Anglers on Mille Lacs Lake are likely to see a very restricted harvest slot limit this summer to protect the popular lake’s declining walleye population, Department of Natural Resources officials said Thursday.
DNR fisheries officials are considering three length-based regulation options to ensure the state’s walleye harvest is below the safe harvest level of 178,500 pounds and combined state-tribal safe harvest level of 250,000 pounds. The options would allow anglers to keep walleye from 17- to 19-inches, 18- to 20-inches or 19- to 21-inches and, potentially, one trophy walleye longer than 28 inches.
The DNR has not yet decided which 2-inch length option it will select.
The agency shared potential regulation options with citizens Wednesday during a public input gathering at a town hall near Garrison, Minn.
The agency also is considering additional regulations to reduce walleye mortality. Options include an extended night fishing ban, reduced bag limits, live bait restrictions and the use of circle hooks for live bait. New regulations to potentially increase the harvest on smallmouth bass and northern pike also are being discussed as both are predators of walleye and the prey that walleye eat.
“We are fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the walleye population as fast, fairly and efficiently as possible,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries chief. “Mille Lacs is one of the premier walleye lakes in Minnesota and continues to be a great place to fish. However, we need to reduce walleye mortality on certain sized fish and that will translate into different regulations for the upcoming season.”
A decision on the slot limit length, daily bag limits, and other options is expected in early March. Currently, anglers must immediately release all walleye from 17- to 28-inches; the possession limit is four with only one longer than 28 inches.