After a summer season of catch-and-release only, anglers will be allowed to catch walleye on Lake Mille Lacs this winter.
The popular lake will be open for winter fishing season, but anglers will be limited to one walleye and five northern pike each, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday. This year's season gets underway on Dec. 1 and ends on Feb. 26, 2017.
Those venturing onto the ice will be allowed to keep a walleye between 19 and 21 inches, or one longer than 28 inches. The one-fish limit was also in place last winter, but the size of walleye has been moved up slightly from 2015, when catches had to be 18-20 inches.
The news will come as a relief to businesses along Mille Lacs, which have been hit by the strict limits placed on walleye fishing in the past 18 months. The DNR has been trying to replenish the dwindling fish population there.
Those efforts appear to be having the desired effect, with the DNR saying "minimal fishing mortality" over the past year helped the lake meet population goals.
The limits are designed to protect the "abundant" 2013 year class, which according to DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira are the lake's "future spawners" – the key to keeping the population healthy.
"The winter season regulation enables Mille Lacs anglers to catch and keep walleye while providing necessary fish conservation and support to the Mille Lacs area economy," he said.