Winter slot limit allows walleyes up to 20 inches on Upper Red Lake
UPPER RED LAKE — Anglers again this winter will be able to keep larger walleyes on the Minnesota portion of Upper Red Lake after the annual harvest came in below the target cap.
That means anglers will be able to keep four walleyes up to 20 inches in length, with one walleye longer than 26 inches allowed in that four-fish limit. Before last winter, anglers on Upper Red had to release all walleyes from 17 to 26 inches, with one walleye longer than 26 inches allowed in their four-fish limit.
According to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, anglers kept about 153,000 pounds of walleyes from Dec. 1 through the end of July, based on results from a creel survey that continues through October. Fishing pressure and catch rates decline later in the summer, Drewes said, and the take for the harvest year likely won’t be higher than about 155,000 pounds.
The harvest year begins Dec. 1, and the annual target is 168,000 pounds.
Because catch rates in the spring are so high, Drewes said the limit will revert to a 17- to 26-inch protected slot from the mid-May walleye opener until June 15, when anglers again will be able to keep walleyes up to 20 inches.
“You can’t flex too much in the spring because catch rates are so explosive,” Drewes said. “In the winter, (harvest) spreads out a little more. Last December was the first with a more relaxed slot, and it just performed perfectly. Anglers were happy, businesses were happy, and we stayed within the target.”
Summer netting surveys again showed strong walleye abundance in Upper Red, Drewes said. Upper Red covers 108,000 acres, with 48,000 acres in Minnesota waters and the remainder in the Red Lake Indian Reservation. All of Lower Red Lake’s 152,000 acres are within reservation boundaries.
Drewes also reported that results from summer gillnetting surveys on Lake of the Woods are looking good. Drewes said walleye numbers appear to be slightly above average, with good abundance of 12- to 14½-inch saugers, a trend that bodes well for anglers this winter. Other large lakes in the DNR’s Northwest Region, including Cass and Leech, also had strong walleye abundance, Drewes said.