The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday there will be a winter walleye ice fishing season on Mille Lacs Lake once the lake freezes over in December.
Details on walleye limits and size restrictions will be announced the last week in October, according to DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira.
This is great news for anglers and area businesses since walleye fishing was abruptly halted on Mille Lacs in August when anglers reached their 28,600-pound open-water quota. Until Monday it was unclear whether walleye fishing would resume on the lake when the winter season begins December 1.
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.
At a meeting October 15, DNR and tribal biologists agreed to set the winter harvest cap for state anglers at 5,000 pounds or less. The total walleye harvest last winter was 3,100 pounds. The DNR and the Chippewa bands were able to reach this decision because September fish assessment data show that pounds of spawning-age walleye and numbers of walleye from the 2013 year class were above established benchmarks.
“This decision allows anglers and businesses to look forward to some harvest opportunity during the upcoming winter angling season that begins December 1,” said Pereira. “We’ll announce a final decision about the details of the ice fishing season by the last week of October, following an October 21 meeting with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee.”
In preparation for that meeting, DNR biologists will evaluate the potential effects of various fishing regulation alternatives for discussion with the committee. Results of those analyses and input from the advisory committee will then be considered in making the final decision for this winter.
“We will monitor creel data every two weeks during the winter and will assess in January whether we need to adjust the state’s harvest level for the rest of the winter to stay under 5,000 pounds,” Pereira said. “At the January State and Tribal Fisheries Technical Committee meeting, we will set the safe harvest level for the year, which will inform the open-water fishing regulation to be set in late winter.”
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Ice Anglers: Are you excited about this news… OR … are you curbing your enthusiasm until the regulations are announced?