Aitkin, Minn. Mille Lacs walleye anglers harvested 15,000 pounds
of fish in May 2003, down significantly from a year ago, when
anglers harvested 43,000 pounds for the same time period.
Combined with 10,000 pounds of hooking mortality, total walleye
kill for May was 25,000 pounds compared to 87,000 pounds of kill in
May 2002, according to Rick Bruesewitz, DNR 1837 Treaty biologist
Anglers released 46,000 walleyes weighing 161,000 pounds in
complying with the big lake’s slot limit in May. The regulation on
Lake Mille Lacs since the May 10 walleye opener is a 17- to 28-inch
protected slot with one fish over 28 inches allowed in a four-fish
Anglers have been releasing fish that, on average, weigh more
than three pounds, Bruesewitz said. Because of that, total catch
weight in May actually is very close to the 178,000-pound median
for the period of 1985-2001. The total for May 2003 was 176,000
Fishing effort was slightly below 2002 levels 362,000 hours
compared to 399,000 during the same period a year ago.
Bruesewitz said the DNR is attributing the slower catch rates in
2003 to the abundance of forage, particularly yellow perch from the
2002 year-class, in lake Mille Lacs this spring. Marginal weather,
particularly the high winds on May 11, the Sunday of opening
weekend, didn’t help angler harvest rates.
“Quality is great, but no doubt about it, (harvest) is low,”
With the night ban ending effective midnight last Sunday,
Bruesewitz expected fishing harvest to pick up. DNR crews working
on the walleye hooking mortality study on the lake had reported
catching many fish just after the 10 p.m. night ban.
Crews working the walleye tagging study also reported a sizeable
number of launches hitting the lake last weekend, he added.
Dick Sternberg, a former DNR biologist who has served as
consultant to Proper Economic Resource Management, has advocated,
among others, that the DNR loosen the walleye harvest on the slot
since few anglers are keeping many fish. Bruesewitz said he knows
of no plans to loosen the slot.
Bruesewitz also dispelled rumors that the DNR had stocked Lake
Mille Lacs with young-of-the-year perch last year, or at any time.
Some talk circulating among fishing circles has suggested that the
DNR dumped truckloads of perch into the lake, or in more bizarre
twists, airlifted and dumped perch into the lake.
“Yeah, I heard that one, too that we helicoptered in some
perch,” Bruesewitz said. “That is absolutely not true.”
The bottom line regarding perch in 2002 was that they pulled off
a remarkable year-class given the relative void of small perch in
the lake, he said. That has translated into good forage for
walleyes in 2003 and poorer catches for anglers.