Christmas may have come early to Lake Mille Lacs.
After an unusually early end to the walleye season on the popular lake this past summer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced its winter harvest caps – and they're higher than last year's limit on the state fish.
According to a DNR news release, the winter cap for walleye anglers on Mille Lacs is 5,000 pounds or less. The cap was arrived at after state and tribal biologists found last month that the number of walleye – including those at spawning age – was "above established benchmarks" for the fish's population in the lake.
To put that in perspective, last winter, the total walleye harvest came in at a significantly lower 3,100 pounds.
Hold your fishing poles, though. The DNR has yet to announce the actual ice fishing limits for anglers. Those are due out next week.
This could be a good sign for lakeside businesses, which took a hit when state regulators ended the summer walleye season abruptly this year. Anglers had exceeded the limits on the fish, whose population is currently at a "30-year low," according to the DNR.
The situation led to backlash from businesses that depend on fishing and tourism dollars, and earlier this month, the creation of an expert panel tasked with tackling the walleye problem.
"This decision is a relief for hundreds of businesses around Mille Lacs," KARE 11 quotes state Rep. Dale Lueck as saying. "Ice fishing is a key to bringing tourists to our area in the winter, and I'm grateful that this year's allowed harvest will be even higher which might help offset some of the decline in revenue."