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Walleye fishing at Mille Lacs closed due to high catch rates, fish mortality

Catch-and-release will end on Friday, Sept. 6 so anglers don't exceed what the DNR calls "a safe walleye harvest level."
Credit: stammphoto
Walleye (Credit: Thinkstock)

ISLE, Minn. — DNR officials have pulled the plug early on walleye fishing at Mille Lacs Lake, citing heavy fishing pressure and catch rates. 

Those catch rates in July and August when water temperatures are at their warmest resulted in high hooking mortality and a larger-than-expected walleye kill. As a result, walleye fishing will end on Friday, Sept. 6 so anglers don't exceed what the DNR calls "a safe walleye harvest level." The closure wraps up walleye fishing nearly three months early as summer season was due to end Nov. 30. 

Relaxed rules this spring allowed anglers to actually keep one walleye on Mille Lacs through the end of May. Starting in June the lake returned to a catch and release policy in an attempt to strengthen a walleye population the DNR says is struggling.

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“We’re glad anglers had the opportunity to harvest walleye in May and fish for walleye through much of the open water season,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons. “Because angling pressure and walleye catch rates were high, the coming closure is necessary to stay within established limits.”

Hooking mortality, which is more likely when water temperatures are warm, occurs when a fish is caught and returned to the water but dies anyway.

RELATED: Finally, some walleye kept at Lake Mille Lacs

RELATED: DNR: Anglers can keep 1 walleye on Mille Lacs this May

The state of Minnesota and Ojibwe tribal authorities with fishing rights on Mille Lacs agreed on a 2019 safe harvest level of 87,800 pounds for state anglers and 62,200 pounds for tribal fishing. 

Starting Sept. 6 at 12:01 a.m., anglers will not be able to target walleye when fishing on Mille Lacs Lake. Anglers may fish for other species and use live bait.

Walleye regulations for the winter of 2019-2020 on Mille Lacs Lake will be announced in November after fall walleye assessments are complete.