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james_walleye

Baitfish problem.........?

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james_walleye

I pose this comment/question to my fellow anglers. I had fisheries biology classes in college...love to read about fishing and the biology of lakes. From what i understand about a lake system like Mille Lacs....its the younger walleyes that are hardest on baitfish population. The smaller walleyes in a system are much harder on young of the year perch/tullibees/emerald shiners...whatever the baitfish of choice may be. Take Lake Oahe in SD for instance...in order to help restore smelt populations the SD DNR is targeting smaller walleyes....thats what fish they want taken out of the system...thats what will help bring back the smelt. Stands to reason the same would be true with Mille Lacs. So my question is...if this info is all right...what good would it do to open up the slot so bigger fish would be taken? If these are not the fish that ravish baitfish populations...why remove them from the system? So many people are crying for the DNR to open up the slot because the lake is going to crash...they want to take out the big fish so the baitfish population rebounds. Seems to me this will NOT help the baitfish problem like many people think...if that is indeed what you are worried about. Seems to me the biology of a lake would dictate that smaller walleyes be taken. Now i fish Mille Lacs a few times a year. The 14-16" fish have always been hard to come by. I dont know why...i dont know if they feed in areas we dont hit as hard. But i do know the lake is loaded with 18-20"ers and within the last couple years they had to be 14-16"ers. We werent catching them for some reason like we were 19-20"ers...but going by what we are catching now they had to be there...and stands to reason they are there now too. They are the fish that are going to do more harm to bringing baitfish populations back then those 20-24"ers.
I'm beggining to wonder if people consciously or subconsciously are using this as a ploy to get the slot opened up so they have a better opportunity to keep more fish...or maybe to save their business. I think alot of people who are making this cry are doing so with no clue as to what would really help the lake recover. And then again i could be totally offbase...maybe i've read things wrong. Which is why i asked the question here. Can anyone tell me im way offbase here......?

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Nuclear Fishin

I don't think you're offbase on this issue. The primary problem is the lack of baitfish in the lake, not the amount of walleyes. The population of walleyes appears to be normal and healthy. The population of baitfish is not normal and not healthy. Does anybody out there know why the baitfish population crashed in the first place? If someone knows why or has an educated idea, maybe a discussion could occur as to possible solutions, one of which is to harvest more walleye.

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Walleye One

I think you're either on something or on to something. I think your theory is pretty good. I don't know if its right or not but I am more apt to believe a theory based off of biological research rather than the uneducated opinion of the typical weekend warrior flunky that whines about catching too many big fish and not being able to pack his already filled freezer with more walleyes.

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REA

Interesting theory, Oahe seems to be a valid comparison. I'll throw one more thing in: many (not most) of the "over the slot" fish are from 16 1/2 - 19 inches long, the same fish that were in the slot and harvested the last few years....Hmmm ? Maybe smaller Wallys have different feeding habits, maybe they are in good shape! Hope so!

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james_walleye

River or Lake it doesnt matter...the point is smaller walleyes in a system do more damage to baitfish than bigger walleyes..so yes Oahe is a fair comparison.

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Hoovey

I personally question the validity of biological studies when it comes to fish management. The fact that the "experts" have no clue as to what has happened to Mille Lacs leads me to believe they are as much in the dark as the average fisherman. Maybe there is another cause for the baitfish decline, but I do find it a huge coincidence that this is happening after increasing use of restrictive slot limits. I don't think most of the people raising the flag on the issue are doing so to fill their freezer. They are genuinely concerned about the fishery collapsing. I have fished Mille Lacs for 15 years, in addition to Oahe, Canada, and countless MN and WI lakes and the one thing I always noticed is the walleyes in Mille Lacs were hands down the heaviest per inch of all those places. So to pull up fish from Mille Lacs and to see them weigh up to 3 lbs less than what they should, concerns the hell out of me. As far as there being a great abundance of the smaller fish, that would contradict what the "experts" use to base the slot limits. I was under the understanding that they choose slot lengths based on population of that length in the lake. In order to prevent going over the alotted amount they choose a length that has a relatively low population in the lake. I would also agree with Grabs on the size range of the majority of the fish being caught. The Oahe situation doesn't seem to me to be a good comparison. Oahe has had a history of great fluctuation as far as fish populations, where Mille Lacs has been a more stable fishery. In fact Oahe has the opposite problem, all you catch is little walleyes where Mille Lacs it's the bigger fish are more prevelent. It's also hard to dismiss the River vs. Lake argument.

I guess my point is the slot limits should be considered as a possible contributor to the problem. Maybe it is due to something else, but to not question it would be irresponsible for sportsman. Just ask a MN duck hunter what a great job the "experts" have done for hunting in this state. I just hope 3 years from now the DNR won't be scratching there heads asking people to e-mail suggestions in as to how to restore a collasped fishery they way the are doing for the pitiful duck hunting in this state.

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james_walleye

Too my knowledge slot limits have always been put in place to protect spawning size fish and too increase the odds of more fish making it too "trophy" status. On Mille Lacs of course they play with the numbers more with the indian harvest in play. Look at the comeback Rainy Lake has had with the slot up there. People on Winni in the few years the slot has been in place there have noticed a great difference. Slots are a good thing. In general they make people put spawners back in the system that many people wouldnt put back. Unfortunately on Mille Lacs the slot is alot tighter than it would be if there was no indian netting and that is where this all stems from.

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Thomas

good thoughts - just a thought - if people really want to continue the fishery - why don't we feed the fish - like we do for deer?

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Grabs

REA, I don't know what side of the lake you are fishing, but on the South and West sides 95% of the fish I have caught both during the winter and the summer months have been between 20-25".

And Oahe is not a good comparison, it is a river under human control. The flow will either trap or allow bait fish to flow down stream. The bait fish in Mille Lacs don't have any where to go.

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Nuclear Fishin

The comparison's to Winnie and Oahe make sense, but does anyone know why the baitfish population on Mille Lacs bombed in the first place? All of the other large lakes in this state are absolutely loaded with baitfish, and don't seem to fluctuate too much as one species fills in for another. Mille Lacs walleyes are not doing well. They're skinny and hungry as heck.

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REA

GRABS - Oahe is a good comparison. He is not talking about the release of smelt through dams, he is talking about restoring baitfish populations.
Also, I fish mostly north 1/2 of the lake, sand & rocks. If you would like to catch smaller fish, they can be targeted and caught, move around, try something different.

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james_walleye

Found an interesting thread on another website if anyone wants to check it out. Check out the post from H20 i believe his screen name is. Hes the most respected and knowledgeable guides anywhere up and down the Mississippi River.

http://www.fishthelake.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=Mille&Number=3217&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1

Hope this link works for you.....

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