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Mille Lacs walleyes are down

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DNR: Lake Mille Lacs walleye net catches lower than expected (October 11, 2007)

While the walleye population in Lake Mille Lacs remains healthy, it may be smaller than expected, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

This fact was discovered during recent routine test netting to monitor the size and abundance of walleye. The DNR reports near-shore test nets caught only half as many walleye as the long-term average from 1983-2006. Nets placed in deeper water also caught fewer walleye than previous years.

“Lake Mille Lacs continues to have a large number of walleye in a wide range of sizes,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Ron Payer. “That’s good. And we expected some decline in walleye numbers based on a number of factors, including a weak 2004-year class of walleye. But the magnitude of this year’s decline was unanticipated.”

Payer said near-shore net catches this autumn averaged 7.2 walleye per net. This compares to an average of 15.4 from 1983-2006. Last year’s catch rate was 20.4 walleye per net. The DNR did not catch as many medium- and large-sized walleye as expected. He attributed the decline, in part, to higher than normal mortality due to unusually warm water temperatures, especially in June. Higher water temperatures stress fish and hooking mortality increases as water temperature increases.

Payer said anglers should know Mille Lacs continues to hold good numbers of spawning-sized fish. Still, the new data means the DNR will need to revisit regulations to ensure the lake’s walleye harvest stays within the safe harvest level and the state’s allocation. No walleye harvest overage will be allowed in 2008 due to the lower than anticipated number of walleye in recent population assessments.

Lake Mille Lacs is managed differently than any other lake in Minnesota. Its safe harvest level is set following meetings between the DNR and Chippewa Indian bands that signed the 1837 Treaty. Fisheries biologists have estimated that 549,000 lbs. of walleye can be safely harvested from Mille Lacs from Dec. 1, 2006, through Nov. 30, 2007. The eight bands set their harvest at 100,000 lbs., leaving 449,000 lbs. for non-band anglers.

The state may take up to 22 percent more than the allocation of 449,000 lbs. Currently, state-licensed anglers have harvested about 470,000 pounds, which is more than the allocation but within the 547,800-pound cap.

Current regulations on Mille Lacs allow anglers only to keep walleye between 14 and 16 inches, and not more than one walleye longer than 28 inches. The limit is four. This regulation is more restrictive than the regulation that was in effect during the early part of the fishing season because the estimated walleye harvest exceeded 365,000 pounds by July 1, a threshold that triggered a need for a regulation change to stay within the harvest cap. That regulation is scheduled to expire on Nov. 30 and a 20- to 28-inch protected slot would go into effect on Dec. 1.

Payer said DNR Fisheries managers recently met with the Lake Mille Lacs Advisory Group to discuss fishing options for this winter. No decisions were made at that meeting though participants attending the meeting favored retaining the 20- to 28-inch protected slot starting Dec. 1. This regulation would include a bag limit of four and only one walleye 28 inches or larger.

A final decision on winter regulations will be made next week. Regulations for the 2008 open water season will be established in February 2008 and go into effect with the walleye opener on May 12.

“We heard what people preferred,” said Payer. “We want to support the local Mille Lacs fishing interests as much as possible and their preferences will be part of our thinking as we review regulation options within the context of our management options.”

http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/index.php/2007/10/11/dnr-lake-mille-lacs-walleye-net-catches-lower-than-expected/

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Thanks for Posting this.!!! We all need to read this a couple of times. Don't turn this into a Polital Issue!!!!

If the slot next year tightens a little (hopefully a little more than 14"-16"). We need to understand that it's for the best!!!.

There are alot of other places to catch "eater size" Walleyes.

Mille Lacs is a special lake, we need to keep it that way, what ever happens.

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I’m not surprised! This was as expected from the DNR. The Upper Red Lake (URL) increased their limits from 2 to 4. Please see details included in this link http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/fishing/2007/redlake07mid-change.pdf. During the same time frame, Mille Lacs was reduced to 14”-16” slots with same limits.

I’m not trying to stir the pot but the DNR want us who live closer to the Cities to fish URL. I am not complaining, I live in South Metro and have fished URL many times. I love catching those HUGE CRAPPIES!

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Quote:

I’m not trying to stir the pot but the DNR want us who live closer to the Cities to fish URL.


What the heck kind of statement is that?

The lakes are managed independently and within established safe harvest quotas.

