State anglers topple Lake Mille Lacs walleye quota

 

St. Paul — DNR Fisheries officials don’t believe the overage of walleyes killed by state anglers during the Lake Mille Lacs open-water fishing season will have a bearing on what winter regulations will be in place come December. Rather, they say, it will depend on what’s found during fish surveys conducted on the lake this fall.

Brad Parsons, DNR regional fisheries manager in St. Paul, also said department officials will meet with tribal leaders in November to discuss fish-related matters on the central-Minnesota lake.

“Right now we’re waiting on fall survey results,” Parsons said last week.

The walleye kill by state anglers was estimated to be about 1,200 pounds of walleyes during the first two weeks of September. Catch-and-release walleye fishing was rule for the lake this season – up until Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day, when the season closed completely.

All told, the walleye kill by state-licensed anglers during the open-water season has been about 47,700 pounds, according to DNR estimates, about 19,100 pounds over the 28,600 pounds allowed under an agreement with 1837 Treaty bands. (The bands have taken about 8,000 pounds of an 11,400-pound limit.)

The state walleye kill still could increase, but likely by very little. The season is closed, and with the cooling water, “hooking mortality” – the estimate of fish that die upon release – decreases exponentially.

“Even with the walleye season closed, there’s incidental catch (walleyes caught when anglers are fishing for other species),” Parsons said, adding that this time of year, walleyes being counted toward the total kill is very low.

Thus far, there’s been no mention of repercussions resulting from the overage. What to make of the walleye kill overage? “It just is what it is,” Parsons said.

State officials had considered closing the fishing season earlier in August when it was apparent the allowed take would be surpassed, but Gov. Mark Dayton told the department to keep the catch-and-release walleye fishery intact until the virtual end of the tourist season.

Among the fish surveys being conducted this fall are electrofishing to determine the strength of younger fish year-classes, including this year’s crop, as well as age 1 and 2 walleyes. There’s also gill-netting that assesses walleyes (and other fish, like perch and tullibees) of all age classes, and forage netting, to assess the lake’s forage fish base.

It will be the results of these efforts that will determine what kind of winter walleye season lies ahead. “There are a lot of moving parts,” Parsons said.

Looking ahead, Parsons said Mille Lacs will again be stocked next spring with about 10 million walleye fry.

“That will help us get an idea how many natural fry are out there,” he said. The stocked fry will be “marked,” so that in future assessments it can be determined whether the fish are those stocked or those naturally produced. The stocked walleye fry are the product of Mille Lacs walleyes, too.

“It’s a scientific tool to estimate natural reproduction out there,” Parsons said.

Tribal officials didn’t have a lot to say earlier this week about the state walleye overage.

“As of today, we have no comment on that,” said Dylan Jennings, spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which represents tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

“I’m sure there will be discussions about the next steps,” Jennings said, adding that he believed it important to make changes so that a similar overage “doesn’t happen in the future.”

Categories: News, Walleye

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