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Walleye harvest on Mille Lacs Lake breaches limit, but fishing can continue

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Anglers have passed the walleye quota on Mille Lacs Lake, but people are still allowed to fish.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday the catch-and-release only walleye season will stay open at this time, with survey data showing the program has been successful at conserving the population of young walleye in the lake.

“The primary goal of the catch-and-release restriction is protecting young walleye, especially the robust 2013 year class. Current data show that only 1 percent of the 2013 fish have been impacted by hooking mortality, which is remarkably low," DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira said in a news release.

Protecting these young walleye until they're old enough to have babies is a major part of the state's efforts to restore Mille Lacs' walleye population.

State anglers exceed quota

The DNR's latest survey shows state anglers have exceeded this year's quota of 28,600 pounds for licensed anglers, with the harvest estimate being 37,922 pounds in July (that's about 17,115 fish).

Even though it was a catch-and-release season, the DNR said high catch rates and warm water temperatures have led to increased hooking mortality (fish dying after being caught), which has led to the quota being met.

The DNR also says tribal fishing has not reached its quota of 11,400 pounds, and officials commended them for their conservation efforts.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Tuesday he has instructed the DNR not to close the walleye fishing season on the lake because it would "devastate area businesses and communities."

“We will continue to do everything possible, working with area business, community, and tribal leaders, to assure the long-term health and sustainable recovery of the Mille Lacs walleye fishery," the governor added.

This is the first time the DNR has managed Mille Lacs walleye with a season-long catch-and-release regulation.

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