Minn. Appeals Court: Minnows Are Not Fish

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A northern Minnesota bait dealer is off the hook after the state Court of Appeals ruled that a minnow is not a fish.

Kim Barsness of Baudette was caught by a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in May 2009 harvesting minnows in Upper Red Lake. Barsness had a permit to harvest minnows, but he was using equipment with orange DNR tags labeled for infested waters only — equipment the DNR says he wasn’t supposed to use there.

The labels are part of a DNR effort designed to stop the spread of an invasive species, the spiny water flea. Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota is not infested with the spiny water flea, and the DNR said Barsness wasn’t supposed to use equipment labeled for infested waters in the lake.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Barsness was convicted of attempting to illegally sell wild animals — in this case, shiny minnows. He was fined and lost his commercial minnow license for three years.

On appeal, Barsness argued that what he was doing wasn’t a crime. The appeals court agreed in a ruling Tuesday that Minnesota’s game and fish laws and administrative rules don’t specifically say it’s a crime to use infested-waters-only equipment to harvest minnows in waters that are not infested.

The state argued that Barsness violated a general prohibition against netting fish except as specifically authorized and that using infested-waters-only equipment in violation of his permit was not authorized netting of fish.

But the appeals court found minnows are not treated as fish under state law and reversed his conviction.

“Although we appreciate the state’s common-sense argument that ‘minnows are fish,’ we cannot ignore a statutory scheme that plainly and consistently distinguishes between fish and minnows,” Judge Michelle Larkin wrote for the three-judge panel.

The court recognizes that preventing the spread of invasive species to Minnesota waters that are not infested is “a serious matter, and we are not insensitive to the larger environmental issue,” Larkin wrote.

But the court held that Barsness’ conduct wasn’t illegal because minnows are “not treated as fish under the plain language of the game and fish laws.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Poopy The Clown

    Oh for crying out loud…. I’m so glad we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on shenanigans. Glad this dumped the state that much further in the hole. Goodnight, I can sleep now !!

  • Hmm

    God the DNR is pathetic. It is obvious what he was doing so fine him for that, not something else. Time to reduce the budget of the DNR I think if they can’t find anything better to do.

  • Roland Martin

    These judges need their heads examined.

    The DNR did the right thing – the courts failed the people.

    • George Orwell

      Oh hey,

      Just wanted to let you know you are a drooling, mouthbreathing imbecile. You should probably do us all a favor and die by autoerotic asphyxiation.

      • Rusty Shackelford

        Typical Obama supporter above, sick and dimented, George Orwell needs to locked in a prison cell.

        • Rusty Shackelford

          Probably a byciclist.

          • Poopy The Clown

            Get a dikshunery plueeze… Lern to spulle werds

  • Tim S

    The legislature writes the laws that the DNR is stuck trying to enforce. If the law is poorly crafted, it needs to be fixed.

  • Citizen of Minnesota

    Hey, if state law states minnows are not fish, does it tell us what they are, pray tell? If it looks like fish, acts like a fish, isn’t it a fish????

    • Rusty Shackelford

      You don’t fish “Citizen”, they are too small for an angler to catch and rarely reach adult sizes, so they have a minnow class of thier own.

      • Poopy The Clown

        Hey speak for yourself

  • justaxnspend

    Ounce again our D. N. R. shoots itself in the foot!
    Just like the time they set up a sting operation to catch
    deer hunters breaking the law by shooting near roads
    at deer decoys in Saint Louis County. The courts found
    it was not breaking the law because the set up targets
    were DECOYS not real deer!
    Doesn’t anyone in the D. N. R. ever read the rules they write?

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