DNR: Mille Lacs Lake to allow early and late-season walleye harvest in 2021

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The Minnesota Department of National Resources announced early-season walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will be able to keep one walleye 21-23 inches long or one longer than 28 inches.

According to the release, summer will bring catch-and-release walleye fishing with a mid-season closure before the potential for a one-fish limit returns in the fall.

The one-fish walleye limit will be in place from Saturday, May 15, through Monday, May 31. Walleye fishing will be catch-and-release from Tuesday, June 1, through Wednesday, June 30. A two-week closure implemented to reduce hooking mortality will be in place from Thursday, July 1, through Thursday, July 15. Catch-and-release walleye fishing will resume on Friday, July 16, and continue through Wednesday, Sept. 15.

After opening weekend, fishing hours on Mille Lacs Lake will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for all species. Beginning Saturday, June 5, muskellunge and northern pike anglers using artificial lures or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches can fish after 10 p.m.

The one-fish walleye limit is scheduled to resume Thursday, Sept. 16, through Tuesday, Nov. 30. According to the DNR, during the late season, anglers will also be able to fish from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“Lower walleye harvest this winter is allowing us to offer some open-water walleye harvest this year,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the DNR. “We’re glad Mille Lacs anglers will have the chance to keep a walleye on opening weekend and Memorial Day weekend — two of the most popular times to fish during the year. We also hope to be able to allow some harvest this fall.”

To help avoid incidental catch of walleye during the two-week closure, fishing for any species with certain kinds of bait will be restricted. Anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge can use sucker minnows longer than 8 inches, but anglers targeting other fish may not use live, dead, preserved or parts of minnows, nightcrawlers, worms, leeches or crayfish.

“Our goal with these regulations is to meet the state’s treaty obligations while also providing the best possible experience for anglers, recognizing that fishing and the anglers it brings are economically important to the Mille Lacs Lake area,” Parsons said.

Some resort owners on the lake hope the new regulations will boost business.

"This year we’re pretty optimistic," said Brian Lenne, owner of The Red Door Resort on Mille Lacs Lake. "Maybe people aren’t comfortable getting on an airplane quite yet but doing a drive to an area where you can have a lot of space have your own lodging and get out on the lake.

"I think it will be on balance a little of a boost now that somebody can keep a fish even if it’s for a shorter window. I think it will get Mille Lacs back on the radar for some of those anglers to come back up and I think overall it will be a positive."

More information about fishing regulations on Mille Lacs Lake and more can be found on the DNR’s website.