New walleye limits on Mille Lacs make dead fish a bigger deal

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Triibune
  • Updated: January 29, 2013 - 10:17 PM

State officials have cut walleye allocations -- which include released fish that die -- in half this year on Lake Mille Lacs.

hide

Walleyes, Minnesota's state fish. At Lake Mille Lacs, the number of released walleyes that die is crucial because they are included in the state's allocation under its agreement with eight Chippewa bands

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When a walleye is caught in Minnesota, it's either kept and eaten -- or released. Most that are set free live to fight another day.

But some don't.

At Lake Mille Lacs, the number of released walleyes that die is crucial because they are included in the state's allocation under its agreement with eight Chippewa bands. Last year, sport anglers "harvested" 310,000 pounds of walleyes. But an estimated 136,000 of those pounds were fish lost to hooking mortality -- ones that didn't end up in a freezer or frying pan, but nonetheless were counted against the state's allocation.

In past years, that was an unfortunate but mostly inconsequential byproduct of fishing regulations that required anglers to release large numbers of fish that were outset their permitted harvest "slot."

Now it's a big deal.

Concerned about the lake's declining walleye population, state officials have slashed its 2013 walleye allocation to 178,750 pounds -- half of last year's allotment. The bands' quota also was cut in half, from 142,500 pounds to 71,250.

The problem for anglers: If hooking mortality is 130,000 pounds again this year, and winter anglers keep 20,000 pounds, as expected, that would leave sport anglers only 29,000 pounds of walleyes in their yearly allotment, beginning with the open-water fishing season.

It would take Draconian fishing regulations -- maybe even catch-and-release only -- to prevent overharvest.

"We're trying to avoid that," said Tom Jones, Department of Natural Resources large lake specialist for Mille Lacs. "We need to figure out a way to convert that hooking mortality to harvest. But that's a trick. We can't go over our 178,000-pound allocation."

Options are few

Fishing guide Tony Roach is on Mille Lacs 200 days a year. He said hooking mortality could be reduced if anglers were to properly release fish.

"Some have no idea how to pull a hook out; some don't know you're supposed to cut the line on a deeply hooked fish," he said. "I've seen people taking pictures of fish for 10 minutes. The fish are out of the water way too long, and they are allowed to flop around on the ice or the bottom of the boat."

He suggested a barbless hook requirement could reduce mortality.

"I wouldn't be opposed to that," he said.

But Jones said studies have shown that barbless hooks won't significantly reduce mortality.

"They might reduce mortality on small fish, but not on big fish," he said.

Restricting the use of live bait is another idea that's been floated. It might not directly reduce mortality, but perhaps would reduce fishing pressure.

Also, "If you required a jig instead of a regular hook, there likely would be fewer incidents of deep hooking," Jones said.

Terry Thurmer of Terry's Boat Harbor on Mille Lacs agrees some anglers do a poor job of releasing fish.

"The only way to reduce mortality is to keep bigger fish, the ones we're throwing back," he said.

Both Roach and Thurmer worry that whatever regulations are imposed on anglers by the DNR for the coming season, businesses around the lake will be hurt.

Roach says he'll survive if Mille Lacs essentially becomes a catch-and-release fishery, because many of his customers are content to catch and release. Still, others want a walleye dinner.

"I've been here going on 24 years, I'll survive," Thurmer said. "But anyone who just bought a resort, they're not going to survive."

Mortality studies

The DNR's fish mortality estimates for Mille Lacs are based on studies the agency did on the lake a dozen years ago, when fish caught with hook and line were placed in holding pens in the lake to see how many died.

"We found hooking mortality depended on water temperature and size of fish," Jones said. "Really small fish and big fish have higher mortality rates."

One surprise: "We put fish in that were belly-up, that we were sure were going to die, and they survived," he said.

Jones said there wasn't a huge difference in mortality between fish caught on artificial lures and hooks.

DNR officials are still exploring regulation options, and will offer those to the Lake Mille Lacs Input Group, a consortium of resort owners, bait shops and other businesses, at a meeting next month.

But there are no easy answers.

"Even if it's a total catch-and- release fishery, it's possible we would still go over the quota," said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries research manager.

"We are in a pickle," Jones agreed. "Whatever we come up with, people aren't going to like."

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com Twitter: @dougsmithstrib

