featuring this delicious fish on their menus.

Minnesota’s Unique Walleye License Plate Design

The Inspiration Behind the License Plate Design

In 1977, Minnesota became the first state to feature a fish on its license plate. The decision to showcase the walleye was a natural choice, given the fish’s significance to the state’s fishing culture and economy. The original design, created by Minnesota artist Richard Plasschaert, depicted a walleye leaping out of the water, surrounded by the state’s name and motto, “10,000 Lakes”.

The walleye license plate design has undergone several updates over the years, with the most recent version introduced in 2015. The current design features a more detailed and colorful illustration of a walleye, complete with its distinctive white tip on the lower tail fin. The updated plate also includes the state’s website, “explore minnesota.com,” encouraging visitors to discover all that Minnesota has to offer.

The Symbolic Meaning of the License Plate Design

The walleye license plate design serves as a symbol of Minnesota’s identity and values. By prominently featuring this iconic fish, Minnesota celebrates its natural resources, outdoor recreation, and the importance of conservation. The license plate also serves as a reminder of the state’s commitment to preserving its aquatic ecosystems and promoting responsible fishing practices.

For many Minnesotans, displaying the walleye license plate on their vehicles is a matter of pride. It demonstrates their love for the state’s fishing heritage and their appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds them. The license plate also serves as a conversation starter, connecting anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who share a passion for Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

Fishing in Minnesota: Tips and Resources

Obtaining a Minnesota Fishing License

To fish legally in Minnesota, anglers aged 16 and older must possess a valid fishing license. Licenses can be purchased online through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, as well as at various local retailers, including bait shops, sporting goods stores, and some gas stations. Be sure to review the current fishing regulations, as they may vary by location and season.

When purchasing a fishing license, anglers have several options to choose from, depending on their needs and preferences. These include:

  • Annual Resident License: Valid for one year from the date of purchase, this license is available to Minnesota residents only.
  • Annual Non-Resident License: Designed for out-of-state visitors, this license is valid for one year from the date of purchase.
  • Short-Term Licenses: Both residents and non-residents can purchase short-term licenses, which are valid for either 24 hours, 72 hours, or 7 days.
  • Youth Licenses: Anglers aged 16 and 17 can purchase a youth license at a discounted rate.
  • Combination Licenses: These licenses include both fishing and small game hunting privileges.

It is important to note that additional permits or stamps may be required for certain species or methods of fishing, such as trout and salmon or the use of a second line. Always check the most current regulations before heading out on your fishing trip.

Minnesota Fishing Regulations and Guidelines

Minnesota takes great pride in its fishing resources and actively works to maintain healthy fish populations through responsible management. Anglers should familiarize themselves with the state’s fishing regulations, which outline daily limits, size restrictions, and seasons for various fish species, including walleye. By following these guidelines, anglers can help ensure the long-term sustainability of Minnesota’s fisheries.

Some key regulations to keep in mind when fishing for walleye in Minnesota include:

  • Daily Limit: The daily limit for walleye is typically 6 fish, although this may vary by lake or river. Some waters have special regulations, such as slot limits or minimum size requirements.
  • Possession Limit: The possession limit for walleye is usually 6 fish, which includes any fish that are stored at home or in a freezer.
  • Seasons: Walleye season is open year-round in most Minnesota waters, but some lakes and rivers may have specific seasonal closures or restrictions.
  • Methods: Walleye can be caught using a variety of methods, including jigging, trolling, and live bait rigging. Some waters may have restrictions on the use of certain baits or lures.

In addition to these regulations, anglers should also practice good stewardship and conservation practices. This includes properly disposing of trash and fishing line, using appropriate gear and techniques to minimize fish stress and mortality, and reporting any suspicious or illegal fishing activities to the proper authorities.

Top Walleye Fishing Spots in Minnesota

Minnesota offers numerous world-class walleye fishing destinations. Some of the most popular spots include:

  1. Lake Mille Lacs: Known for its trophy-sized walleye, this 132,000-acre lake is a must-visit for serious anglers. The lake features a variety of structure, including rock reefs, gravel bars, and mud flats, providing diverse habitat for walleye throughout the year.
  2. Leech Lake: With over 112,000 acres of water, Leech Lake consistently produces excellent walleye catches. The lake’s numerous bays, islands, and underwater structure create ideal conditions for walleye, particularly during the spring and fall months.
  3. Lake of the Woods: Bordering Canada, this massive lake is home to an abundant walleye population and breathtaking scenery. The lake’s shallow reefs and expansive mud flats are prime spots for targeting walleye, especially during the summer months when the fish move to deeper, cooler waters.
  4. Lake Winnibigoshish: Often referred to as “Lake Winnie,” this 67,000-acre lake is known for its consistent walleye action. The lake features a mix of shallow bays, rocky points, and deep humps, providing a variety of options for anglers throughout the season.
  5. Upper Red Lake: After a successful recovery from overfishing in the 1990s, Upper Red Lake has once again become a top destination for walleye anglers. The lake’s shallow, fertile waters support a thriving walleye population, with many fish in the 15-20 inch range.

When planning your walleye fishing trip to Minnesota, be sure to check the specific regulations and any special considerations for your chosen destination. Some lakes may have unique rules or seasonal closures that differ from the statewide regulations.


Minnesota’s decision to feature the walleye on its license plate is a testament to the state’s deep appreciation for this iconic fish and its significance to the local fishing culture and economy. The unique license plate design not only showcases Minnesota’s natural beauty but also serves as a reminder of the importance of conservation and responsible fishing practices.

For anglers looking to experience world-class walleye fishing, Minnesota is an unparalleled destination. With its abundant lakes, diverse fishing opportunities, and commitment to preserving its aquatic resources, the state truly lives up to its reputation as an angler’s paradise.

To ensure a successful and enjoyable fishing trip in Minnesota, remember to:

  1. Purchase a valid fishing license: Visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website or a local retailer to obtain the appropriate license for your needs.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the regulations: Review the current fishing regulations, paying close attention to daily limits, size restrictions, and any special considerations for your chosen fishing location.
  3. Practice responsible fishing: Use appropriate gear and techniques to minimize fish stress and mortality, properly dispose of waste, and report any suspicious or illegal fishing activities.
  4. Explore the state’s diverse fishing opportunities: From the trophy walleye of Lake Mille Lacs to the scenic beauty of Lake of the Woods, Minnesota offers a wide range of fishing experiences for anglers of all skill levels.

By following these guidelines and embracing Minnesota’s passion for walleye fishing, you’ll be well on your way to creating unforgettable memories on the water. So grab your gear, purchase your license, and get ready to experience the thrill of chasing this iconic fish in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Ready to plan your Minnesota walleye fishing adventure? Visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website for more information on fishing licenses, regulations, and top destinations.

Similar Posts