Strong walleye population continues in Leech Lake

The results of recent fall test netting on Leech Lake conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show the walleye population remains strong and anglers who visit Leech Lake should continue to expect quality fishing.

Lake-wide, walleye counts in DNR test nets averaged 8.9 walleye per net lift, which was similar to results from the past 5 years and was above the long-term average of 7.7 walleye per net lift.

“September gill nets showed above-average numbers of all sizes of walleye,” said Doug Schultz, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Walker. “Fishing reports have been excellent all season, and this survey confirms that good walleye fishing is expected to continue through the winter and into next year.”

Schultz added that the strong 2010 year class reached harvestable sizes this summer, which “had a lot to do with angling success.” Additionally, 36 percent of walleye sampled were within the current slot limit and have provided anglers the opportunity to catch larger fish.

The DNR is considering relaxing the current 18- to 26-inch protected slot limit on Leech Lake to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. If the proposal is carried forward, the relaxed slot limit would be effective for the 2014 fishing opener.

“The proposed change in the slot limit would allow anglers the opportunity to add 18 and 19-inch walleye to their bag,” said Schultz. “These fish comprise about one-third of walleye currently protected with the existing 18- to 26-inch slot limit.”

Schultz noted this regulation review and potential relaxation of the slot limit was programmed into the current management plan. The management plan detailed that if walleye population objectives were met or exceeded and all metrics indicated the walleye population could sustain increased harvest opportunity, the DNR would consider relaxing the slot limit. Results of this year’s survey indicate the timing of this review is appropriate.

Other game fish species targeted with test nets include yellow perch and northern pike. Yellow perch abundance declined for the sixth consecutive year, while northern pike abundance continues to remain stable. The primary species of nongame fish assessed with the test nets is cisco. Fall test netting indicated cisco continue to be present at moderate levels of abundance.