GARRISON, Minn. – The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is considering an assortment of summer fishing regulations for Lake Mille Lacs, each with its own estimates of when anglers might hit this year’s state quota of 28,600 pounds.
The highly anticipated regulations will be set by the DNR in early March, but the first glimpse of what they could look like was provided here Tuesday night in a public meeting of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee.
DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said the total allocation for Mille Lacs walleyes in 2016 is 40,000 pounds, including a tribal share of 11,400 pounds.
Pereira presented a 22-page outline of state angling options now under consideration, asking committee members to mull the scenarios and provide input in time for the next committee meeting Feb. 24 at Izatys Resort.
Using computer modeling, the DNR document presents seven scenarios, each with its own table of variables that help estimate the rate at which legal walleyes (as well as the estimated pounds of walleyes that die after being caught and released) might be harvested. Last year, in an unprecedented move, anglers hit the state’s quota of Mille Lacs walleyes in early August, prompting the DNR to shut down the season.
The first of eight options presented in the document is for a harvest slot of 18-20 inches with a bag limit of one during the entire open-water season.
The model estimates a 75 percent likelihood of reaching the state angling allocation by Aug. 1 given baseline temperatures, baseline effort (with the heaviest pressure coming in May and June) and 1 million angler hours.
Pereira said temperature is an important variable in the estimates because hooking mortality increases in warmer temperatures and the computer model (and the harvest quota) takes those fish deaths into account. Likelihoods of reaching the state angling allocation rise under warmer scenarios. The tables give estimates for reaching allocations according to three dates: July 1, July 15 and Aug. 1.
Pereira said committee members might want to suggest scenarios of their own. Among the options evaluated in the working document:
• Catch and release only in May and June, harvest slot of 18-20 inches starting in July with bag limit of one.
• Harvest slot 18-20 with limit of one in May, June, September, October and November; closed to walleye fishing in July and August.
• Harvest slot 18-20 with limit of one in May; catch and release only from June-November.
• Harvest slot 18-20 with limit of one during entire season; but assumes hooking mortality is reduced to 50 percent of the current rate.
• Harvest slot 18-20 with limit of one during entire season; but assumes hooking mortality is reduced to 20 percent of the current rate.
In the last two scenarios, the computer model assumes reduced hooking mortality of walleyes.