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DNR to close Mille Lacs walleye fishing season next month

ONAMIA--The state will close the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs Lake Sept. 6 after exceeding a harvest limit, DNR Fisheries chief Don Pereira said Tuesday.

A closeup of a walleye
As of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, the lake’s catch-and-release-only walleye season will close. Fishing for other species remains open. The closure will remain in effect through Wednesday, Nov. 30. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration
BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration.

ONAMIA-The state will close the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs Lake Sept. 6 after exceeding a harvest limit, DNR Fisheries chief Don Pereira said Tuesday.

The announcement came at the beginning of a Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee meeting at Izaty's Resort in Onamia. The committee met for the first time Tuesday since the state earlier decided to keep the walleye season going after anglers went over the kill limit in July.

Operating under directions from Gov. Mark Dayton, the Department of Natural Resources continued the season although state anglers exceeded the limit established through negotiations with American Indian tribes that have fishing rights on the lake. A similar overage last year prompted the state to end the season early in August.

A statement from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe called the decision to keep the season going "reckless" and said "all options are on the table" when it came to their response.

Latest creel survey data indicated 45,276 pounds killed so far this year as of Aug. 15, well over the state's 28,600 pound allocation. The open water season was catch and release in order to conserve walleye, but anglers exceeded the limit anyway via "hooking mortality" or the inadvertent killing of fish through hooking and handling them.

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Pereira said said the formal announcement of the closure would come Wednesday.

"I know this is difficult news," Pereira said.

Tina Chapman of Chapman's Mille Lacs Resort & Guide Service said the advisory committee should have been informed prior to the DNR's announcement.

"You can't drop a bomb on us like that and expect us to react," Chapman said.

A statement from Dayton via his office said he had opted to close the season following tribal concerns and considering the decreased impact on Mille Lacs businesses after Labor Day.

"Closing the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs earlier this month would have devastated area businesses and communities," Dayton said. "Thanks to the strong 2013 class of young walleye, we were able to keep the walleye season open on Mille Lacs without negatively impacting the health and future of the walleye fishery. I thank the Chippewa bands for their commitment to restoring the health of Mille Lacs and its walleyes."

Dayton encouraged anglers to fish for other species like bass on Mille Lacs.

Related Topics: FISHINGTOURISM
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