Hot bite on Mille Lacs doesn't spell trouble ... yet

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 6, 2012 - 12:12 AM

The walleye bite on Lake Mille Lacs, the state's No. 1 walleye lake, has been hot this spring.

Hopefully, not too hot.

"It's very, very good fishing -- way better than normal,'' said Terry McQuoid of McQuoid's Inn on Mille Lacs. "Lots of guys are catching 40 to 75 a day.''

Based on Department of Natural Resources creel surveys, the catch rates in May were the best they've been since 2007 and were among the highest in the past 25 years.

But the harvest hasn't been so hot that DNR officials are concerned they'll have to tighten fishing restrictions in midseason to reduce harvest.

So far, anglers this year have harvested about 100,000 pounds of walleyes, including 60,000 pounds last month. The state's quota this year is 357,000 pounds under an agreement with Chippewa bands, which have been allocated 142,500 pounds.

"We're OK for now,'' said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR area fisheries supervisor. "We will be keeping a close watch on the harvest and hooking mortality as the season progresses.''

Hooking mortality is included in the state's walleye allocation, and higher water temperatures boost the DNR's mortality estimates. Whether the DNR will be forced to tighten walleye regulations depends on whether high catch rates, high fishing pressure and high temperatures continue in June. Normally, fishing pressure and harvest drops substantially after June.

Anglers tallied 317,000 hours on the lake in May, about 100,000 hours more than last May, when poor weather deterred fishing.

The DNR expanded the protected slot limit at the start of the season because of concerns anglers could exceed the state's quota. Walleyes 17 to 28 inches must be released this season; the protected slot had been 18 to 28 inches the past few years. The regulation change this spring has helped keep the harvest down, Bruesewitz said.

The DNR's catch rates, which includes harvested and released fish, underscores the superb fishing anglers are finding this spring. The May catch rate was 0.46 fish per hour -- one of only five periods anglers have exceeded 0.40 fish per hour since 1985.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

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