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... Minnesota DNR News

For Immediate Release:

March 21, 2017

Contact: Don Pereira,
fisheries chief

Editor's Note: DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Fisheries Chief Don Pereira will be available to answer media questions at an 11 a.m. conference call. Dial 888-742-5095, conference code 226 318 6835. Contact Information Officer Steve Carroll at 651-259-5342 for on-camera interviews, available from 12:30 - 1 p.m. in the entry level of DNR Headquarters at 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.

Catch-and-release summer walleye season announced for Mille Lacs Lake 21-day walleye closure in July expected to help extend fishing season through Labor Day

Catch-and-release only regulations needed to rebuild Mille Lacs Lake's walleye population will again be in effect when anglers hit the water on Saturday, May 13. The 2017 walleye season on Mille Lacs is scheduled to run through Monday, Sept. 4.

"Our goal is to have the longest fishing season possible while ensuring the conservation of the lake's future walleye spawning stock," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "We understand catch and release is a difficult option for anglers who enjoy a fish meal, but we are using everything in our management toolbox to ensure a heathy and plentiful walleye population for future fishing seasons."

In addition to the catch-and-release regulation, and to help keep the walleye season open on Mille Lacs through Labor Day, the lake will have a 21-day walleye fishing closure from Friday, July 7 to July 27. During that 21-day period, anglers can fish for all other species in Mille Lacs Lake including bass, muskies and northerns but only with artificial bait and lures.

An exception exists for anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge only, and who don't possess walleye gear. Those anglers may possess and use live sucker minnows longer than 8 inches when fishing.

The decision to have a 21-day closure period during the walleye season was made after a successful winter season on Mille Lacs drove walleye harvest higher than expected.

"Ice anglers fished more on Mille Lacs in 2017 and caught more and larger walleye than expected," said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. "As a result, ice fishing this winter accounted for about one-third of the total amount of walleye state anglers can harvest from Mille Lacs in 2017."

Regulation decisions also were aided by several meetings and consultations with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee. Topics discussed between DNR staff and committee members included catch-and-release only restrictions, season dates, live bait restrictions, and the reason and timing of a temporary summer closure.

"The plan is for this closure to coincide with the hottest part of the summer when released fish are vulnerable to stress," Pereira explained. "Warm water combined with July's higher fishing pressure means that more fish die - even those that are caught and returned to the water."

The tendency for caught fish to die after being released is called hooking mortality, which increases as water temperatures warm. During the last two weeks of July 2016 alone, hooking mortality accounted for more than half of the state's walleye harvest allocation for the entire open water season.

"These measures will extend the Mille Lacs walleye season as long as possible this summer and protect the younger walleye the lake needs to rebuild its population," Pereira said.

The state's 2017 walleye allocation is 44,800 pounds. However, during discussions, state and Ojibwe tribal leadership established that the 2017 walleye season will remain open through 12:01 a.m., Sept. 5, provided the state harvest doesn't exceed a conservation cap of 55,800.

Additionally, state and tribal leadership agreed to return to an overage system, through which each party will be required to deduct any harvest above its allocation from a future year's allocation.

"Our next milestone for success is to observe another abundant year class of walleye," Pereira said. "We need more than one year when a lot of walleye hatch. What we need to see is large numbers of walleyes surviving beyond the first year to add more spawning fish to the population. We've not seen that yet."

Pereira said the DNR is committed to maintaining the Mille Lacs area as a premier fishing destination. He said the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of its data-collecting methods in order to ensure the most accurate information possible is being used. For example, Michigan State University fisheries experts are now reviewing the agency's creel survey methods.

Mille Lacs continues to make headlines for its nationally recognized smallmouth bass and muskie fisheries. For example, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship is returning to Mille Lacs this fall for the second consecutive year. Last year, some of the nation's top competitive anglers referred to the lake as a "world-class smallmouth bass factory."

In addition to fishing, Mille Lacs offers numerous recreational activities including: boating, waterskiing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and public beaches.

"Mille Lacs is a premier tourism destination with diverse fishing and a whole lot more," said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism arm. "The area additionally offers lots of ways outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the area"s natural beauty on hiking, biking and ATV trails, watching wildlife, golfing or visiting a Minnesota state park."

In June 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a supplemental budget bill which included $3.6 million for local grants and loans in Mille Lacs County and $300,000 for the Mille Lacs Tourism Council to bolster area tourism marketing efforts.

More information about Mille Lacs, ongoing DNR management and research, and area recreation opportunities is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

... Walleye

Northern pike
Northern pike will provide anglers and darkhouse spearers with additional opportunity to harvest fish this winter. Like last winter, a less restrictive winter regulation will replace the current open water regulation and allow ice anglers and spearers to keep up to five fish with one longer than 30 inches. Anglers and spearers may only keep a northern longer than 30 inches if they have caught or speared two pike shorter than 30 inches and have both in immediate possession. The pike regulation goes into effect on Dec. 1. It continues through Sunday, March 26, 2017, for angling and Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 for spearing.


... (10-14) We just returned from our "tackle show", where we get to preview some of the new products from a lot of different outdoor manufacturers. There were a bunch of summer offerings and some pretty good looking winter items too. Even though we didn't know the future of our winter season on MIlle Lacs or the 2017 open-water season for that matter, we jumped on anything that looked like it would catch fish here. We couldn't just sit back and wait to see what the DNR and the Band come up with for the future of Mille Lacs... the Lundeens decided to move forward with or without 'em. On that note we added some promising-looking walleye stuff, and we doubled the smallmouth section too!

...The newest data (reflecting the "hooking mortality" for the period of August 1 through August 15) from the DNR is out. You can check the information here http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/millelacslake/creel.html



... (1-24-14) Over the past few years, the availability of shiners in Minnesota has become more than a challenge. The statewide supply would fall short of satisfying the Mille Lacs area, let alone the rest of the State. In the past we've asked anglers to contact their Representatives and Senators to tell them that their favorite bait shop (and their alternate bait shops) cannot get them the shiners they want/need. Thank you to all who participated. The response from the State is commonly that "our borders are closed to any aquatic import". Folks, we as an industry have access to certified "disease-free" shiners that could be in your favorite bait shop by next weekend. The DNR is sick of hearing from the bait wholesalers and bait shops - if anglers want to have a stable supply of shiners beyond the first month of the season it's going to take some calls and emails. Again, start with your local Representative and Senator ALSO BE SURE TO COPY COMMISSIONER LANDWEHR at info.dnr@state.mn.us , commissioner.dnr@state.mn.us or call his office at Phone: (651) 296-6157. They can transfer you or you can request a call back. Maybe if we all start at the top this time our/your voices won't get filtered out by some well-meaning "screener" at the DNR. Remember... all of these people work for YOU/US!

...We are once again signing up people for the "Weekend Outlook." For those of you who aren't familiar with the "Outlook", listen up - Every Thursday during the peak of the season, we will send you an e-mail with the up-coming weekend's fishing forecast, weather conditions, moon phase and anything else that we feel may be of value or interest. To sign up, just click on the yellow box above and we'll include you in our mailing. If you don't receive the Weekend Outlook by the Friday after you sign up, your server may be blocking/filtering the mailing.




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