Some anglers, guides and resort owners on Lake Vermilion -- frustrated that they can't seem to catch many keeper-sized walleyes in the western end of the sprawling lake -- say it's time to consider changing the lake's walleye slot limit.
"We know we have an imbalance of walleye on the west end -- there are very few eating-size fish,'' said Ed Tausk, owner of Vermilion Dam Lodge. He said anglers catch plenty of fish in the 17- to 26-inch protected slot, but those must be released under the special regulations imposed since 2006.
"Economically, it's a big, big issue,'' Tausk said. "Whether anglers are hiring a guide or staying at a resort, they want to eat a few fish.''
If they can't, they might not come back, he said.
Tausk and others would like to see the slot relaxed.
"Let anglers harvest some of those bigger walleyes,'' he said.
The Department of Natural Resources has agreed to hold a meeting next month in Tower to answer questions, gather input and consider changes. The DNR says the special walleye regulations could be modified, extended or dropped.
The 17- to 26-inch slot, with one fish allowed over 26 inches in the four-fish bag limit, was imposed in 2006 because of concerns anglers were overharvesting walleyes in Vermilion, said Jeff Eibler, DNR acting area fisheries supervisor.
"The regulation brought harvest back down to what we believe is sustainable,'' he said.
But DNR data show walleye production in the western end of the lake has been fair to poor since 2003, meaning there are fewer smaller, eating-size fish, said Duane Williams, DNR large lake specialist. In the east, production has remained normal.
"We don't fully understand it,'' he said.
Tausk said resort owners and members of the Lake Vermilion Guides League and the Sportsmen's Club of Lake Vermilion also have expressed concern over the issue.
The DNR has boosted stocking, placing 15 million walleye fry into the lake this spring as part of an unrelated study.
The Lake Vermilion meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the DNR's office in Tower. Comments also may be e-mailed to Eibler at email@example.com by Oct. 14.
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org