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

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New survey sheds light on state’s walleye anglers, fishing attitudes

St. Paul – Minnesota anglers love their walleyes.

They prefer catching multiple fish and being able to bring some
home for a meal, and most focus more on catching numbers of 16- to
18-inchers than walleyes in the trophy class.

Those are among the results of a new survey of more than 1,600
anglers who fish in Minnesota. Completed by the University of
Minnesota for the DNR, the survey asked anglers about a variety of
fish-related topics and represents the most expansive effort the
DNR has undertaken to understand walleye anglers.

The survey comes as Fisheries officials are taking a close look
at the state’s walleye regulations. Its results will be used as
officials continue discussions on walleye topics such as bag limits
and slot limits, said Jason Moeckel, DNR Fisheries operations
support manager.

One of the common complaints from anglers is that regulations
for walleyes are too variable from lake to lake. Yet, according to
the survey, the average angler fished just three different lakes
for walleyes each year.

“Out of all the walleye lakes in the state – we have 1,100 of
them – we have special regulations on 50 of them,” Moeckel said.
“Is the complexity of the regulations really the issue?”

The survey results are a good beginning point for discussion,
but don’t give the DNR clear direction on actions to take on
specific lakes, he said.

“Do we look at changing slot limits, or let the regulations we
have mature a little longer? A lot of them have only been in place
since 2003,” Moeckel said. “We’ve said from the outset that it’s
going to take 10 to 15 years to really evaluate those.”

The Fisheries research group currently is looking at some of the
slot limits that have been in place longer, but “it would be
premature to say we are ready to make any specific changes,” he
said. “We’re still pretty early in any of those discussions in
terms of specific waters.”

As for a reduction in the statewide walleye bag limit, there is
no clear direction.

One-third of the respondents supported a reduction from six to
four; a third didn’t support it; and a third were neutral.

“It doesn’t give us a real strong indication for change in one
direction or another,” Moeckel said.

Here are some of the other results of the survey:

€ More than half of the anglers said they would purchase a $5
optional walleye stamps, yet fewer than 1 percent of anglers have
actually bought one this year.

“Some of that might have been awareness – it’s been with us not
even a year,” Moeckel said. “We’re going to be looking at trying to
get some information out, increase awareness of the walleye stamp
and how it can help us manage the resource from a financial
standpoint.”

€ About half of the anglers from Minnesota said they fish Lake
of the Woods or Lake Mille Lacs at least some of the time. Between
25 percent and 30 percent said they fished some of the time at
Leech, Vermilion, Winnibigoshish, or Red, while 10 percent to 25
percent said they fished Rainy, Kabetogama, or Cass some of the
time. Less than 10 percent said they fished Lake Pepin.

€ About one-quarter said they typically kept all legal walleyes
they caught; about half said they kept most legal walleyes; and
about one-quarter said they release most or all of the legal
walleyes they catch.

€ If they could only fish catch-and-release lakes, 42 percent of
anglers said they would stay home. A 17- to-26-inch slot limit
would cause about 12 percent of anglers to stay home or go to a
lake without such regulations. Anglers are more amenable to tighter
slot limits.

€ The average size considered a “keeper” walleye is 15 inches,
while the minimum preferred size is 16.6 inches. The average
minimum size for a “memorable” walleye is 24.9 inches, and the
average minimum number and size of walleyes for a meal was 1.6 fish
at 16 inches.

€ The average resident angler spent 31 days fishing and 17 of
those days fishing for walleyes.

€ The average respondent was 48 years old. More than 85 percent
were male, and more than 90 percent were white.

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