The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced winter fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake and Upper Red Lake.
Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishing will open on Dec. 1, with no bait restrictions and a limit of one walleye from 20-22 inches long, or one longer than 28 inches.
“We’re glad results of fall population survey show Mille Lacs anglers will be able to keep some walleye during the winter walleye season,” said Don Pereira, fisheries section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We know this is important to resorts and businesses because the ice fishing season contributes a lot to the local economy.”
The DNR selected the size regulations to protect Mille Lacs’ walleye spawning population, which is largely comprised of walleyes hatched in 2013. Those fish currently range from 15 to 19 inches in length and represented about 40 percent of the walleyes sampled during this fall’s population survey.
The Mille Lacs lake fall walleye population survey, known as an “assessment,” showed that the 2013 year class continues to dominate the population. The catch of walleye hatched in 2014, 2015 and 2016 was below average. Fish hatched this spring were caught in good numbers but it’s uncertain if those numbers will remain as the 2017 year class progresses through its first, second and third years.
On Red Lake this winter, anglers will be able to keep four walleyes, of which only one may be longer than 17 inches, the Department of Natural Resources said. The same regulation has been in effect since the walleye fishing opener in May, but this will be the first winter season with the combination of a four-fish bag limit and one over 17 inches allowed.
“Harvest under a three-fish bag limit last year resulted in approximately 109,000 pounds for the winter season,” said Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Bemidji. “Total harvest for the past winter and summer seasons combined was below the target harvest range so there is room for additional harvest this year.”