Leech Lake: Too many walleyes?

Too many walleyes? It’s not an issue many lakes face. But Leech Lake apparently is beset with that problem, according to DNR regional fisheries manager Henry Drewes of Bemidji. As a result, the harvest slot on the big lake will be expanded, beginning with the May fishing opener.

“We’ll have a four-walleye limit on Leech, with the protected slot 20 to 26 inches, and one fish greater than 26 inches allowed in the bag,’’ Drewes said.

DNR researchers have detected a decline in the number of yellow perch in the lake, which are a primary forage fish for walleyes. A falloff in the vitality of the lake’s walleyes also is suspected.

Intensive stocking in recent years might have led to the increase in the lake’s walleye “biomass.’’ Twenty-two million fry were stocked in 2011, with another 7.5 million stocked in 2012 and 2013. A planned stocking of 22 million fry this year in Leech Lake is on hold.

Many walleyes in Leech are too small to appeal to anglers.

The lake’s walleye decline noted a decade or so ago was thought by some to be caused by the lake’s abundance of cormorants. But Drewes said the bird population has been relatively low in recent years.