DNR limits walleye fishing to catch-and-release on Mille Lacs through mid August

Published 8:28 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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By Kirsti Marohn

Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake will be catch-and-release only until mid August, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced on Wednesday.

The DNR says it’s adjusting the open-water regulations for the popular destination lake in north-central Minnesota due in part to hungrier walleye and high catch rates.

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“Despite poor ice conditions, anglers caught a lot of walleye this past fall and winter because those fish weren’t finding enough to eat,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries section manager, in a news release.

The agency says it needs to tighten regulations to factor in that “hot bite,” and because of the likelihood of higher water temperatures this summer. Warmer water leads to greater hooking mortality, when fish die after they’re caught and released.

Catch rates are expected to remain high when walleye season opens May 11. If conditions allow, the regulations will ease slightly starting Aug. 16. Anglers will be able to keep one walleye between 21 and 23 inches, or one longer than 28 inches.

Mille Lacs has been undergoing changes due to invasive species such as zebra mussels and spiny water flea. They filter microscopic algae, the food source of tiny zooplankton, which young walleye feed on.

The DNR’s most recent assessment of Mille Lacs Lake found slightly lower walleye numbers, although the agency says the lake’s overall walleye population remains healthy.

However, the DNR says netting surveys indicate Mille Lacs has fewer yellow perch and tullibee, the primary food source for walleye.

The DNR co-manages the lake along with eight Ojibwe bands that have fishing rights under an 1837 treaty.