A nationwide group of fisheries scientists will evaluate Department of Natural Resources walleye assessment and management methods on Mille Lacs.
DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira and regional fisheries manager Brad Parsons told the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee on Monday night the experts will be available to answer members’ questions directly.
“They can ask these experts anything they want about our Mille Lacs policy or management without going through us at the DNR,’’ Parsons said. “For example, do the experts think our walleye sampling methods are sufficient and appropriate for Mille Lacs?’’
Dr. Chris Vandergoot of the U.S. Geological Survey station in Sandusky, Ohio, will lead the group.
“He is very familiar with Lake Erie, which is another complicated, multi-jurisdictional walleye fishery,’’ Parsons said.
Vandergoot will be on loan from the USGS and will not be paid by the DNR. He will reach out to other fisheries experts around the country to address questions raised by committee members.
Last month, the advisory group wrote to Gov. Mark Dayton, requesting a meeting to discuss Mille Lacs management. A spokesman for Dayton said Tuesday the governor will meet with the Mille Lacs group this summer, perhaps in July.
Some resort owners question the DNR’s low Mille Lacs walleye population assessment, in part because fishing on the big lake has been exceptional this summer. Saturday evening, for example, a launch carrying 20 anglers boated and released 374 walleyes in 3 ½ hours.
Yet the lake is regulated again this summer by a total walleye harvest ban. Also, a 21-day walleye fishing (and live bait) shutdown of the lake will occur in July, and all walleye fishing on the lake will end for the open water season after Sept. 4.
Mille Lacs walleyes caught this summer are plump and healthy, many anglers say — a characterization the DNR disputes.
“Our 2015 survey showed that walleyes in the lake larger than 20 inches were about 5 percent above the long-term condition of those fish,’’ Parsons said. “But in 2016, fish that size were 9 percent below the long-term condition.’’
The DNR also believes that high Mille Lacs catch rates this summer don’t necessarily mean the lake’s walleyes have rebounded.
Meanwhile, committee members asked in their letter to Dayton to be seated at Mille Lacs walleye population and management meetings between the DNR and the eight Chippewa bands that comanage the lake — admittance to which the bands have long opposed.
The Mille Lacs group also wants a recalibration, or prohibition, of “estimated hooking mortality,’’ which is the number of walleyes the DNR believes die after being caught and released. The margin for error of these estimates is too high, the group said.