New statewide perch regulations effective December 1

Mille Lacs perch anglers, like other perch hunters across
Minnesota, must comply with new statewide perch limits effective
Dec. 1, 2000. On that date Minnesota’s statewide perch limit will
change from 100 daily to 20 daily with a 50-fish possession
limit.

The lower perch limit comes in response to declining “quality”
in the perch catch at Lake Winnibigoshish, where DNR fisheries
biologists estimated that the exploitation rate has reached as high
as 67 percent, meaning that two out of three perch larger than nine
inches are harvested each year.

State fisheries managers were hoping to cut exploitation to 38
percent and endorsed a 20 daily/30 possession limit. But out of
deference to Winnie resorters who worried about fall-offs in winter
business, especially from Wisconsin perch anglers, the state
Legislature last spring approved a more generous 20 daily/50
possession limit that extends not only to Winnie but statewide,
including Mille Lacs.

Irony at Mille Lacs

While Lake Winnibigoshish perch were at unacceptably high
exploitation rates, there has been no talk of overharvest at Mille
Lacs. Thousands of acres of Mille Lacs, including many mud flats
and the areas of deep water in between them and to their north and
south, go unfished in winter. So do vast areas of deep water and
soft bottom near and beyond the south-end gravel.

Similarly, miles of shore breaks and adjacent deep water and
muck bottom host plenty of mayfly nymphs, bloodworms, minnows, and
abundant other food for the millions of perch that inhabit those
areas.

Large year-classes of perch hatched in the mid-1990s (“too
small” until recently) are now about eight to 11 inches, with
larger perch available, too. This fall’s DNR gill net survey again
verified the abundance of perch in Mille Lacs, especially from the
strong 1996 year-class. DNR’s Mille Lacs big lake specialist Tom
Jones (along with most observers) expected that Mille Lacs perch
fishing will be good-to-excellent this winter, and possibly even
better next winter. Succeeding that super strong 1996 year-class
are more average perch crops. At Mille Lacs, “average” means pretty
good.

Good omens for winter

The late summer and fall cool-water perch bites, especially in
the bays and in sometimes only several feet of water off the rocky
points, were often terrific. Small-boat anglers cashed in, with
several dozen boats on a bay not uncommon. And launches as far
apart as Dickie’s Portside at Isle and Twin Pines south of Garrison
took advantage of the perch bite. (See perch coverage in other
parts of this Digest issue.)

In some parts of the lake there was impressive deep-water perch
action, too, especially from mid-July to into September. Launches
at Fisher’s Resort, for example, hit large catches of perch around
Carlsona Bar and along the nearby “3-mile” stretch pop-ular among
ice fishermen where the sand at the northeast corner of Mille Lacs
gradually settles into deep water and softer bottom of the main
lake basin.

Shallow-water fall perch bites often extend non-stop into
winter. And deep-water action can be found all winter, with perch
stealing the ice fishing show from late January well into March.
There is no closed season on perch.

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