St. Paul – The DNR announced Tuesday that anglers who fish Lake
Mille Lacs this summer will be allowed to keep four fish up to 18
inches (one “trophy” over 28 inches is allowed in possession). It’s
a rule fisheries managers and local business owners hope will stay
in place the entire fishing season.
“I’m not unhappy with 18 and under,” said Sarah King, of Tutt’s
Bait and Tackle in Garrison. “It affords people the opportunity to
go out and keep some fish.”
“You’re always a little afraid of what may happen (regarding
Mille Lacs fishing regs),” she said. “It’s better than 14 to 16
inches, for our business.”
That was the regulation last summer, effective in mid-July,
following a higher-than-expected spring harvest during a period
when a 20- to 28-inch protected slot was in place.
There was further business owner discomfort this year following
fall 2007 surveys that resulted in poor walleye catches and led to
a 140,000-pound reduction in the allowed harvest for state-licensed
anglers this year. The state allocation this year is 307,500 pounds
of walleyes. Eight Chippewa Indian bands from Minnesota and
Wisconsin – including the Mille Lacs Band – may take 122,500 pounds
of walleyes this year.
The Minnesota DNR will continue to evaluate how various
regulations may affect angler harvest, in hopes of setting a
regulation that might stay in place for a number of years. That’s
per a directive from DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten, said Pat
Schmalz, DNR Treaty biologist in Aitkin.
He said the department hopes to present options to Mille Lacs
angling and business groups this July. Until then, the DNR will
monitor the harvest every other week.
Long-term regulations would kick in next year, Schmalz said.
It’s possible the 18- to 28-inch protected slot could stick, but
that’s yet to be determined, he said.
“It (the new regulation) was selected by the (Mille Lacs Lake
Fisheries) Input Group and we approved it,” said Rick Bruesewitz,
DNR area fisheries supervisor in Aitkin, and former treaty
biologist. “The big thing is, it has potential as a long-term
Bruesewitz said evaluating harvest levels based on various
regulations will be a priority for the DNR, “but it’s something
that doesn’t get done overnight.”
Schmalz is confident the “four under 18 inches” regulation will
last the entire season. He said it would take “a substantially
better (walleye) bite and higher fishing effort than last year” for
the regulation to require altering. And last year, the early
portion of the open-water season was considered pretty good by
Mille Lacs standards, both in terms of fishing effort and the
Further, this winter the walleye bite was considered “tough.”
How that translates into spring fishing remains to be seen.
The new regulation begins May 10.