Mille Lacs walleye anglers will be allowed a limit of one walleye this winter, similar to last season, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Tuesday.
The regulation goes into effect Dec. 1 with no bait restrictions. To keep a walleye it must measure 21-23 inches long or exceed 28 inches. The allotment breaks from a summer on Mille Lacs where any walleyes caught by state-licensed anglers had to be returned to the water.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the winter regulation flows from encouraging research that shows some increases in the Mille Lacs walleye population. The abundance of walleye 14 inches and longer in the lake recently was estimated at 727,000 fish, up significantly from population estimates in 2013 and 2014 when walleye stocks were measured at around 250,000 fish.
The fall gill net assessment also showed that the total pounds of mature walleye sampled increased significantly from 18.9 pounds per net last year to 27.7 pounds per net this year, mostly because of an increase in mature females, the DNR said. Some year classes remain below normal or average, the agency reported.
For several years running, the summer harvest on Mille Lacs has been under tight restrictions and periodic closures. The annual harvest is governed by quotas set each year in a co-management system with eight Chippewa bands in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Over time we want to let anglers keep more fish, but it is critical that population assessments continue to show surviving and self-sustaining year classes of walleye," said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief. "Opening up additional harvest too fast or too soon could jeopardize the population increases we're seeing."
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