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Mille Lacs anglers can keep one walleye early, late in season

Most of summer will again be catch-and-release only.

Mille Lacs walleye
A nice walleye caught on a purple plug trolled on lead core line on Mille Lacs Lake.
John Myers / 2020 file / Duluth News Tribune
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MILLE LACS LAKE — Anglers on the big central Minnesota lake will be able to keep one walleye daily starting opening day, May 14, through May 30 before a catch-and-release rules go into effect for much of the summer.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday released the new regulations aimed at protecting walleye populations in the lake after several apparently poor reproduction years, most recently in 2018 and 2019.

The rules are similar to last year. The one walleye kept must be between 21 and 23 inches or over 28 inches long. Anglers must release all other walleyes caught.

Walleye fishing will be catch-and-release from June 1 through June 30. A two-week closure to all walleye fishing will run from July 1 to July 15. Catch-and-release walleye fishing will resume on July 16 and continue through Aug. 31.

The one-fish walleye limit is scheduled to resume Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.

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After opening weekend (when fishing is allowed 24 hours a day) fishing hours on Mille Lacs Lake will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for all species. Beginning June 4, only muskellunge and northern pike anglers using artificial lures or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches can fish after 10 p.m.

“We must continue to manage state harvest very carefully on Mille Lacs so we can provide as much angling opportunity as is prudent while protecting the opportunities for the future,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the DNR. “Two recent year classes show below average numbers of walleye, which means we need to factor in that fewer fish than normal will mature into spawning adults during the next few years.”

While the drops in fall walleye catch rates for the 2018 and 2019 year classes aren’t as dramatic as previous levels that closed walleye harvest on Mille Lacs, they do signal that more conservative walleye harvest regulations may be needed in coming years.

The state and the eight Ojibwe bands that have treaty fishing rights have agreed that Mille Lacs Lake can sustain a total walleye harvest of up to 135,000 pounds in 2022, with state anglers harvesting up to 80,300 pounds and a maximum tribal harvest of 54,700 pounds.

The drop from last year’s levels of 87,800 pounds for state anglers and 62,200 pounds for tribal harvest was necessary to account for below-average netting of the 2018 and 2019 year classes in the fall walleye population survey.

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John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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