Mille Lacs open-water walleye harvest proposed for 2019

Mille Lacs open-water walleye harvest proposed for 2019 Photo: KSTP

February 14, 2019 12:54 PM

Following several seasons of catch-and-release fishing on Mille Lacs, anglers will have an opportunity to keep some walleye during the open-water fishing season this year.

The Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday that it will allow some walleye harvest when the season opens on May 11. The agency said anglers stayed well under the lake's safe-harvest allocation for walleyes last year.

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The DNR will announce the Mille Lacs walleye regulations for the upcoming season in mid-March.

"We're happy to announce that, with some very conservative fishing regulations over the past three years, walleye are now at a level where we can cautiously allow anglers to start keeping some fish during the open-water season," DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said

"This is good news for anglers, Mille Lacs area businesses and the resource," Strommen added. "I want to thank the bands for their ongoing collaboration and the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee for its continued input and discussions with the DNR in managing the walleye fishery on Mille Lacs."

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Mille Lacs Band DNR Commissioner Bradley Harrington said, "The upward trend of the walleye population reflects the conservation efforts of both the state of Minnesota and the Ojibwe tribes with harvest rights in Mille Lacs Lake."

"While it is critical that combined harvest limits should continue to allow for the recovery of walleye, we join the state in cautious optimism about the trend in increasing spawning biomass. Within our teachings it is stated that accepting the gifts from the lake while respecting the manidoo by avoiding taking too much is the best way to honor our gifts from the creator."

The DNR said it's considering allowing the walleye harvest during the cool-water periods in the spring and fall. The agency also said it's exploring a variety of regulation options, and will be discussing the alternatives with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, a group of local businesses, fishing experts and community leaders that help advise the agency on Mille Lacs fishing regulations and other issues.


 


The state and bands recently agreed on a safe harvest level of 150,000 pounds of walleye, which provides a state allocation of 87,800 pounds. Under the catch-and-release only regulation last year, walleye angler kill totaled just over 47,000 pounds, the DNR said.

"While the walleye population is on a positive trajectory, we need to strike a careful balance between expanding harvest opportunities and conserving the fishery for future angling opportunities," said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief.

The walleye safe harvest level for Lake Mille Lacs is determined annually, and based on population status and predictions of how harvest will affect the walleye population in the future.

Anglers share the safe harvest level with eight bands of Chippewa that have fishing rights under an 1837 treaty. By agreement, the bands and the state are required to monitor harvest according to their respective allocations.

The DNR said the improving Mille Lacs walleye population is bolstered by a 2013 year class of fish that has been protected by regulations and is just starting to produce young fish that appear to be surviving, providing further good news about the population.

Lake Mille Lacs is widely recognized as one of the nation's top smallmouth bass and muskellunge fisheries, and in 2017, it was named the number one bass fishing lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine. 

You can find more information on Lake Mille Lacs at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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Josh Skluzacek

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