Anglers fishing during the 2022 open-water season that starts May 14 on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota will have a four-walleye possession limit, with only one walleye longer than 20 inches allowed, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Although angler activity was once again high last winter, harvest was modest at 134,000 pounds of walleye. Early winter fishing was very good, but heavy snow reduced anglers’ mobility and harvest in the later months.
Fall netting is used to assess the status of the walleye population and directly informs the pounds of walleye that can be sustainably harvested throughout the year — 2021 surveys found a robust population of walleye. The four-walleye possession limit, with one over 20-inch size restriction, is intended to keep total annual harvest within the target harvest range of 240,000 to 336,000 pounds. The 2021 open water regulation was a three-walleye limit with one over 17 inches allowed.
“We are happy that anglers will have the opportunity to harvest a few more and larger fish this summer,” said Edie Evarts, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor. “This is due to a combination of lower winter harvest and a desire to manage spawning stock at a level that stimulates recruitment of strong year classes.”
The Red Lake Nation and the Minnesota DNR manage walleye harvest on Red Lake under a joint harvest plan that the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee revised in 2015.
The 2022-2023 winter harvest regulations will be determined after the summer fishing season and the completion of fall assessment netting.
An Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee reviews walleye harvest totals and regulation options and provides recommendations for the state waters of Upper Red Lake.
Conservation success story
Red Lake is a naturally productive walleye fishery but over harvest caused the walleye population to collapse in the 1990s.
In 1999, the DNR, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed to a short-term stocking effort coupled with a harvest closure and aggressive enforcement. In 2006, the harvest fishery was reopened and has been managed successfully since that time. Upper Red Lake has become a top Minnesota fishing destination in summer and winter.
“We said it years ago and it’s worth repeating — Red Lake walleye fishing today represents a phenomenal conservation success story,” said Brad Parsons, Minnesota DNR’s Fisheries section chief. “We have many year classes of mature fish and consistent natural reproduction which enables us to manage this fishery for great fishing now and into the future.” Upper Red Lake fishing regulations are available on the Minnesota DNR fishing regulations page (mndnr.gov/Fishing/Upper-Red-Lake-Regulations.html).