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Walleye population nose dive


SkunkedAgain

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I just read this on the Pioneer Press website and was shocked. I came over to read some reactions from the Mille Lacs FM'ers and didn't see a thread, so here is the article. My first reaction is: could this just be a bad netting? Are they going to get a "second opinion" by netting again?

From the Pioneer Press

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Walleye populations in Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota's most popular walleye lake, have declined dramatically, according to new Department of Natural Resources surveys.

The unexpected declines could mean stricter walleye rules for the upcoming ice-fishing season and perhaps next spring.

DNR officials say recent netting surveys produced the lowest pounds of walleyes since the survey began in 1983.

"It appears from the netting that the population is very low,'' said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR area fisheries manager in Aitken. "I can't say why at this point. We've only had a week to look at the data, so we need to put it together with other information."

So far, over fishing doesn't appear to be the cause. One culprit might be low walleye production and survival for fish hatched in 2002. Another issue might be unusually warm water temperatures.

In July, DNR officials tightened walleyes regulations after catch rates were higher than expected. Anglers now can only keep walleyes between 14 and 16 inches, with one trophy over 28 inches. The daily limit is four. It is the most restrictive regulation on the lake since 2002.

A less restrictive regulation was scheduled to begin Dec. 1, the beginning of the 2008 harvest period, but the DNR is reconsidering that option.

Agency officials recently met with the Lake Mille Lacs Fisheries Input Group, a group of anglers and business owners, to discuss potential winter regulations. Bruesewitz said the group favored a rule

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allowing anglers to keep walleyes smaller than 20 inches, with one larger than 28. The limit would stay at four.

"It's the regulation we typically start each (spring) fishing season with,'' Bruesewitz said.

The DNR presented the group with other options, including keeping the current size limits. A decision will be made soon.

Mille Lacs is managed differently from other walleye lakes with strict quotas. The regulations are set jointly by the DNR and eight Chippewa Indian bands, the byproduct of a lawsuit the bands won in 1999, giving them their own fishing and hunting rights in east-central Minnesota.

Sport anglers were allocated 449,000 pounds of walleyes this year, and through Sept. 30, they had caught and killed nearly 463,000 pounds. Anglers are allowed wiggle room to go over the allocation, which is balanced against the following year's quota.

But Bruesewitz said the low walleye population eliminates any quota overages for next year, which increases the necessity of taking a conservative approach.

The fall fisheries managers caught only 12.8 pounds of walleyes per net. Last year, it was 31 pounds per net, above the long-term average of 28.9. Bruesewitz said the agency safe "threshold'' is 18.9 pounds per net. "We breached that by a fair amount,'' he said.

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At least they say it is not due to over fishing! But fisherman/resorts and other businesses are the ones that suffer.

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I was shocked as well.!! Hopefully this was because of the warmer water temps.

I would hate to see the slot next Spring be 14" - 16".

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Quote:

A less restrictive regulation was scheduled to begin Dec. 1, the beginning of the 2008 harvest period, but the DNR is reconsidering that option.


Quote:

I would hate to see the slot next Spring be 14" - 16".


Heck, I'm concerned about ice season!

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I would have to believe the low numbers were because of the warm water temps as Rodmaker said. I think the lake is still about 5 degrees above average for this time of year, with 60-61 last weekend up there. I think if the temps were in the more normal range, they would have pulled more fish in. They should probably re-net after the temps have dropped a bit more.

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I agree with polarsus, most of the fish are still out deeper. They don't seem to be in shallow where they are netting in big numbers yet. I'll find out in a couple weeks for sure. wink.gif

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Warm temps I believe are the culprit. The DNR test nets are always put in the same areas and with the warmer water this summer and drought conditions the habitat shrunk. A test net doesn't accurately reflect the population in many instances. A cross reference to time of year, water temp and net placement(usually the semi constant in the equation) would reveal alot of different data. To think a lake is falling off due to test nets is ridiculous unless you factor in these things. If the eyes have dropped so far off the board in the lake, it is bad for the eyes but look at what the perch are going to do. I would take this with a grain of salt and continue to fish as you see fit. The fish are in there and if the rules stay strict then abide by them and take home what you can catch. 20 14" perch are better then a few skinny walleyes that might grow up to be monsters in my book any day. If, however the population is beginning to crash due to excessive fishing by the sportsmen and the gillnets then we have another Red Lake scenario and all interests are going to feel the fallout. It would be nice if each water within the state was managed by the same jurisdiction but in this day and age, it is not the case. My hope is that with this info coming to light that the think tanks don't have a kneejerk reaction and close or decrease the slot for the fishery. I myself plan on trolling up there untill the ice forms just like last year and the year before. I don't keep the trophy fish and might keep a couple slots for the frypan, but they do make really nice pics! I am going to stay out of the political wrangling on this, keep fishing and taking pics and enjoy the perch I catch in the winter. I can already see the hackles starting to raise about the overharvest and gillnets ect., I have had some of my most productive years up there since the "slot" was put in place, for both slotfish and piggys, so I say go fish, have fun and maybe target a few of the other species that this great lake offers: Muskies, Pike, smallies and the perch, bull gills and monster crappies that it can offer up. In the mean time, I am going to go up like I usually do and fish. Use the lake, respect the lake and have fun, afterall, isn't that what the fishing is all about? Good luck out there!

Tunrevir~

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I'll start a thought. How about netting during the spawn. Is netting during the most critical time of the year finally catching up?

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I am tired of the micro managment, all lakes has there up and downs, it didn't make a difference 25 years ago. Let us fish.............

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We didn't have to alot the tribe 100,000 pounds of walleye 25 years ago without micro management the lake would be in sorry shape in many species. Micro management is the future of our states lakes and fishing resources, all lakes are different. it is very hard to say what is causing the decline probably a variety of factors.

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Couldn't agree more. I remember in the early 80's when Mille Lacs was called home of the 1/4 lb'ers. If you would see an Eye then around 25 ". That was huge.

We need the micro management to continue. Where else can you go 2 hrs from the Twin Cities or in the World and catch Eyes like this!!!! Numbers and size almost for the entire season.

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Well, the pot will be stirred up again. Heard about the problems with the nets last week. I guess wait until the forage netting results come in. If forage is down, there might be too many big fish eating everything up, including little walleyes. The hatches the last few years have been really good, so hopefully it is just a year class or two that isn't showing up in the nets. But keep in mind those nets are set all over the lake and habitat variation isn't that significantly different.

The good news could be that the bite will be incredible if there isn't much for forage, but the bad news would be the long term consequences if such a circumstance was reality.

Fish populations can be really cyclical if you look at the last 30 years. We have had a couple years of amazing fishing, these were the good old days, so the lake might be turning the corner. Lake 'management' and a total allowable catch of fish shared with the Indian tribes can't stand up to the whims of mother nature. She above all truly controls the lake.

Stay tuned.

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The media is sure running with it. It's is the number one viewed story on Pioneer Press and Star Trib, and it was teased on Channel 11 for the 10:00 news a second ago.

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You can't compare fishing 25 years ago with fishing today. Things have changed with technology, and manageing lakes has become the only way to save some of them. All we can do is trust the system and enjoy the lake within the rules.

Kevin

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Quote:

We need the micro management to continue. Where else can you go 2 hrs from the Twin Cities or in the World and catch Eyes like this!!!! Numbers and size almost for the entire season.


Hmmmmm.....Pool 2, Pool 3, Pool 4 and you dont need to go more than 10 minutes.

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wish they would spend time on some of the other lakes in the area so they can see that millacs is not the only one hurting

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