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DNR relaxes walleye harvest slot on Mille Lacs Lake

Anglers will be able to harvest one walleye 20-23 inches or one longer than 26 inches, with fishing allowed from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Angler holds a walleye close up to the camera
In this file photo, a Minnesota angler holds a walleye before releasing it on Mille Lacs Lake.
Forum News Service file photo
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ST. PAUL — Mille Lacs Lake walleye anglers will see a relaxed harvest slot for walleye fishing beginning Thursday, Sept. 1.

As announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in March of this year, the one-fish walleye limit will resume on Mille Lacs Lake on Sept. 1. In an expansion of the harvest slot, anglers will be able to harvest one walleye 20-23 inches or one longer than 26 inches, with fishing allowed 6 a.m. to midnight. The original walleye harvest slot for fall fishing on Mille Lacs this year was one fish 21-23 inches or one longer than 28 inches.

“Given the current size structure of Mille Lacs’ walleye population, this regulation change will meaningfully increase the amount of walleye available for anglers to harvest,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in a news release. “Catch rates may not improve this season, but there will be a better chance to keep a fish.”

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The recent lower catch rate of walleye in Mille Lacs Lake is less a reflection of the number of walleye in the lake than it is how hungry those fish are, the DNR stated. The number of walleye longer than 14 inches has been similar each year from 2020 to 2022. But an abundance of yellow perch from a strong 2020 year class has created more natural food for walleye, which consequently are not as willing to bite on anglers’ baits.

Each year, the state and the eight Ojibwe bands with treaty fishing rights on Mille Lacs Lake establish a safe harvest level for walleye. That total is split between the state and bands.

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The DNR sets regulations to keep the harvest within the state’s share based on projections using recent data. If actual conditions differ substantially from the projections, the number of walleye taken can be lower or higher than expected.

“We’re seeing that this year,” Parsons said. “With actual state angler catch rates and harvest significantly lower than expected, we’re adjusting the regulation to provide more opportunity without significant risk to the long-term sustainability of Mille Lacs’ walleye population.”

Regulations for all other species remain unchanged. Walleye regulations for the winter season, which begins Thursday, Dec. 1, will be announced in November.

Information explaining DNR fisheries management and research, citizen engagement and Mille Lacs area recreation opportunities is available at mndnr.gov/MilleLacsLake .

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