Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Hooking mortality focus of latest Mille Lacs meeting

Almost 4 million pounds released through July 31

By Rob Drieslein


Isle, Minn. A meeting of the minds regarding fisheries
management on Lake Mille Lacs last Friday produced “nothing
conclusive,” according to the state representative who hosted the

Rep. Bill Haas, R-Champlin, along with fishing author and
freelance fisheries biologist Dick Sternberg, organized the meeting
last week. He said DNR Commissioner Allen Garber, who attended,
told those present that some sort of mechanism to address high
hooking mortality likely would occur yet this fishing season.

Haas and Sternberg had hoped the meeting would allow a
brainstorming session between legislators, DNR officials, and
invited representatives from the Mille Lacs Band and Great Lakes
Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The tribal representatives,
however, did not show up, Haas said.

“We’re a little disappointed they never showed. I made several
additional calls and never heard back. I’m going to try again
today,” Haas said on Tuesday.

Also in attendance was Garber, Assistant Commissioner for
Operations Brad Moore, DNR Fisheries Director Ron Payer, and DNR
Fisheries Research Supervisor Jack Wingate. Two other state
representatives, Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and David Tomassoni,
DFL-Chisholm, also were present.

Haas said discussion focused mostly on the tagging study
occurring on the lake, and options to reduce hooking mortality.
Tighter regulation regarding the harvest of spot-tail shiners,
particularly when forage is low in the lake, also was

“We went through a bunch of options like barbless hooks, no fish
zones, and possibly extending the night ban,” he said. “The theme
Dick and I keep coming back to is, How do we convert floaters to

Assistant Commissioner Moore confirmed that Garber intends to
address hooking mortality somehow yet this season, possibly via
emergency rule. He stressed that any change will not affect the
basic slot regulation or management scheme on Mille Lacs. And any
change, even via emergency rule, would take a minimum of three
weeks to implement, he added.

“Are we coming out with some new management scheme? No,” he
said. “Are we looking at ways to reduce mortality? Yes, but people
should not expect some abrupt change on the lake next week.”

Latest harvest tally

Total walleye kill for the big lake through the end of July
(including winter harvest and summer night fishing) had reached
398,602 pounds. That included 236,986 pounds of hooking mortality,
almost all of which has occurred during the open water season.

Walleye kill had dropped considerably during the second half of
July compared to the first half. From July 1-15, state anglers
killed 7,249 pounds of walleyes via harvest and 33,231 via hooking
mortality (daytime kill only). That compared to 3,347 pounds of
harvest and 10,510 pounds of hooking mortality from July 16-31
(daytime kill only).

Night fishing has been down this year, likely thanks to the
excellent daytime bite, said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR 1837 Treaty
biologist based in Aitkin. Angler pressure dropped off during the
second half of July at 153,365 hours, down from 248,308 from July
1-15. Anglers had spent nearly 3 million total hours on the lake by
the end of July.

By Aug. 1, anglers had released 3.97 million pounds of walleyes
in abiding with the state’s existing 14- to 16-inch harvest

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