Mille Lacs Lake regulations changed to boost walleye population

March 25, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Regulations that will limit the harvest of walleye and potentially increase the harvest of northern pike and smallmouth bass will be implemented on Mille Lacs Lake this spring as part of a multi-year effort to rebuild the lake’s legendary walleye population, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

When the walleye season opens May 11, anglers will be able to keep walleye only between 18- and 20-inches or longer than 28 inches.

All others must be immediately released.

The possession limit is two, with only one longer than 28 inches.

Last year, anglers could not keep walleye 17- to 28-inches in length.

They could keep up for four walleye shorter than 17 inches, with one longer than 28 inches allowed.

“We want Mille Lacs to continue to be a world-class walleye fishing destination,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR fisheries chief.

“Currently, the size and structure of the walleye population isn’t where we want it. We are committed to remedying the situation as quickly as possible through regulations that are designed to increase survival of the lake’s younger and smaller walleye.”

The agency is particularly interested in conserving the lake’s large 2008 year-class of walleye because no strong year-class is coming up behind these fish despite ample spawning stock and good hatches of young fish.

Fish in this year-class are 15- to 17-inches in length.

In addition to new walleye regulations, the lake’s 27- to 40-inch protected slot regulation for northern pike will be narrowed to a 33- to 40-inch protected slot, with only one pike longer than 40 inches. The possession limit is three.

Similarly, the smallmouth bass bag limit and slot limit will be broadened to allow for more harvest.

The new regulation is a 17- to 20-inch protected slot.

The possession limit is six, with only one longer than 20 inches in possession.

Previously, all smallmouth bass less than 21 inches had to be immediately released and the possession limit was one.

“The smallmouth bass and northern pike regulations are designed to protect smaller walleye until we have better information on what these predator species are eating,” said Peterson. “We’ll be starting a predator diet study this spring. Meanwhile, the regulations will allow anglers some additional non-walleye harvest opportunities while also retaining solid numbers of trophy-sized fish.”

The new regulations aim to keep the total walleye kill below the combined state-tribal 2013 safe harvest level of 250,000 pounds.

Fishing regulations may be adjusted if angler kill is expected to be either too high or lower than the anticipated.

This year’s safe harvest level is the lowest established since treaty management began in 1997.

Tom Jones, Mille Lacs Lake coordinator, said the agency modeled 33 different walleye regulations before determining the 18- to 20-inch harvest slot regulation was the best option for this angling season.

“It protects males from the 2008 walleye year-class, it meets the goal of being small fish friendly, it allows anglers to keep a meal of fish, and given normal fishing conditions it should keep harvest within the state’s allocation.”

The DNR discussed a variety of potential regulations with the Mille Lacs Lake public input group during a Feb. 27 meeting and solicited email comments from the general public.

Jones said a 2-inch walleye harvest slot is not unprecedented on Mille Lacs, having been implemented in 2001, 2002 and 2007.

He added the state’s walleye harvest has been below this year’s allocation level of 178,500 pounds four of the last 10 years and in 2005 the harvest was below 200,000 pounds.

The fundamental concern for fish managers is that not enough walleye are becoming big walleye because of increased mortality rates.

A secondary concern is that mature male walleye numbers have decreased.

The lake is also becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable.

This is due largely to changes in the aquatic community, including the presence of unwanted aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussel, spiny water flea and Eurasian watermilfoil.

These factors, plus a state and tribal harvest management strategy that focused largely on walleyes in the 14- to 18-inch range, all have contributed to a declining walleye population.

Jones said despite the declining walleye population, winter walleye fishing was good, which typically suggests good fishing in spring, too.

For more information about Mille Lacs Lake fisheries management, go to www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

LP Sportsmen’s Club opens soon for trapshooting

Weather permitting, the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will open the trapshooting season with practice shooting Wednesday, April 10. The league season then begins Wednesday, April 17.

For more information, call (320) 395-2258.

Firearm’s safety training at LP Sportsmen’s Club

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be having DNR-certified firearm’s safety training in April, starting Tuesday, April 2.

Registration for the class will be April 2 starting at 6:30 p.m., with the first class to start that same evening.

Classes will continue Thursday, April 4, and will run every Tuesday and Thursday night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. through April, ending Thursday, May 2.

Wright County PF chapter to host annual banquet March 25

The Wright County Pheasants Forever chapter will host its 28th annual banquet at the Buffalo Civic Center Monday, March 25 starting at 5:30 p.m.

The chapter has been active since 1984 and has contributed over $1 million to conservation and education projects within Wright County and Minnesota.

The banquet, this year, will include a silent auction, live auction, assorted raffles, and games for all ages.

According to Chapter President Brandon Murphy, “We have great prizes and auction items this year, including a three-day/four-night pheasant hunt in South Dakota.

“More importantly, all of the funds raised at the banquet will be put to good use promoting conservation and education within Wright County and across Minnesota.”

If you would like more information about attending the banquet or providing a sponsorship, contact Bruce Bartl at (76) 682-0653 or visit the website at www.wrightcountypf.org or via facebook at www.facebook.com/wright county pheasants forever chapter #95.

MN permit to carry a handgun classes at Waverly Gub Club

The Waverly Gun Club will be hosting a Minnesota permit to carry a hangun classes (concealed carry) Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27 from 6 to 10 p.m.

For more information, contact Harry at (763) 682-1551 or e-mail him at mn.dot1@hotmail.com.

