MILLE LACS, Minn. — It's probably not enough for a fish fry, but it's something.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Monday that beginning Dec. 1, winter anglers fishing Mille Lacs Lake will be allowed to keep one walleye.
The 2020-2021 regulations say anglers will be allowed to keep one walleye between 21 and 23 inches, or one that is 28 inches or above. It's the third season in a row with the same specified slot, and the fifth winter in a row that anglers have been able to keep one fish.
“We want to provide anglers the opportunity to catch and keep some fish when the walleye population can support it,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries section manager. “As in recent winters, we’re confident that the walleye population is abundant enough to support some harvest.”
The DNR says Mille Lacs was an especially popular ice fishing destination during the winter of 2019-2020, in part due to poor ice conditions on other large Minnesota lakes. Anglers put in a record of more than 3 million fishing hours on the lake last winter, and a relatively healthy winter harvest factored in to the DNR's decision to only allow catch-and-release walleye fishing on Mille Lacs this summer.
Winter regulations are set after the DNR completes its annual fall netting assessment. The DNR’s 2020 assessment found that the walleye population has remained relatively stable over the past four years, having rebounded from population lows seen from 2012 to 2016. While encouraged by the rebound in walleye abundance, the DNR says it is taking a cautious approach to managing Mille Lacs’ walleye fishery. Survival of walleye to age 3 and older has been inconsistent in recent years.
Harvest from the winter of 2020-21 will be counted toward the state’s annual share of walleye from Mille Lacs under the 1837 treaty. State anglers share the yearly harvest with eight Ojibwe tribes that have fishing rights under the treaty.