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DNR issues open water regulations to protect Mille Lacs walleye

Walleye angling on Mille Lacs Lake will be catch-and-release only for this year’s open water season, with the exception of the month of July, when walleye fishing will be closed.

Additionally, anglers will not be allowed to use live bait for any species in July, except sucker minnows greater than 8 inches in length for targeting northern pike and muskellunge.

The new walleye rule is among several regulations changes this year. Bass and northern pike also have new regulations.

The restrictive walleye rule for the open water season is due in part to a record ice fishing season on Mille Lacs this winter.

Poor ice conditions on other lakes focused attention on Mille Lacs, resulting in the highest fishing pressure there in 30 years: almost 30,000 pounds of harvest. This leaves only 57,800 pounds available for the state’s open water season under the safe harvest level established for 2020 by the state and the eight Chippewa bands that have treaty fishing rights.

“We know any summer walleye closure is disappointing, but anglers have told us they prefer a planned temporary closure in July to an unplanned one later in the season,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The addition of the live bait ban allows for the shortest closure to ensure we remain within the set allocation and support the long-term interest of the walleye fishery.”

Walleye are particularly vulnerable in July because, as water temperature increases, so too does “hooking mortality”—the tendency for fish to die after being caught and released. By implementing fishing restrictions when walleye are most vulnerable, and reducing angler take, anglers could potentially gain two months or more of late-summer and fall fishing.

Walleye season opens on Saturday, May 9, and continues through Monday, Nov. 30.

Other regulations
Mille Lacs also is a destination for quality bass, northern pike, and muskellunge fishing.

During the July live bait ban, anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge can use sucker minnows greater than 8 inches in length.

New regulations to maintain and improve fishing for bass and northern pike include:

Immediate release of all smallmouth and largemouth bass greater than 17 inches during the harvest season that begins Saturday, May 23.
Limit of three largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Release all northern pike greater than 30 inches.
Limit of three northern pike from Saturday, May 9, through Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
The DNR heard good support for these bass and pike changes.

“People who come to Mille Lacs for smallmouth and northern pike are hoping to catch a real trophy,” Parsons said.

More information about fishing regulations on Mille Lacs Lake, ongoing DNR management and research, and Mille Lacs-area recreation opportunities is available on the DNR website.