ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that anglers will be able to harvest walleye on Mille Lacs Lake for the fourth consecutive winter. Similar to last season, anglers will be allowed to keep walleye starting Sunday, Dec. 1, with a daily limit of one fish between 21-23 inches, or one over 28 inches.
Mille Lacs is expected to be a popular destination again this winter. Under similar harvest restrictions, anglers spent approximately two-million hours fishing on Mille Lacs during each of the last three winters.
“When the walleye population can support it, we want to provide anglers the opportunity to harvest some fish,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries section manager. “As in recent winters, we’re confident that the walleye population is healthy enough to support some harvest."
Parsons added that a harvest exceeding the 15,000 pounds taken last winter may impact open water harvest limits. Conservative fishing regulations in response to low walleye numbers in 2012-2016 have allowed the population to rebound enough to support limited harvest.
The survival of juvenile walleye has been inconsistent in recent years. The fish hatched six years ago — referred to as the 2013 year class — are now 17-21 inches long and continue to dominate the population, accounting for about 40 percent of the fish caught in fall test netting.
Numbers of walleye from the 2014 and 2015 year classes remain below the 15-year average. The 2016 year class appears close to average, while the 2017 year class, now between 12-14 inches in length, is above average in abundance. The size of the 2017 year class is significant because, since 2008, only the 2013 year class had been average or above.
“We are encouraged to see additional year classes that will contribute to the fishery in the future,” Parsons said. “Having multiple year classes approaching maturity makes us more comfortable with starting to harvest some of the 2013 year-class under this winter’s regulation.”
Complete winter fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake are available at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.