The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday that anglers may keep one walleye a day between 18- and 20 inches or one longer than 28 inches and five northern pike a day, one longer than 30 inches, when ice fishing begins on Mille Lacs Lake this winter.
Mille Lacs is a popular ice fishing destination in central Minnesota know for its village-like numbers of ice fishing shanties and shelters, with many of those thousands of anglers pursuing walleyes.
The decision was made by the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, made up of 17 individuals whose interests include local business and tourism, tribal and academic affairs, and local county officials.
“The clear consensus among committee members was to implement a conservative regulation allowing fishing to continue throughout the winter without the risk of closure,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. “We believe this regulation meets that criteria.”
If winter walleye harvest approaches the established cap of 5,000 pounds, catch-and-release will be implemented so angling can continue. Anglers harvested 3,100 pounds of walleye last winter when anglers could keep two walleye from 18- to 20 inches, except one out of those two walleye could be longer than 28 inches.
The DNR also will reduce the daily limit of northern pike on Mille Lacs from 10 to five, with one fish longer than 30 inches allowed. Anglers may only keep a northern longer than 30 inches if they have caught two pike shorter than 30 inches and have both in immediate possession.
Tribal biologists and the DNR agreed October 15 to set the winter harvest cap for state anglers at 5,000 pounds after September fish assessment data showed that pounds of spawning-age walleye and numbers of walleye from the 2013 year class were above established benchmarks.
Walleye angling was stopped on Mille Lacs August 3 when anglers reached their 28,600-pound open-water quota. It had been unclear whether walleye fishing would resume this winter season, but the DNR announced last week that there would be a season, and officials revealed the details on Monday.
The pike regulation goes into effect on December 1 and continues through Sunday, March 27, 2016. Its intent is to provide anglers with additional opportunity to catch and keep fish on Mille Lacs.
More information about Mille Lacs Lake management is available on the DNR website on the Mille Lacs page.
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