Mille Lacs Lake anglers in Minnesota have already reached the walleye harvest limit for 2016.
However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t plan to close the season.
The state’s walleye season is catch-and-release. The quota is based on estimates of “hooking mortality,” fish that die after being released.
“Based on the data we’ve seen so far this year, keeping the season open will have minimal additional impact on the walleye population,” says DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira. “The primary goal of the catch-and-release restriction is protecting young walleye, especially the robust 2013 year class. Current data show that only 1 percent of the 2013 fish have been impacted by hooking mortality, which is remarkably low.”
Officials set the 2016 walleye quota at 40,000 pounds. That number included 28,600 pounds for state-licensed anglers and 11,400 pounds for tribal fishing.
According to the DNR, state anglers had only caught 6,950 pounds of walleye by the end of June. The most recent harvest estimate reached 37,922 pounds for state-licensed anglers.
Warmer water temperatures, increased angler activity, and high catch rates contributed to the harvest numbers.
This was this first year that Minnesota set catch-and-release restrictions for walleye during the open-water season.
Mille Lac tribes altered their fishing methods this year in order to aid the survival of young walleye. Tribal anglers haven’t reached their limit yet this year.
“Since the impact of catch-and-release fishing on future spawners has been minimal, we are able to take socio-economic factors into consideration as well when making resource management decisions,” Pereira says. “Keeping the season open prevents significant economic loss in the Mille Lacs community. The DNR remains committed to managing the lake as a world-class fishery for the benefit of all users.”