Mille Lacs: DNR sets bold plan

New, perhaps radical changes in management of Lake Mille Lacs walleyes and perhaps other of the lake’s game fish are planned, recently appointed DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira told stakeholders Friday at the agency’s round table in Bloomington.

“The goal is to improve the Mille Lacs walleye fishery as expediently as possible with as little negative impact to the community as possible,’’ Pereira said.

Helping the DNR will be national experts who will review fish surveys and other data to help understand why so many Mille Lacs walleyes fail to mature.

Mille Lacs appears to have a sufficient number of spawning female walleyes, DNR researcher Melissa Drake said. And the lake appears to have plentiful spawning habitat.

Perhaps the lake’s increasing water clarity is helping predators such as northern pike and smallmouth bass become more efficient consumers of small walleyes, Drake said.

Pereira conceded that past DNR Mille Lacs bag limits and slot-size restrictions might have contributed to the problem.

Neither Pereira nor Drake mentioned whether netting of spawning fish in spring by Chippewa bands affects Mille Lacs walleyes.

New regulations intended to increase anglers’ harvest of Mille Lacs northern pike and smallmouth bass might be in the offing, Pereira said, along with restrictions on the harvest of young walleyes.