DNR seeks input on Big Sandy Lake experimental walleye regulations

Anglers and other lake users are invited to provide input on experimental walleye regulations in the Big Sandy Lake system near McGregor. The Aitkin DNR fisheries staff will hold an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the DNR area office at 1200 Minnesota Ave. S., Aitkin.

The public is welcome to attend to ask questions and provide comments or observations regarding the Big Sandy walleye fishery.  Those unable to attend are welcome to submit comments by email to aitkin.fisheries@state.mn.us.

The current experimental regulation has been in place since 2012 and is being examined to determine if any changes need to be made prior to the final review in 2023. The current experimental regulation requires the release of all walleye under 14 inches, and over 18 inches, except that one over 26 inches may be kept in the six fish possession limit.

Since the regulation was implemented, total numbers of walleye surveyed in Big Sandy Lake have increased from an average of about three walleye per net for the three surveys conducted between 2005 and 2010, to an average of about seven walleye per net in the three surveys conducted between 2013 and 2018.

There was also a corresponding increase in the number of fish over 14 inches. Angler catch rates were also relatively high in a creel survey conducted in 2016, in comparison to creel surveys conducted in 1988 and 2001, corroborating the increase in abundance of walleye in the gillnet assessments.  There was also a slight increase in angling harvest rates for walleye between 14 and 18 inches.

When the regulation was implemented in 2012, the primary objectives were to increase female spawning stock biomass and diversity, improve angling catch rates for walleye between 14 and 18 inches, and to reduce the total mortality of four to six year old walleye to under 60 percent.

“Although not yet completely successful, we are seeing progress toward each of those objectives since the regulation was implemented,” said Rick Bruesewitz, Aitkin area fisheries supervisor. “We would like to hear from local anglers about their observations and desire to continue or change the current experimental regulation.”

More information about the Aitkin area fisheries office and their work can be found at www.mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries/aitkin/index.html.