Labor Day weekend will mark the end of this year’s walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs Lake.
Tuesday night’s decision reverses Gov. Mark Dayton’s announcement a few weeks ago that the catch-and-release walleye season on the big lake would stay open – even though the state had gone well over the walleye quota it negotiated with the eight Ojibwe bands that also fish the lake.
Dayton and the DNR’s commissioner say going over the walleye limit will not hurt the long-term recovery of walleye numbers on Mille Lacs – but it is hurting the state’s relationship with the Ojibwe bands.
Biologists with the state and tribes manage fishing on the lake together and have been working on rebuilding the plummeting walleye population. That’s what led to the decision that anglers must release all of the walleye they caught this year.
State nearly tripled its quota
In announcing that walleye fishing will end Sep. 6, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the Ojibwe (also known as Chippewa) bands had raised “strong concerns” about the state breaking its agreement.
Even in a catch-and-release season, some of the fish that are hooked die after they’re returned to the water.
So even though state-licensed anglers have been releasing their walleye, the DNR estimates they’ve depleted the lake of more than 45,000 pounds worth. That compares to 16,676 pounds in this year’s agreement with the tribe.
Last year the DNR shut down walleye fishing on Mille Lacs in early August when the state exceeded its quota.
Dayton said doing that again this year would be devastating to businesses around the central Minnesota lake. But in an emailed statement Tuesday evening, the governor said closing the season after Labor Day would not be as damaging to local businesses.
A member of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee tells KSTP he was told Dayton spent the weekend meeting with the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe and the Sep. 6 closing date was what emerged from those talks.
Fishing for northern pike, muskies, and bass continues on Mille Lacs.