Field reports: Tight walleye restrictions remain on Mille Lacs Lake
Anglers fishing on Mille Lacs Lake this year will be able to catch and keep only two walleyes daily and only if those fish are between 18 and 20 inches long.
As reported in the News Tribune last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the 2014 regulations on Tuesday, saying they are an effort to protect spawning-age fish as biologists continue to decipher what’s going wrong on the big central Minnesota lake where walleye numbers are at a 40-year low.
The daily and size regulations, the same as last year, will require anglers to release all walleyes shorter than 18 inches and longer than 20 inches, although they can keep one trophy fish 28 inches or longer as part of their daily, two-fish limit.
In addition, the DNR for the first time will ban night fishing on the lake for all but the first two days of the open-water season. All fishing will be banned on Mille Lacs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from May 12 to Dec. 1. The night ban previously ended in mid-June. Walleyes on the lake are considered more vulnerable at night, and the ban is one more way the state is trying to keep more walleyes in the lake. The night ban applies to all species.
In an effort to keep anglers visiting the lake and to support the lake’s tourism-based economy, the DNR is relaxing regulations for northern pike and smallmouth bass, both of which have healthy populations.
Starting May 10, anglers will be able to keep 10 northern pike daily, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. That’s up from the previous limit of three pike daily. Anglers also will be able to fish for northern pike for a longer period of time. The season, which previously ended in mid-February, will go to the last Sunday in March in 2015.
The DNR also is removing the ban on winter spearing for pike on Mille Lacs.
The smallmouth bass season also will be extended and limits relaxed. The bass season will start on May 10 and not end until February, and anglers can keep up to six bass daily for that entire period. Only one of those bass may be longer than 18 inches. The previous regulation allowed anglers to keep only six fish between 17 to 20 inches, with only one longer than 20 inches.
Changes considered for Kettle River SNA
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will conduct a public hearing on April 9 to gather comments on possibly allowing hunting, trapping, fishing and other activities at the Kettle River Scientific and Natural Area near Hinckley.
The hearing will be held from 6:30-7:30 p.m., or until all testimony is taken, at the Hinckley Community Room, 106 First St. SE in Hinckley. DNR officials will be on hand to take comments and answer questions.
Other changes being considered for the designation order establishing the current 801-acre Kettle River SNA would allow access by watercraft and berry picking, and dogs only when accompanied by or under the control of the owner.
Written comments also will be accepted, until April 16. Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (include Kettle River SNA in the subject line) or sent to SNA Hearing Officer, 1201 East Hwy. 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.