US Fish and Wildlife service to host Habitat Day April 13 in Litchfield

The Litchfield Wetland Management District (District) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will host “Habitat Day 2013” Saturday, April 13, from noon to 4:00 p.m. in Litchfield.

The event has a variety of offerings to those of all ages interested in wildlife and habitat of our area. The event is free-of-charge.

Spring is just around the corner and it won’t be long before wood ducks and bluebirds return to the area in search of nesting sites.

If you have good habitat areas for placing nest boxes for these species, free, pre-cut bird house kits will be available for assembly on site (one of each per family).

Robin nesting shelves, wren houses, and new this year, bird feeders will also be available while supplies last.

All necessary tools to assemble the houses will be provided.

USFWS staff and volunteers will be on hand to assist with construction.

Information will be provided on wood ducks and bluebirds and how best to place the nesting houses.

Design plans will be available to build these houses or feeders on your own.

Come build a house anytime between noon and 4 p.m.

Staff from the University of Minnesota, Raptor Center, St. Paul, MN will be on hand once again with live birds, including a bald eagle.

Meet some of Minnesota’s raptors or birds of prey in person and learn how their role in the environment is important to us all.

An hour-long program will start at 1:00 p.m.

Raptor Center education specialists will be available after the program to answer questions about the birds, with the birds available for viewing.

Coloring books, posters and an assortment of wildlife related materials and displays for kids “of all ages” will be available throughout the afternoon including a staff demonstration of prairie seed cleaning via use of a fanning mill.

Special guests at the event include the Wildlife Wizard who will quiz children and adults on wildlife and habitat of the area as well as the Crow River Organization of Water who will have a staffed booth.

No reservations are necessary but if you would like further information contact us by phone at (320) 693-2849 or by e-mail at litchfieldwetland@fws.gov.

Deadline nears for seasonal and monthly camping reservations at MN state parks
From the DNR

The deadline is approaching to reserve a campsite for seasonal or monthly camping at Minnesota state parks.

Reservations are due Friday, April 5, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

At a limited number of state park campsites, visitors can stay for a whole month or a full season (May 3 - Sept. 1 at most parks, May 24 - Sept. 1 at Kilen Woods State Park).

For pricing and other park-specific information, or to submit a request to reserve a site, people should check the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov.

If demand exceeds availability at a particular park, a lottery will be conducted Monday, April 8, and the park will notify applicants whether or not they were selected.

If sites are available after this date, they will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

No preference will be given to monthly or seasonal campers from prior years.

For monthly campsite reservations, the entire monthly fee is due Friday, April 19.

For seasonal campsite reservations, a one-month down payment is due April 19, and the remainder of the seasonal fee is due when visitors arrive to check-in.

If a lottery is not necessary and sites are available after April 8, the monthly fee must be paid at the time of reservation to hold the site.

Have a hunting or fishing license? Get a special rate on Twins tickets
From the DNR

Kids and adults who have a 2013 Minnesota hunting or fishing license can buy discounted tickets online to six Minnesota Twins baseball games and receive a free regulation blaze orange Twins logo baseball cap as part of a special promotion with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Hunting, fishing and the Twins are all big parts of Minnesota’s culture,” said Jenifer Wical, DNR customer enhancement manager. “This is a great deal for those who love the outdoors and outdoors baseball.”

The special rate starts with the April 13 home game against the New York Mets at 3:10 p.m.

It also includes home games on April 27-28 against the Texas Rangers, Aug. 3 against the Houston Astros, Aug. 18 against the Chicago White Sox and Sept. 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Discounted ticket prices range from $12 to $20, depending on the game.

“The DNR is able to provide an additional value to its first-time or long-time license buyers,” said Phil McMullen, Twins ticket sales executive. “For us, it’s a way to express our appreciation for those who have contributed to fish and wildlife conservation through their license purchase.”

Those who want to buy discount tickets should go to www.mndnr.gov/twins and enter the transaction number, which is printed on the license.

A limited number of tickets are available for each game and will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

The offer is available online only.

Minnesota 2013 fishing and hunting licenses can be purchased and printed online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• Conservation Officer Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies worked on fish houses left on lakes along with checking snowmobiles.
CO Mies also worked on tip calls.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) finished up Field Training with COC Silgjord.
COC Silgjord and CO Reller attended Firearms Safety classes in Buffalo and Waverly.
A litter case was followed up and a TIP call of over limit was investigated.
CO Reller also prepared for assisting with waterfowl enforcement training.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) attended the youth wood duck house building event in Hollywood Township where the kids built 200 wood duck houses and had lots of fun with laser shot, archery and many other programs.
A firearms safety presentation was given at the Watertown Rod & Gun club.
Ducks, guns and other waterfowl related equipment were gathered for the upcoming waterfowl school for new Conservation Officers.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Metro Water Resource Enforcement Officer) provided security for the Minnesota Environmental Congress held in Bloomington.
She also followed up with a fish house owner in regards to his ice house still on the ice after the deadline.
Other phone calls were also handled.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) continued an investigation regarding a possible over limit of fish.
CO Mueller also assisted CO Oberg with a taxidermy inspection.
CO Mueller attended training at the BCA in St. Paul.
CO Mueller also spoke at the Buffalo Lake Rod and Gun Club annual meeting in Buffalo Lake.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent time working commercial enforcement activity.
CO Oberg checked anglers and patrolled snowmobile trails.
CO Oberg also spoke at a wild turkey clinic at Gopher Campfire.