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Continued: Anderson: DNR fisheries chief addresses walleyes on Mille Lacs

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 22, 2014 - 2:00 AM

 

Q: Why are you using outside experts to look at the lake?

A: Fisheries science is complex. Sometimes it’s good to have a fresh look. The people at Michigan State, for instance, have studied our Mille Lacs model and have given us feedback. Another expert we’re working with is highly knowledgeable in walleye mortality. Another knows zebra mussels and their relation to clearer water, increased plant growth and pike predation. I’m excited about the intellectual power we’re bringing to the issue.

 

Q: What have you told the Chippewa about your assessment of the lake and your plans?

A: We’ve kept them informed. They’re supportive, and and the Federal court is clear that the State can only object to tribal interests for reasons of conservation or health and human safety.

 

Q: Is there hope for a walleye rebound?

A: I think so. Most vexing are the ecological changes. There’s just a lot going on in that lake. Additionally, it was a sort of a perfect storm when the tribal fishery began at the same time the lake began changing.

 

Q: Some observers have advocated shutting down the lake to walleye harvests to let the fishery recover.

A: I don’t want to speculate about that. We will do everything we can to sustain resorts and area businesses while we figure this thing out. The state tourism people will help by stressing the diversity of attractions in the area while we work on the walleye issue.

 

Q: Talk about northern pike.

A: Milfoil has expanded dramatically in the lake, out to 18-foot depths. We know pike like plants. Does the plant expansion explain why pike have increased? If we think it does, we may promote the lake’s pike fishery.

 

Q: Are smallmouth bass eating the small walleyes?

A: We won’t prosecute a particular fish until we find out it’s a problem. There’s not a lot of literature that says smallies prey disproportionately on walleyes. Though July, their diet in Mille Lacs is mostly on crayfish.

  • related content

  • CHIPPEWA NETS: The same fish targeted by angler restrictions in recent years have made up the bulk of walleyes netted in spring by Minnesota and Wisconsin Chippewa bands.

  • BIG WALLEYES PREYING ON SMALL WALLEYES? DNR biologists now theorize that the numerous large walleyes in Mille Lacs might be among predators feasting on small walleyes, preventing successive year classes of the fish from reaching maturity.

  • ZEBRA MUSSEL EXPLOSION: Zebra mussels increase water clarity, perhaps contributing to higher efficiencies of predators that seek Mille Lacs walleyes. Zebra mussel numbers have risen exponentially in Mille Lacs.

  • THE ECONOMY: A late spring and a restrictive bag limit slowed fishing on Mille Lacs lasst summer. And fishing this winter began slow due to lake slush hampering access.

  • Pereira

  • SMALLIES, SMALLIES AND MORE SMALLIES: The Mille Lacs smallmouth bass population has risen dramatically in recent years, aided, perhaps, by regulations restricting anglers' harvest of the feisty fish. Are smallmouth bass among predators that are causing the mysterious disappearances of young walleyes before they mature? ORG XMIT: MIN1209051411520903

  • TOO MANY NORTHERNS? The Mille Lacs northern pike population has risen significantly. Combined with the lake’s clearer water, due to environmental regulations and perhaps zebra mussels, pike might be more efficient than ever at consuming the lake’s walleyes.

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