Fisheries scientists to review Mille Lacs walleye count
ONAMIA, Minn. — A nationwide group of fisheries scientists will review the Minnesota DNR’s walleye assessment on a popular fishing lake after nearby resort owners questioned the department’s low population assessment of the fish.
This is the second year anglers have been banned from harvesting walleye at Lake Mille Lacs because the department’s survey indicated the walleye population was low.
A 21-day walleye fishing and live bait shutdown will occur in July, and all walleye fishing will end for the open-water season after Sept. 4.
Some resort owners questioned the department’s assessment because fishing on the lake has gone well this year. The walleyes caught at the lake have been plump and healthy, many anglers have said.
Department officials say they don’t agree with this characterization of the fish. The department’s fisheries chief, Brad Parsons, said they found the condition of the fish to have declined in 2016.
Department officials said they believe high catch rates don’t necessarily mean the walleye population has rebounded.
Department officials told the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee earlier this week that the experts, led by Chris Vandergoot of the U.S. Geological Survey, will be available to answer committee members’ questions. DNR staff will not be involved with this independent review by fisheries experts from across the Great Lakes basin, according to a release by the DNR late Friday afternoon.
Last month, the committee requested a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton to discuss Mille Lacs management. A spokesman for Dayton said the meeting will happen this summer.
The committee has requested to be seated at Mille Lacs walleye population and management meetings. The department and eight Chippewa bands that co-manage the lake currently attend those meetings.
A member of the external review team will meet with Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee members later this summer to document the committee’s concerns, questions and issues it wants the review to address.
“The review will be complete sometime next winter,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. “Having more people review will add to everyone’s understanding of the lake and options for the future.”