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DNR, tribes green light Mille Lacs walleye ice fishing season

State and tribal biologists reached an agreement on how many pounds of walleye can be harvested by Mille Lacs Lake anglers over the winter season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in a release.

State and tribal biologists reached an agreement on how many pounds of walleye can be harvested by Mille Lacs Lake anglers over the winter season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in a release.

At a meeting Oct. 15, DNR and tribal biologists agreed to set the winter harvest cap for state anglers at 5,000 pounds or less, the release said.

The total walleye harvest last winter was 3,100 pounds.

The DNR and the Chippewa bands were able to reach the 5,000-pound number because September fish assessment data show that pounds of spawning-age walleye and numbers of walleye from the 2013 year class were above established benchmarks, the release said.

"This decision allows anglers and businesses to look forward to some harvest opportunity during the upcoming winter angling season that begins Dec. 1," Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief, said in the release. "We'll announce a final decision about the details of the ice fishing season by the last week of October, following an Oct. 21 meeting with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee."

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In preparation for that meeting, DNR biologists will evaluate the potential effects of various fishing regulation alternatives for discussion with the committee. Results of those analyses and input from the advisory committee will then be considered in making the final decision for this winter's fishing regulations.

Since 2008, not enough young walleye have been surviving to maturity and replenishing the Mille Lacs Lake population, and walleye numbers are currently at a 30-year low. In response, the state instituted more restrictive walleye regulations earlier this year in order to protect young walleyes so they could grow older, including closing the lake to walleye fishing in August.

Following the closure, the DNR announced that it had taken steps aimed at improving the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population, while building a closer working relationship with the Mille Lacs community. Technical work is underway to determine if experimental fry stocking is feasible.

"Even after encouraging fall fisheries assessment data, there is still a need to protect spawning-sized walleye, as well as the young fish that we need to survive into adulthood, to allow the walleye population to continue to improve," Pereira said.

Related Topics: TOURISMFISHING
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