Walleye harvest quota for Mille Lacs Lake to be halved

Walleye harvest quota for Mille Lacs Lake to be halved

State and tribal officials have agreed to slash the maximum allowable walleye harvest from one of Minnesota's most popular fisheries, Mille Lacs Lake.

Fishermen flock to Mille Lacs to try to net some of the large game fish found there, but size restrictions on what fish can be kept make it difficult to put together a shore lunch.

"People might catch 20 fish up here and only keep three or four," Mike Mikelee told FOX 9 News.

Officials with the Department of Natural Resources say they are not sure why there is an imbalance of smaller walleye, but they have struck a deal with tribal officials to halve the annual maximum harvest to preserve portions of that population.

Sue Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said Monday that fisheries officials agreed to cut the maximum to 250,000 pounds, down from 500,000 pounds last year. The decision was made last week.

"It shows that both the tribes and state are concerned about the sustainability of the Mille Lacs walleye fishery," Erickson told FOX 9 News.

The quota will be cut in half for both sport and tribal anglers. Sport anglers will be allocated 178,750 pounds while bands with treaty rights will get 72,250 pounds.

Yet, the DNR has not yet explained how it would enforce the new restrictions, which could include changes to limit or "slot" currently projected.

Some sport fisherman have blamed tribal netting -- especially during spawning -- for the lack of smaller male walleye, but researchers say that's simply not true.

"Fishery scientists have known for a long time now that it doesn't matter what time of year you kill a fish," explained Don Pereira, with the DNR. "It depends on how many fish you are killing."

Erickson confirmed this agreement marks the first time the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has agreed to cut their walleye allocation. She says they recognize the big lake is not producing as it should, and they hope upcoming studies provide some answers on why.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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