Anglers may keep one walleye between 18 and 20 inches or one longer than 28 inches when ice fishing begins on Mille Lacs Lake this winter.
The winter walleye regulation goes into effect on Tuesday, Dec. 1, and extends through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources decision reflects the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee’s desire to keep winter fishing open all season.
“The clear consensus among committee members was to implement a conservative regulation allowing fishing to continue throughout the winter without the risk of closure,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. “We believe this regulation meets that criteria.”
If winter walleye harvest approaches the established cap, catch-and-release will be implemented so angling can continue. The DNR made the decision after considering three regulation options it presented for committee discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 21, in Garrison. 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.
During last year’s ice fishing season, Mille Lacs anglers could keep two walleye from 18 to 20 inches, except one out of those two walleye could be longer than 28 inches.
“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.”
DNR staff will monitor creel data every two weeks during the winter. If angler walleye harvest appears likely to exceed this year’s 5,000-pound cap, catch-and-release walleye fishing would go into effect. State anglers harvested 3,100 pounds of walleye last winter. Tribal biologists and the DNR agreed Oct. 15 to set the winter harvest cap for state anglers 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 established 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.”
Consistent with the committee’s discussion, the DNR also will 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 regulation goes into effect on Dec. 1 and continues through Sunday, March 27, 2016. Its intent is to provide anglers with additional opportunity to catch and keep fish on Mille Lacs.
More information about Mille Lacs Lake management is available on the DNR website on the Mille Lacs page.
About the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr appointed 17 Minnesotans representing diverse perspectives and interests to the newly formed advisory committee to give the DNR input on fisheries management programs and related issues for Mille Lacs Lake.
“We wanted to promote more citizen and community engagement in fisheries decisions on the lake,” said Landwehr. “These dedicated people bring an important perspective to our work and will help the DNR make decisions that will shape the lake’s future.”
Members of the committee will contribute to the broader understanding of biological, social and economic aspects of the Mille Lacs fishery and will develop recommendations on potential approaches and regulations to solve identified issues.
Committee members represent diverse interests: local business and tourism; tribal and academic; and local county officials. More information about the committee members is available on the Mille Lacs page under the tab “Building a Future.”