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 14 2nd Qtr 3:14
New England 6
Cleveland 3 2nd Qtr 2:32
Baltimore 3
Dallas 27 2nd Qtr 3:30
Washington 7
Indianapolis 14 2nd Qtr 5:11
Tennessee 0
Jacksonville 10 2nd Qtr 6:34
Houston 14
San Diego 7 2nd Qtr 4:55
Kansas City 10
NY Jets 14 2nd Qtr 3:32
Miami 10
Chicago 0 2nd Qtr 1:07
Minnesota 3
Philadelphia 14 2nd Qtr 7:29
NY Giants 10
New Orleans 7 2nd Qtr 2:00
Tampa Bay 10
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Detroit 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Houston 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 6:30 PM
Dallas
New York 8:00 PM
Portland
Toronto 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 4:00 PM
Florida
Vancouver 7:00 PM
Anaheim
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 23 2nd Half 18:32
Connecticut 39
Iona 46 2nd Half 17:01
Drexel 36
Concordia (MI) 22 2nd Half 15:50
Eastern Mich 52
Harvard 5 1st Half 16:04
Arizona State 2
Longwood 0 1st Half 19:36
Ball State 0
Sacred Heart 1:00 PM
Brown
Colgate 1:00 PM
Columbia
MD-Eastern Shore 5 1st Half 17:04
Duquesne 6
UNC Greensboro 4 1st Half 16:25
East Carolina 9
Marist 2 1st Half 18:09
Elon 1
NJIT 0 1st Half 20:00
Lafayette 0
Cincinnati Christian 0 1st Half 17:50
Liberty 5
Morgan State 0 1st Half 19:14
Marquette 0
Campbell 2 1st Half 18:46
Samford 2
Bucknell 0 1st Half 19:37
Siena 0
Long Beach State 1:00 PM
Syracuse
Coppin State 0 1st Half 18:55
Evansville 2
UMKC 2 1st Half 18:11
Indiana State 2
Hofstra 1:30 PM
Long Island
Coast Guard 2:00 PM
Army
Thomas (GA) 2:00 PM
High Point
Texas Southern 2:00 PM
Kansas State
Rutgers 2:00 PM
Monmouth
NC Wesleyan 2:00 PM
NC A&T
South Dakota St 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Central Penn College 2:00 PM
Radford
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
South Florida
Harris-Stowe 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Robert Morris-IL 2:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Northland College 2:00 PM
North Dakota St
Milwaukee 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 2:30 PM
Arkansas
Saint Peters 3:00 PM
Cornell
St Katherine 3:00 PM
Fresno State
Haskell 3:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Wake Forest 3:00 PM
Richmond
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Xavier
SD Christian 3:05 PM
Northern Ariz
Judson 3:30 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Ill-Chicago 4:00 PM
Bradley
Loyola-Maryland 4:00 PM
Fairfield
Miss Valley St 4:00 PM
Houston
Lehigh 4:00 PM
UMBC
Delaware State 4:00 PM
Temple
Belmont 5:00 PM
Butler
Howard 5:00 PM
Fordham
NW Christian 5:00 PM
Nevada
UC Davis 5:00 PM
Washington St
Abilene Christian 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UCLA 5:30 PM
Alabama
Stony Brook 7:00 PM
Washington
Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wisconsin
CS-Bakersfield 9:00 PM
California
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 59 2nd Half 3:00
Norfolk State 61
East Carolina 62 2nd Half 0:19
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 40 2nd Half 16:56
(8) Tennessee 39
Providence 33 2nd Half
Boston College 39
Florida A&M 23 2nd Half 20:00
Miami-Florida 41
Oakland 37 2nd Half 16:57
Central Michigan 48
Chattanooga 31 2nd Half
SIU-Edwardsville 26
Fairfield 34 2nd Half 15:49
La Salle 30
Gardner-Webb 1:00 PM
Longwood
New Hampshire 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Northeastern 1:00 PM
Albany
Richmond 1:00 PM
William & Mary
Tulane 1:00 PM
Cincinnati
(14) Georgia 1:00 PM
Seton Hall
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Boston U
Quinnipiac 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Lafayette 1:00 PM
Saint Peters
Northwestern 1:00 PM
(20) Michigan State
Duquesne 1:00 PM
Lehigh
St Francis-PA 5 1st Half 16:09
Pittsburgh 6
Milwaukee 0 1st Half 18:02
IUPU-Ft Wayne 3
Bucknell 0 1st Half 20:00
Binghamton 0
George Mason 5 1st Half 18:11
Towson 2
North Florida 0 1st Half 20:00
Florida 0
Tennessee St 9 1st Half 16:36
(12) Kentucky 6
American Univ 8 1st Half 15:38
Wake Forest 4
George Washington 1 1st Half 18:36
Loyola-Maryland 0
(17) Rutgers 0 1st Half 20:00
Indiana 0
(24) Green Bay 0 1st Half 20:00
Dayton 0
Western Mich 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
Davidson 1:30 PM
Virginia
UNC Greensboro 2:00 PM
LSU
Denver 2:00 PM
North Texas
VA Commonwealth 2:00 PM
Coppin State
Huston-Tillotson 2:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Lamar 2:00 PM
Rice
Miss Valley St 2:00 PM
Alabama
Saint Louis 2:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Middle Tennessee 2:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Penn State 2:00 PM
(23) Iowa
Purdue 2:00 PM
Illinois
DePaul 2:05 PM
Illinois State
Sam Houston St 2:05 PM
Wichita State
South Dakota 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(4) Notre Dame 3:00 PM
UCLA
Coll of Charleston 3:00 PM
SC State
Alcorn State 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Dartmouth 3:00 PM
Niagara
Colgate 3:00 PM
Siena
Michigan 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Yale 3:30 PM
(25) Arizona State
UC Santa Barbara 4:00 PM
(16) Stanford
Long Island 4:00 PM
Long Beach St
Jackson State 4:00 PM
Louisiana
Eureka 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Cornell 5:00 PM
(22) Syracuse
Temple 7:30 PM
Memphis
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close