Last Sunday I asked readers to offer ideas about how to reinvigorate the Mille Lacs walleye population. I suggested anglers should be limited to catch-and-release walleye fishing for at least a year, and that the Chippewa should suspend netting as well. Meantime, on Friday, the DNR announced a record-low 60,000-pound Mille Lacs walleye quota for the coming year, beginning in May — 42,900 pounds for state-regulated anglers and 17,100 pounds for the Chippewa. The DNR will discuss the quota with a Mille Lacs area advisory group later this month. Meanwhile, a sample of readers’ Mille Lacs suggestions follows.
I concur with “No nets for the Chippewa, no keepers for the rest.” Beyond that, my solution is simply two words: barbless hooks.
Considering that the majority of walleye fishermen still do not know how to catch and release walleyes without causing hooking and handling mortality, the simplest way to counteract their inability is to make it easier to unhook the walleye to be returned alive to the lake. I see way too many anglers who still hoist the walleye into the bottom of the boat where it bounces around and almost guarantees its death when returned to the lake. Then there are those who rip the barbed hook out of the fish’s throat or gills to, again, ensure its demise. Education of the walleye angler apparently takes too long so it is not pursued. Let’s take away the mortality problem by changing the regulation on Mille Lacs to barbless only. This approach works very well in many fly-in Canadian lakes. It can work here as well.
J. Baker, Eden Prairie
Why does the DNR always look to target a very specific length of fish with their slot limits? This practice as well as netting has the potential of wiping out entire year classes of fish. Would it not make sense to set a two-walleye limit and have a maximum length of fish to be 40 inches? That would allow fishermen to take any combination of fish to equal 40 inches. The biggest benefit is that fish would then come from two to four year classes and not target a particular year class as the slot of 18-20 inches does.
Michael P. Klein, Twin Cities
Cutting walleye mortality would help the situation. How about requiring circle hooks for live bait fishing? They work well for me. Florida requires their use in a number of saltwater situations.
Ivert Anderson, New Brighton
I believe that both catch and release and suspending netting are worth a try. Why not? By the same token, we are focused on “Save the Walleye” in the Mille Lacs area when we should promote what a great overall resource the region is, close to the metro, that has trophy walleyes, muskies, northerns, smallmouth and perch surrounded by unique lodging, restaurants, guide services, golf courses, resorts, casinos and a whole lot of fun! As for suggestions that we should be killing more of the lake’s big fish: How often do I read, “Where are the big fish?” So killing big fish is a bad idea. I say, deal with the present and invite the crowd.