URL went from a no walleye limit to a 2 walleye limit to err on the conservative side of harvest. Call it a probationary period. Many years were spent allowing the walleye population to restore itself, the #1 thing the DNR didn't want to do was overharvest the lake right out of the gate, thus we had a very conservative and closely monitored bag limit. Not sure if you were up there but DNR officers were at most of the accesses collecting harvest data from anglers to help monitor the harvest.

The limit changed from 2 walleyes to 4 walleyes for a number of reasons- the lake could handle it in the DNR's estimation, and anglers seam to prefer keeping more fish. Changing the walleye limit from 2 to 4 has NOT resulted in a flood of anglers from anywhere travelling to Red to fish. Ask that question in the URL forum, and check out the boat launches at Red, it is not busy up there.

Similar to Red, Mille Lacs is another lake that falls under the DNR's closely watched category with slot restrictions and limits changing frequently to maintain a healthy population of walleyes in the lake. The DNR believed the slot needed to be tightened big time after this early summer's fishing bonanza on the lake. If not, we might have exceeded our quota and then there would be NO walleye fishing currently on the lake. Maybe the poor sampling in their test nets was just proof of what happened on the lake earlier this summer, I don't know.

Both URL & Mille Lacs are managed indepently of each other. Its purely coincidence that the regs were relaxed on one lake and tightened on the other. Sorry to burst your bubble but there is no conspiracy here. grin.gif

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Good read. Thanks for posting.

If Mille Lacs was "catch and release only", I'd still be there. grin.gif

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I'd like to hear what the DNR has to say about their survey. Or maybe they already have commented? But how reliable are the surveys...I heard someone say that the water temps and timing of the survey could have played a role in the low population estimates. Anyways, I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that the walleye population (judging from this summer) is great. Maybe the DNR should look at the results they got closer? But, I agree, I would go to M.L. too if it were only C&R.

By the way, what incentive would the DNR have to get people to go up to URL instead of fishing Mille Lacs? This is the government we are talking about here...they don't give a rats a** whether people fish URL- only that all fisheries are healthy.

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Unless a new rule change is made, the Red Lake Limit reverts back to 2 Walleye, December 1, 2007.

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Quote:

I'd like to hear what the DNR has to say about their survey. Or maybe they already have commented? But how reliable are the surveys...I heard someone say that the water temps and timing of the survey could have played a role in the low population estimates.


If the DNR were to throw out the results of this years test nets due to unfavorable conditions they would also have to throw out the results when they have favorable test net conditions and have high fish counts? If thats the case why bother with test nets. They need to make a judgement based on available data and adjust when the winter/spring data comes in.

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I agree there skunked! What about the fact that the water level is the lowest it has been in a number of years? These type of surveys can be skewed by any number of environmental factors from the water temps to the water levels to even the wind direction at the time the surveys is taken. It would be interesting to see what the results would be if the same survey were conducted a few more time this fall. I'm not saying the DNR is not able to conduct a proper survey and doesn't have the ability to provide a reasonable conjecture of the walleye population, but Mille Lacs is one of the strongest fisheries in the world! I think the newspapers like to suggest the worst to us all no matter what the situation. You can bet the DNR will be regulating the hell out of this lake no matter what. Thats fine, I will still continue to fish there for the perch, muskies, and walleyes when I can. Great lake regardless. grin.gif

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My buddy and I come up every January and are looking for some ideas on how the fishing might look?? What's the Vote??

Thanks,

So Cal Ice Fisher

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There is way too much negativity here on this site. There is no conspiracy theory and I’m not attacking any person on this site. I’m just stating well known facts. No, I am not surprised that the “Mille Lacs Walleyes are down”, due to excessive fishing pressure. Yes, the URL possession limits increased while the slot tightened on Mille Lacs. The only point that I want to make was that the DNR was trying to relief the fishing pressure from Mille Lacs by increasing possession limits on URL.

Bottom line is this!!!! For all of you that are reading between the lines (conspiracy/alternative motives) and if you are ready to pounce on this POST. If you want to keep walleyes for the table/meals, fish a different lake. There are other lakes that have strong walleye population. If you want to catch a trophy walleye, continue to fish Mille Lacs. I enjoy fishing Mille Lacs and URL. Both are great fishery.

