LAKE MILLE LACS, Minn. - Anglers can once again catch-and-release walleye on Lake Mille Lacs using live bait after an extended closure on one of Minnesota's premiere fishing lakes.
“This is a walleye lake,” said bait shop owner Kari Hough. “We have walleye people, and if we can’t fish walleye, they don’t come!”
Hough says his shop had more customers in the first 45 minutes they were open Friday morning than they’d had total the rest of the week.
“It's kind of nice to have customers again for buying bait,” Hough added.
Summer walleye season resumed Friday at 6 a.m. It will end on Monday, Sept. 4.
“After an extended mid-season closure, we look forward to reopening the lake to catch-and-release walleye fishing,” said Don Pereira, fisheries section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
DNR Fisheries officials say as of July 31, state anglers had harvested 47,899 pounds of walleye out of the state’s conservation cap of 55,800 pounds. Originally the DNR had planned on shutting down walleye fishing from July 7 to July 27, but added two weeks to the shutdown in order to not exceed harvest quotas and extend the walleye season through Labor Day.
Even the prospect of catch-and-release fishing only did not seem to put a damper on the excitement of those who’ve been waiting for the season to reopen.
“There’s plenty of lakes in Minnesota where you can go catch a walleye if you want to take one home,” said Tom Robinson as he launched his boat Friday. He added, “But I think there’s no better place to go out and have some fun and have a shot at a big fish than Mille Lacs right now, and that’s what we’re after this afternoon.”
A prohibition on night fishing remains in place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Nov. 30. Regulations do allow anglers to fish for muskie and northern pike at night, but they may only use artificial lures longer than 8 inches or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches. Bowfishing for rough fish also is allowed at night but possession of angling equipment is not allowed and only rough fish may be in possession.