Minnesota's famed Lake Mille Lacs will see walleye anglers catching keepers and, well, keeping them.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced that walleye harvesting will be allowed during this year's open water fishing season on Lake Mille Lacs. It marks the first time walleyes from the water body can be lawfully kept since 2015.
The Minnesota DNR says a much-improved Mille Lacs walleye population, thanks due in large part to conservative fishing regulations, has led to the decision.
Anglers catching fish on Mille Lacs can keep one walleye between 21 and 23 inches, or one walleye over 28 inches, during the 20-day season from Saturday, May 11, through Friday, May 31.
Hopes of a continually improving walleye population remain high, and this positive trajectory is encouraging.
"It's good news that anglers get to keep some walleye this May, but we are being cautious," said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief, in the press release. "These regulations represent a careful balance between expanding fishing opportunities and conserving the fishery for the future."
A walleye harvest was always the main goal for the Department, who listed these as recent challenges that Mille Lacs Lake has faced: increased water clarity and decreased walleye productivity; the introduction of zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and spiny water fleas; a changing zooplankton community that may be altering the aquatic food web; and declines in certain forage species, including tullibee.
That's a Murder's Row of problems for a fishery, and now that the 2013 year class of Mille Lacs walleye are showing signs of positive reproduction, it's a natural progression. Young fish are making it through the vulnerable part of their life, meaning harvest opportunities are a reasonable part of 2019's walleye regulations.
Still, the DNR is anticipating heavy pressure from the large number of anglers that will hit the water for those 20 days in May. Since both harvested fish and those that die during the catch and release process count against the state's walleye harvest allocation.
Much like years past, a night closure for the 2019 walleye fishing season will be in effect on Mille Lacs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning Monday, May 13 and in effect throughout the entire open-water season, which ends Nov. 30.
Catch-and-release fishing for walleye begins immediately following the open-water season on Saturday, June 1.
These new Mille Lacs walleye regulations are reason for excitement in anticipation of the upcoming season for state anglers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.