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I'll agree with that. I was out there during Sept. full moon. Talk to a few people said the walleye bite was dead. Went out that night caught 14 eyes. All except for one was over 22inches. I rather catch big fish than the slot anyday!

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I rather catch big fish than the slot anyday!


Our shack owners still think, tight keeper slot or not, catching/releasing big walleyes and stacking tasty perch on a world class ice fishing destination that is an easy drive from to home and blessed with great resort service is hard to beat. We'll be there again this year!

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Yes, the URL possession limits increased while the slot tightened on Mille Lacs. The only point that I want to make was that the DNR was trying to relief the fishing pressure from Mille Lacs by increasing possession limits on URL.


There is a major flaw in your reasoning. The rule that would trigger a change in the URL bag limit if harvest was low was put in place last December, long before anyone knew how much fishing pressure would be on Mille Lacs last summer.

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And I was given crap for my posts this spring on why people needed to go out and catch and release 30-40 walleyes a day when the water was so warm. I asked for people to show some restraint when the walleyes were committing suicide but what were the responses to this from any people? " It the fish keep biting I am going to keep catching them. And besides I know how to release properly so I don't kill fish, it's those other people that don't know what I know killing them" Well what do you have to say now?

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fishorgolf, harsh words on a heated topic. I am inclined to believe/want to believe that the netting results are off (water temps, water levels, etc. skewing the results). I don't think that the bite this year compares with the starving bite of a few years ago. The fish were also a lot healthier this year than they were back then. I look forward to some fun nights under the stars and some fun through the ice soon. I will grant you that the lake was probably hit harder this year (number of fishing hours) than any time in the recent past, however.

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The problom with believing the nets were off this time is that you would have to beleive they are off all the time even when the results are what we want to hear. We can not just throw them aside when the results are not what we want them to be. So we must take these netting results seriously and not just toss them aside. Lets all agree on one thing. This lake was fished HARD this year and a lot of this came later in the season after the water had warmed up. Ask anybody who knows anything about fish biology and they will all say the same thing. "warm water means lots of dead fish" I have personally seen 10 - 15 dead LARGE walleyes floating during a quick 2 mile run out on the lake. Now tell me how many 2 mile by 200 feet strips fit into ML. quick cal. says 4,000 times! I am by no way saying there were 40,000 dead walleyes floating on the lake that day ( wind speed, direction etc.) but you get the point. In my humble opinion it is plan and simple. This spring ML had one of the best bites in years and maybe the best bit ever for large fish and people could not control themselves and pounded the walleyes way to hard. All I was preaching last spring was restraint. To think about this great lake and it's future not immediate gradification.

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I've been fishing Mille Lacs for 3 years now and I really don't understand the infatuation for walleye fishing. My biggest walleye to date is a 31"er, and it fought pretty good. But with all the other species of fish in Mille Lacs, why does everyone make such a big deal of the walleye fishery? They're good to eat, but they are not a good fighting fish......in fact, I'd rather catch perch on light tackle.

I find muskie fishing and smallmouth fishing much more enjoyable and challenging. It about boat control, boat positioning, and precision casting when muskie or smallie fishing. Walleye fishing is "anchor your boat next to the other 82 boats on reef A and throw out your slip bobber", or "troll around the 94 other boats on reef B".

I don't get it. I much rather spend my week catching one legal muskie or 10 smallies over catching 50 - 1 pound of non-fighting dead weights that you have to throw back to maybe die anyway.

Just my opinion.

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as you stated, it is YOUR opinion. most others here will disagree, but will also respect your opinion.

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A week throwing hardware to catch one legal muskie! Now I know why I am not a muskie fisherman. But I do know people that will do it so to each his own. Hey a buddy and my brother both caught 5lb smallies off my dock so maybe I should give it a try someday.

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I agree, the walleyes only redeeming quality is its taste, fights like a wet tshirt and dumber than a box of rocks... its a shame this state spends so much money restocking the fish!

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Quote:

The problom with believing the nets were off this time is that you would have to beleive they are off all the time even when the results are what we want to hear. We can not just throw them aside when the results are not what we want them to be. So we must take these netting results seriously and not just toss them aside.


Well said! Let the trained, professional biologists decide whats going on, not the arm chair biologists!

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The bottom line is that we all want good fishing.

If the test nets are wrong and they tighten regulations so be it. It will only make the fishing better in the next few years.

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