ST. PAUL, Minn. - Anglers will be allowed to keep fewer walleyes when they fish Mille Lacs Lake this year.
Mille Lacs anglers will be able to keep walleyes only between 18 and 20 inches, or longer than 28. All others must be released. The limit is two, with only one longer than 28 inches.
Last year, anglers could not keep walleye 17- to 28-inches in length. They could keep up for four walleye shorter than 17 inches, with one longer than 28 inches allowed.
"We want Mille Lacs to continue to be a world-class walleye fishing destination," said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries chief. "Currently, the size and structure of the walleye population isn't where we want it. We are committed to remedying the situation as quickly as possible through regulations that are designed to increase survival of the lake's younger and smaller walleye."
The DNR is particularly interested in conserving the lake's large 2008 year-class of walleye because no strong year-class is coming up behind these fish despite ample spawning stock and good hatches of young fish. Fish in this year-class are 15- to 17-inches in length.
On a positive note for anglers, the state is loosening regulations for northern pike and smallmouth bass on Mille Lacs.
The lake's protected slot for northerns will be narrowed to a 33 to 40 inches, with only one longer than 40. The limit remains three. The smalllmouth limit has been raised from one to six. The new protected slot is 17 to 20 inches, with only one longer than 20 inches.
"The smallmouth bass and northern pike regulations are designed to protect smaller walleye until we have better information on what these predator species are eating," said Peterson. "We'll be starting a predator diet study this spring. Meanwhile, the regulations will allow anglers some additional non-walleye harvest opportunities while also retaining solid numbers of trophy-sized fish."
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