A panel of fisheries experts headed by a federal research biologist from Ohio found no significant flaws with methods used by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the management of walleye populations on Mille Lacs.
Chris Vandergoot of U.S. Geological Survey's Great Lakes Science Center, whose career has included walleye management on Lake Erie, told a group of Mille Lacs stakeholders in Isle, Minn., Monday night that Minnesota's approach to caring for the Mille Lacs walleye fishery compares favorably to peers in other jurisdictions with large walleye lakes.
He said the panel looked at the way the DNR estimates walleyes populations, how it surveys anglers and how it estimates hooking mortality – the rate at which fish die after being caught and released by anglers. They found the methods to be standard and the intensity of effort to be above average in some cases. Lake Erie, Devil's Lake, Lake Oneida and Lake Oahe were among the major walleye lakes in the Midwest included as peers to Mille Lacs.
For instance, the DNR in Minnesota does more fish tagging than any of its peers to augment walleye population estimates. "It may sound like I'm singing their praises,'' Vandergoot said. "I'm just giving the facts.''
The external review of walleye management was ordered by the DNR to respond to critics in the Mille Lacs walleye community who believe the DNR has underestimated walleye abundance in the lake. Recorded declines in walleye stocks have made it illegal in recent summers for Mille Lacs anglers to keep any walleyes and the DNR has closed the lake to walleye fishing at times to contend with quota restrictions.