Catch-and-release summer walleye season announced for Lake Mille Lacs

Published 8:13 am Thursday, March 22, 2018

The 2018 walleye fishing season on Lake Mille Lacs will maximize fishing opportunities for anglers while protecting the health and sustainability of Mille Lacs’ improving walleye population.

The fishing opener is on Saturday, May 12, and catch-and-release-only regulations will again be in effect. The lake’s spawning walleye population has improved from last year, so no mid-season closures are planned.

Similar to prior years, night closure for the 2018 walleye fishing season will be in effect on Mille Lacs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning Monday, May 14. The night walleye closure remains in effect throughout the entire open-water season, which ends Nov. 30.

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The catch-and-release summer season and night walleye closure are part of the DNR’s continued efforts to improve the walleye population in Lake Mille Lacs.

The population has undergone a decline over the past two decades due to factors that include increased water clarity and decreased walleye productivity; the introduction of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny water fleas; a changing zooplankton community that may be altering the aquatic food web; and declines in certain forage species, including tullibee.

DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said DNR analyses, as well as external review, indicate walleye spawning stock has increased significantly in Mille Lacs and the lake can support a larger safe harvest level of walleye in 2018, as long as a catch-and-release rule is in place.

The state of Minnesota and Chippewa bands that cooperatively manage Lake Mille Lacs have yet to set the safe harvest level for 2018 and discussions are ongoing. These discussions follow the process outlined in protocols and stipulations arising from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1999 to uphold the bands’ treaty rights.

Bass, northern, and muskellunge regulations

The lake is nationally recognized as one of the nation’s top smallmouth bass and muskellunge fisheries. Bass season opens Saturday, May 12, but is catch-and-release-only through Friday, May 25. Beginning on Saturday, May 26, Mille Lacs’ bag limit will be four bass per angler. All smallmouth and largemouth bass between 17 and 21 inches must be immediately released. Anglers may keep only one bass over 21 inches.

Lake Mille Lacs has special regulations that exempt it from the new statewide northern pike zone regulations. The northern pike season opens May 12 and anglers may keep up to five fish. All pike between 30 and 40 inches must be immediately released. Only one northern over 40 inches may be included in the bag limit of five.

The muskellunge season opens on Saturday, June 2, with the statewide rules of a one-fish bag and a minimum length of 54 inches.

Beginning June 2, anglers may fish for muskellunge and northern pike at night, but may only possess and use artificial lures or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches. Bowfishing for rough fish also is allowed at night but possession of angling equipment is not allowed and only rough fish may be in possession.

More information about fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, ongoing DNR management and research, and Mille Lacs area recreation opportunities is available on the DNR website at