Waskish, Minn. — It’s no secret that Upper Red Lake is one of the top places to be right now in Minnesota for ice-angling for walleye. Recently, the popular lake kept DNR Conservation Officer Shane Zavodnik, of the Virginia station, and Conservation Officer Candidate Coby Fontes busy during a 12-hour period earlier this month.
Zavodnik and Fontes worked three separate cases of walleye overlimits that involved multiple anglers. They also found multiple instances of anglers having more than the one walleye allowed over 17 inches.
In total, almost 40 walleyes were seized Dec. 2-3.
“I’ve never seen anything like it to make three overlimit cases in one day,” Zavodnik said of how this compares to prior years he has worked the early-ice bite on Upper Red. “I work it once or twice a year. I’ve checked a lot of houses, talked with a lot of people, so this was a bit out of the norm to have that many overlimit cases in one day.”
Upper Red’s daily and possession limit is three walleyes with only one walleye allowed over 17 inches. That’s a change from last year’s hard-water season when anglers could keep four walleyes. The new regulation went into effect Nov. 1.
The Red Lake Nation and the Minnesota DNR manage the walleye harvest on Red Lake under a joint harvest plan that the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee revised in 2015, according to the DNR’s website.
The fall fisheries assessment on the Red Lakes found the walleye population to be at a healthy, sustainable level with a wide range of sizes. This winter’s walleye regulation on Upper Red Lake is based on the abundance of mature female walleye, or spawning stock, in “optimal” condition. The fall numbers indicated that a regulation that allows a moderate amount of harvest is most appropriate to maintain spawning stock at a level that is both sustainable and promotes the consistent success of new year classes, a DNR news release says.
Anglers can stay up-to-date on daily and possession limits by visiting the Upper Red Lake regulations page on the DNR website (mndnr.gov).
“You go to the DNR website and look up Upper Red Lake, and it clearly states that the three fish are your daily limit and possession limit,” Zavodnik said. “As far as people just not knowing, it’s coming down to people not looking at the regulations close enough and just kind of assuming. With all the different experimental regulations around the state, whether it be panfish, bass, walleye, or northern, it’s not as simple as just assuming anymore.”
Zavodnik said walleye fishing on Upper Red is still phenomenal right now, and he expects a lot of angler traffic to continue for at least another month.
“Everyone knows the hot bite is on Red Lake, so people are coming from all over the state to fish the lake,” Zavodnik said. “There’s obviously going to be a stronger CO presence when the bite is hot. That hasn’t really changed throughout the last five, six, seven years. There’s always been a pretty steady influx of CO activity throughout the lake. I would just say the CO presence will be just as consistent as it’s been the last couple of years.”