The closely watched limit on fishing for walleye on Lake Mille Lacs was announced Thursday for this coming winter, with a mere minor tweaking after the species' population was assessed by tribal and state conservation biologists.
Anglers can keep one walleye of 19-21 inches or a trophy catch longer than 28 inches, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said. The only adjustment is that the slot last year was 18-20 inches.
The winter walleye season runs from Dec. 1 through Feb. 26.
"The winter season regulation enables Mille Lacs anglers to catch and keep walleye while providing necessary fish conservation and support to the Mille Lacs area economy," said DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira in a statement accompanying the announcement. "This regulation allows continued protection of walleye in Mille Lacs' abundant 2013 year class, which are the lake's future spawners."
DNR biologists and their tribal counterparts who share a stake in the fishing of walleye on the popular lake north of the Twin Cities met Tuesday and evaluated the species' population before setting the winter limit.
Walleye fishing on the big lake has been under tight restrictions for some time. In a historic move last spring, the DNR prevented anglers on Mille Lacs from keeping any walleyes during open-water fishing and limited them to using only artificial bait. That severe restriction was designed to prevent a repeat of the previous year's midseason shutdown of walleye fishing — a devastating experience economically and culturally for the Mille Lacs community.
It's been 20 years since Minnesota began managing Mille Lacs together with Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe bands, whose members harvest walleye with nets but have been consistently under their quota.