Angler surveys show walleye overage can be paid back on Lake Mille Lacs

Lake Mille Lacs angler survey results show that state anglers have taken walleye at levels far enough under the state’s safe harvest allocation to pay back a harvest overage accumulated in 2016 and 2017, according to the Department of Natural Resources. 

The survey results through the end of August indicate catch rates were still quite good this summer, but were lower than last year.

DNR experts say the lower catch rates are consistent with reports from anglers of seeing more baitfish, as catch rates decline with increases in small-fish forage for bigger fish.

“It’s good news that walleye anglers had lots of success on Mille Lacs and that we were able to stay under the state’s allocation,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

The latest survey estimates include walleye harvested by state anglers in the winter, and in the summer those that died after being caught and released. This is a condition known as hooking mortality. During this time anglers took 42,396 pounds of walleye.

Cooler water temperatures and the normal decline in fishing pressure that occur in the fall indicate that total kill for the year will likely remain under 50,000 pounds of walleye, well below the state’s safe harvest level allocation of 87,800 pounds.

In 2016 and 2017, state anglers exceeded the allowable harvest by a combined 16,050 pounds and those overages needed to be accounted for in a future year. Since the 2018 state angler kill is well under the allowable harvest, the overage will be eliminated.

Walleye safe harvest level for Lake Mille Lacs is determined annually, based on population status, and predictions of how harvest will affect the walleye population in the future. The safe harvest level is divided between the 1837 Treaty Bands and state anglers. By agreement, the Bands and the state are required to monitor harvest by their members.

“Although the state and the Bands did not reach agreement on safe harvest level for this year, a kill of 50,000 pounds will be well below allocation regardless of whether safe harvest level is 150,000 or 120,000 pounds,” Parsons said.

The DNR is conducting its standard fall fish community assessments through September. The DNR’s angler creel survey runs through Oct. 31. The agency will announce its winter walleye regulations in early November.

Angler survey results and more information about Lake Mille Lacs can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.