3-Week Walleye Ban on Mille Lacs Gets Underway

July 07, 2017 09:15 AM

Walleye fishing season will close for three weeks on Lake Mille Lacs beginning Thursday night.

In an effort to improve the lake's recovering walleye population, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources called for the walleye and live bait ban months ago.


RELATED: A Look Back: Upper Red Lake's 6-Year Walleye Hiatus

It's just the latest regulation change on Mille Lacs, though, leaving some anglers and bait shops irked.

Steve Kohen and his friend got off the lake to grab lunch Thursday after netting a pair of walleyes.

"I didn't catch any walleye, but he caught a 22 and 26-inch walleye," Kohen said.

Mille Lacs Walleye ... By the Numbers

Here are the estimated mature walleye population numbers on Lake Mille Lacs on a year-by-year basis, as estimated by the DNR's fisheries research division:


1987 - 811,964 2,099,902

1988 - 856,668 1,734463

1989 - 84,7886 1,717,538

1990 - 80,4775 1,697,947

1991 - 1,093,093 1,642,088

1992 - 1,328,562 2,335,444

1993 - 1,021,043 2,006,049

1994 - 855,481 1,733,535

1995 - 951,085 1,902,401

1996 - 956,178 1,967,897

1997 - 1,014,312 2,050,317

1998 - 1,053,002 2,477,042

1999 - 1,084,770 2,510,550

2000 - 823,998 2,097,800

2001 - 858,630 2,181,533

2002 - 702,586 1,697,739

2003 - 615,470 1,571,300

2004 - 531,744 1,559,892

2005 - 452,229 1,440,399

2006 - 708,599 1,649,445

2007 - 736,327 1,614,382

2008 - 546,176 1,337,378

2009 - 656,507 1,544,462

2010 - 541,275 1,401,317

2011 - 606,153 1,393,773

2012 - 506,275 1,220,467

2013 - 305,321 798,159

2014 - 284,194 726,085

2015 - 247,172 779,250

2016 - 316,654 849,351

2017 - 476,360 891,705

Kohen said the pair drove up from the Twin Cities just to beat the ban. While it's certainly changed their future fishing plans, Kohen was more concerned about the impact on the local economy.

RELATED: Walleye Fishing Set to Close Down For 3 Weeks on Mille Lacs

"Whether it works or not, we'll have to see," Kohen said. "It's unfortunate. I think it affects the businesses up here."

With the exception of sucker minnows eight inches or larger, all live bait has also been banned by the DNR.

Employees at Trailside Bait and Tackle said that's led to a short-term boost in business over the past week.

"Everyone wants to come to Mille Lacs quick before it closes," Ashley Klein said. "We had to run to the bait place that's 30 miles away because we were sold out."

RELATED: Bassmaster Magazine Names Mille Lacs Top Bass Fishery in Nation

But Klein said the shop is now anticipating a big blow to business.

"We don't have to have as much staff to run the bait shop," Klein said. "Not only that, the supplier we get them from supplies us all."

Brad Parsons, the DNR's Central Region Fisheries Chief, said the decision to ban live bait and walleye angling wasn't made lightly.

The department's data indicated a brief ban was needed when the water is at its warmest and fishing pressure is high.

"July has accounted for anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the hooking mortality for the entire season," Parsons said.

According to Parsons, walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs is actually good, but the population isn't stable enough to take any chances.

"There's good numbers of fish out there, people are catching fish," Parsons said. "The problem is, we still don't know what the recruitment behind that 2013 group (of walleye) is yet."

RELATED: Lake Mille Lacs Summer Walleye Season to be Catch and Release

The DNR will now boost its education and enforcement efforts at the lake until the ban is over. 

In the meantime, Parsons said there's still plenty of other species to catch.

"Bass fishing, pike fishing, musky fishing - it's excellent and you can catch those very well with artificials," Parsons said.


Tyler Berg

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