DNR sets Mille Lacs winter walleye limit at one fish
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota DNR on Monday announced a more restrictive ice fishing season for Lake Mille Lacs as it deals with a walleye shortage. Anglers can keep one walleye between 18 and 20 inches or one longer than 28 inches, the DNR said. The...
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota DNR on Monday announced a more restrictive ice fishing season for Lake Mille Lacs as it deals with a walleye shortage.
Anglers can keep one walleye between 18 and 20 inches or one longer than 28 inches, the DNR said. The regulation is in effect Dec. 1 through Feb. 28.
The DNR made the decision after considering three regulation options it presented Wednesday for the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, a citizen advisory group tasked with providing public input on Mille Lacs to the DNR, the agency said in a release.
“Discussion among committee members provided the DNR with good input and positive direction, reinforcing the DNR’s belief that the regulation protecting small walleye was the wisest choice,” the DNR said in a news release.
The DNR’s decision reflects the desire to keep winter fishing open all season, the release said.
“The clear consensus among committee members was to implement a conservative regulation allowing fishing to continue throughout the winter without the risk of closure,” Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief, said in the release. “We believe this regulation meets that criteria.”
DNR staff will monitor creel data every two weeks during the winter, the release said.
If winter walleye harvest approaches the 5,000 pound harvest cap, the DNR said it will implement catch-and-release so fishing can continue. Last season’s rules allowed anglers to keep two walleye from 18 to 20 inches, except one out of those two walleye could be longer than 28 inches. Anglers harvested 3,100 pounds of walleye last winter.
“We’re all working together to assure great winter opportunities while staying conservative enough to ensure the long-term health of the fishery,” said Dean Hanson, advisory committee co-chair and owner of Agate Bay Resort on Mille Lacs Lake. “The 2013 walleye year class will provide some great catch-and-release action, and folks still will have the opportunity to harvest a fish.”
Tribal biologists and the DNR agreed Oct. 15 to set the winter harvest cap at 5,000 pounds after September fish assessment data showed that pounds of spawning-age walleye and numbers of walleye from the 2013 year class were above benchmarks.
“The committee stressed members’ support for a conservative management strategy that helps ensure the future health of the lake,” Pereira said. “The DNR fully supports that approach.”
The DNR will also reduce the limit of northern pike on Mille Lacs from 10 to five, with one fish longer than 30 inches allowed. Anglers may only keep a northern longer than 30 inches if they have caught two pike shorter than 30 inches and have both in immediate possession. The pike rule begins Dec. 1 and continues through March 27. The DNR said the new rule was also consistent with discussion at the Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday.
“Its intent is to provide anglers with additional opportunity to catch and keep fish on Mille Lacs,” the DNR said.