Early-season anglers will be able to keep one walleye from Mille Lacs Lake prior to the catch-and-release-only summer fishing season.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the 2021 walleye harvest restrictions on Tuesday, saying early-season anglers (from May 15-May 31) will be able to keep one walleye that's 21-23 inches long or one that is longer than 28 inches.
In the summer (June 1-June 30), it will be catch-and-release only for the lake followed by a two-week closure from July 1-15, which is typically the hottest time of summer. The closure is meant to help reduce hooking mortality that often increases when the water is warmer. Then, from July 16-Sept. 15, catch-and-release will resume on Mille Lacs.
“Lower walleye harvest this winter is allowing us to offer some open-water walleye harvest this year,” Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota DNR, said in a statement. “We’re glad Mille Lacs anglers will have the chance to keep a walleye on opening weekend and Memorial Day weekend — two of the most popular times to fish during the year. We also hope to be able to allow some harvest this fall.”
During the winter season, anglers were allowed to keep one walleye from Mille Lacs Lake. Anglers harvested about 16,000 pounds of walleye, which is about half of what it was in 2020.
Lower catch rates and fewer people fishing in the winter gave the DNR flexibility to allow a one-fish limit during the early season and make it hopeful there will be a one-fish limit in the fall, from Sept. 16-Nov. 30, as well.
“Our projections strongly suggest that fall harvest can occur,” Parsons said. “However, predicting fishing pressure, catch rates and weather involves some uncertainty so we want people to recognize that the fall harvest will depend on how much of the state’s 2021 walleye allocation remains as we approach September. As always, we will monitor the factors that determine the state’s walleye take throughout the open water season.”
After opening weekend, fishing hours on Mille Lacs will be from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. for all species. Starting June 5, those fishing for muskie and northern pike using artificial lures or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches can fish after 10 p.m. In the fall, from Sept. 16-Nov. 30, anglers can fish from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The DNR and the eight Chippewa bands that have treating fishing rights on the lake have determined Mille Lacs can sustain a harvest of up to 87,800 pounds of walleye this year, which is the same as in 2020.
Last year, anglers took 66,748 pounds and tribal fishing harvested 33,113 pounds.
During the two-week summer closure, fishing with certain kinds of bait will be restricted in hopes of avoiding accidental catching of walleye. Anglers targeting northern pike and muskies can use sucker minnows longer than 8 inches, but anglers targeting other fish cannot use live, dead, preserved or parts of minnows, night crawlers, worms, leeches or crayfish.
“Our goal with these regulations is to meet the state’s treaty obligations while also providing the best possible experience for anglers, recognizing that fishing and the anglers it brings are economically important to the Mille Lacs Lake area,” Parsons said.
The DNR's website, which has more information about fishing regulations on the lake, is here.