DNR reduces slot size, limit for walleye at Mille Lacs - New York News

DNR reduces slot size, limit for walleye at Mille Lacs

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There's a fair amount of skill involved in fishing, but anglers who want to take home a walleye from Mille Lacs Lake will need some luck too now that the Department of Natural Resources is slashing the possession limit and slot sizes allowed there.

Not only will fishermen and women be allowed fewer fish for frying, but they'll also be restricted to a very specific size because the number of walleye is at a 40-year low.

"Fishing will still be good on Mille Lacs, but it won't be as many eaters," said Dirk Peterson, the DNR's fisheries chief. "More catching of quality fish."

Earlier this year, the DNR warned anglers that the lake's quota would be cut in half -- but now it's clear they plan to enforce it to allow the population to replenish.

For anglers, the fishing opener is the most anticipated day of the year -- but come May 11, keeping a monster walleye from Mille Lacs won't be an option because the DNR is narrowing the harvest to fish between 18-20 inches while reducing the bag limit from four to two.

At All Season Sports in Delano, the feedback from fishermen ranges from anger and frustration to acceptance that something needs to be done.

"It's a long way to drive for two fish," said Shawn Lynch, of All Season Sports.

Yet, fishing guide Doug Warren says the sport is about more than just filling a freezer.

"I'm actually encouraged by the 18-20 inch slot," he told FOX 9 News.

The DNR and tribal leaders both agreed to cut the safe harvest limit in half because the fishery experts still aren't sure what's preventing the survival of smaller walleye.

"It's a traditional walleye factory for Minnesota and it's one of the best we have," Warren said. "It's a real important resource to protect and preserve."

DNR officials will continue to closely monitor the life cycle and feeding habits of all fish species found there with the hope of ensuring it can continue to be a healthy and sustainable fishery for many years to come.

"We're at a low point now," Peterson said. "We need a couple years -- maybe three -- to turn the corner to start seeing that improvement."

However, the retailers, resorts and anglers point out that fishing didn't become a nearly $5 billion industry in Minnesota as a catch-and-release sport.

"I mean, I think they all love to catch them -- but there isn't one guy who would go up there and say, 'I don't like to eat 'em. I just throw 'em back," Lynch said.

To promote fishing and restore balance in the lake, the DNR is loosening the restriction on small mouth bass by broadening the slot and increasing the limit to six for that species.

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