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Mille Lacs walleye fishing returns to catch-and-release only

ONAMIA — Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake returned to catch-and-release only on Tuesday for the rest of the summer.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has long imposed stricter regulations on the popular lake in an effort to boost its walleye population, which has been struggling due to invasive species, warmer water and a decline in forage species. For the past several years, anglers haven’t been able to keep walleye they catch on Mille Lacs during the summer.

This spring, anglers were allowed to keep one walleye apiece from 21-23 inches, or one over 28 inches, from the season opener through the busy Memorial Day weekend. But that’s ending for the summer to try to avoid the state exceeding its share of the lake’s allowable walleye harvest, which is divided between sport anglers and eight Ojibwe bands.

Walleye fishing will be off limits entirely for the first two weeks in July to reduce hooking mortality, which rises in warm weather and counts against the state’s harvest quota. Angling for all other species remains open during the closure, with certain bait restrictions.

Catch-and-release walleye fishing will resume July 16 and continue through Sept. 15. Anglers will be allowed to keep one walleye from 21-23 inches, or one over 28 for Sept. 16 through Nov. 30.