Anglers and DNR monitor Mille Lacs walleye harvest

Editor

Aitkin, Minn. DNR biologists will be crunching data during the
next week to determine if the walleye harvest slot on Lake Mille
Lacs can be expanded when the night fishing ban on the big lake
ends at 12:01 a.m., June 11.

As of early this week, DNR Mille Lacs Big Lake Specialist Tom
Jones said the creel surveys were not complete enough to provide an
accurate estimate of whether the agency can widen the slot.

The current harvest slot on the big lake is 14 to 16 inches with
one over 28 inches allowed in a four-fish bag. If harvest estimates
allow the DNR to widen the slot, it would expand to 14 to 17
inches.

“At this point, I can’t even guess,” he said. “We’ve had a lot
of fish being released, and the fish anglers are harvesting are
smaller, lighter-weight fish, but I don’t know where it’s going to
come out.”

Jones said the agency should have a harvest estimate for the
month of May by the end of the week. Depending on how close angler
harvest and release mortality comes to a safe harvest cut-off, the
agency may be able to determine by next week if the harvest slot
can expand.

Angler harvest on the walleye opener the first two days and
nights of walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs checked in at 15,000
pounds plus about 9,000 pounds of release mortality, Jones said.
Jones called that a “cautious” number since the estimate typically
looks at the month of May as a whole when analyzing harvest.
Anglers released about 145,000 pounds of Mille Lacs walleyes that
weekend, he said.

State anglers also took 67,000 pounds (including release
mortality) during winter ice fishing this year. That also counts
against the state’s 300,000 pounds of allowable walleye harvest in
2002.

Jones said creel clerks have reported fishing pressure on Lake
Mille Lacs thus far as comparable to a busy 2001, and this past
Memorial Day weekend was “very good.”

The lake contains many walleyes just longer than 16 inches, so
an expansion of the slot would benefit anglers interested in
bringing fish home. There also are many fish slightly smaller than
14 inches, Jones said.

“There are a lot of 13.7s to 13.8s that we expect to grow into
the harvest slot if the water ever warms up,” he said.

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