Walleyes are one of the most prized fish in Minnesota lakes. Mille Lacs Lake is traditionally one of the most productive lakes in which angler and tribal netters have been taking the much sought after fish.
However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has slammed on the brakes for the number of walleye that will be netted and hooked in this most notorious fish factory. In fact, the DNR has filleted the catch by half — some 500,000 pounds of walleyes were netted or angled from the big lake in 2012. In 2013, only 250,000 pounds of walleye may be harvested.
In a story that appeared in the StarTribune early last week, it was reported that anglers landed 310,000 pounds of the walleyed pike. However, 136,000 pounds of walleye died from being hooked and released.
That’s nearly a third of the prized walleyes that were caught and released because they did not meet the slot requirements ended up on the shores of Mille Lacs.
Granted, the 2012 season was one of the warmest summers on record, causing warmer than normal water temperatures on the big lake which caused lower than normal oxygen levels and a larger fish kill. The maximum depth of the lake is 42 feet. Depths of 20 to 38 feet are average on Minnesota’s second largest inland lake.
Whether the lower numbers of walleyes is due to catch and release (over handling of the prized fish) or higher water temperatures the result is the same: lower catch limits.
Is Mille Lacs a lake that should eliminate the slot limitations? If fish are being mishandled and returned to the lake only to die, is a slot limit counterproductive?
Granted, there are other problems that may have contributed to the declining walleye population, such as the invasive zebra mussel which consumes most of the food walleyes and other sport fish need for growth and reproduction.
Those folks that fish, live and make a livelihood from the big lake — let’s hear your opinion.