Anglers enjoying robust start on Mille Lacs
You probably have heard walleye fishing has been pretty good on Lake Mille Lacs this spring and early summer. It is not just anglers bragging. This spring's angler surveys show walleye fishing is the best it has been in years on the big lake in n...
You probably have heard walleye fishing has been pretty good on Lake Mille Lacs this spring and early summer.
It is not just anglers bragging. This spring's angler surveys show walleye fishing is the best it has been in years on the big lake in north-central Minnesota.
The Department of Natural Resources calculates the walleye catch rate by dividing the estimated number of walleyes caught by the number of "angler hours" that anglers put in on a lake.
As of June 15, the catch rate was 0.4 walleyes an hour, which doesn't seem impressive.
"Some guys might look at that number and say, 'Ah, we caught our limit in three hours; that can't be right,'" said Tom Jones, the DNR's large-lake specialist who studies Mille Lacs' walleyes. "But when you calculate that is for all anglers, even the unskilled ones, it's pretty impressive."
In comparison, spring 2009's catch rate was 0.22 fish an hour, "meaning this year's catch rate is about twice as good," Jones said.
Here's a more impressive number: Last year, anglers kept 141,000 pounds of walleye during the entire open-water season. This year, they already have caught and kept 132,000 pounds.
Jones said anglers are catching and keeping more fish that are under the 18- to 28-inch protective slot limit. He said the better fishing is the result of few small prey fish for walleyes to feed on, making them hungrier for anglers' offerings. There is also a greater abundance of keeper-sized walleyes than in the past.
"The smaller walleye are biting better than the bigger walleye, and anglers are harvesting about half of their total catch," he said.
A similar trend occurred in 2002, when walleye fishing was the best on record. It wasn't uncommon for anglers to catch 50 walleyes in a day.
So how does 2002 compare with 2010?
"The catch rate in 2002 was 0.89," Jones said. "In 2002, people were catching little fish and big fish, and the catch rate was way above this year's. You could say that this year's overall catch rate is half as good as it was in 2002."
Still, not bad.
The DNR announced on Thursday that the slot limit will change effect this coming Thursday. Effective that day, anglers will have to throw back fish between 20 and 28 inches.