After three open water seasons of catch-and-release-only fishing, anglers on Lake Mille Lacs will be able to keep some walleyes during this coming summer's fishing season, although it's not clear yet just how many.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that the lake's walleye population is bouncing back after being protected in recent years.
The DNR will announce the formal Mille Lacs walleye regulations for the upcoming season in mid-March. The agency is considering allowing the walleye harvest during the cool-water periods in the spring and fall. The agency is exploring a variety of regulation options, and will be discussing the alternatives with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee.
Anglers this winter were allowed to keep one fish daily.
"We're happy to announce that, with some very conservative fishing regulations over the past three years, walleye are now at a level where we can cautiously allow anglers to start keeping some fish during the open-water season," Sarah Strommen, DNR commissioner, said in a statement Thursday.
Bradley Harrington, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe band natural resources commissioner, said the upward trend of the walleye population reflects the conservation efforts of both the state of Minnesota and the Ojibwe tribes with harvest rights in Mille Lacs Lake.
The state and the bands recently agreed on a safe harvest level of 150,000 pounds of walleye, which provides a state allocation of 87,800 pounds. Under the catch-and-release only regulation last year, the walleye angler kill totaled just over 47,000 pounds - estimated by how many fish perish after being released.