Winter Walleye Season Opens, but Ice Still Thin on Parts of Mille Lacs

The view of Isle Bay on Lake Mille Lacs Friday, looking out from McQuoid's Inn Photo: Courtesy Tim Potoczny
The view of Isle Bay on Lake Mille Lacs Friday, looking out from McQuoid's Inn

December 01, 2017 04:45 PM

When Tim Potoczny and his wife first purchased McQuoid's Inn on Mille Lacs Lake this September, they had a lot of expectations of what the winter ice fishing season would be like.

So far, those expectations haven't quite been realized.


"I expected it to be a lot colder than this by now," said Potoczny, a northern Illinois native. "Hopefully we can start getting people out on the ice real soon."

RELATED: DNR Limits Mille Lacs Anglers to 1 Winter Walleye

Not this weekend, however. The winter walleye season began Friday. But Potoczny said the ice in Isle Bay, where his resort is located, isn't safe at the moment, and he didn't have anyone at the resort to fish Friday.

"We have a lovely scrapbooking group here this weekend," he said.

Potoczny did see two people braving conditions on the ice as he looked out at the bay Friday afternoon, but that was it.

RELATED: Dayton Meets Mille Lacs Business Owners to Talk Walleye Restrictions

"We looked like we were on our way to getting some decent ice," he said. "There were a few people out there fishing panfish last weekend, but then it got warm this week. Hopefully by next weekend it will be more solid. Sounds like things are about to cool off."

Kevin Miller, who owns Woodland Beach Resort on nearby Bay Lake, had much the same report.

"The ice is really thin right now," he said of conditions on Bay Lake. "It's the most dangerous kind."

According to rules announced early last month by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, winter anglers on Mille Lacs will be limited to one walleye within a specific size range this season.

They are allowed to catch one walleye of 20-22 inches or one longer than 28 inches. There will be no bait restrictions.

RELATED: 3-Week Walleye Ban on Mille Lacs Gets Underway

The DNR said the size regulations are designed to protect Mille Lacs' walleye spawning population, which is mostly in the 15-19 inch range. 

Pete Takash, the DNR's information officer for fish and wildlife, said those fish can be caught on ice or on the open water.

"There's nothing that would stop someone from going out there and fishing in their boat right now," Takash said. "That's not against the rules."

But though there remains plenty of open water on certain portions of the lake, Potoczny said he hasn't seen many people taking advantage of it.

"I haven't seen very many people out there at all when I've been driving around," he said. "I think I saw one boat last weekend, but that was about it."


Frank Rajkowski

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