Last call for walleye: Mille Lacs season ends Monday night


Minnesota's most popular walleye fishing lake will see this summer's walleye season come to an abrupt end on Monday night.

The Department of Natural Resources announced Sunday that anglers on Mille Lacs Lake have already exceeded the state's walleye allotment for the year and fishing for that species will close at 10 p.m. Monday.

The DNR said in July that an early end to walleye fishing on Mille Lacs was drawing near.

Fishing for northern pike, smallmouth bass, muskellunge and other species remains open. The DNR says special regulations will allow anglers to keep more northern and bass.

The walleye population on Mille Lacs has been shrinking for several years, and the DNR says it's at its lowest level in three decades. That's why the agency has tightened restrictions on walleye fishing at the central Minnesota lake.

The DNR and the eight Ojibwe bands that fish Mille Lacs agreed that 40,000 pounds would be a safe walleye harvest for 2015. The state's share of the total was set at 28,600 pounds, and the DNR says that number has now been surpassed by more than 2,000 pounds.

The Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe said Friday it will suspend gill netting of walleye in 2016 to help the fish's numbers rebound.

That announcement came during a public meeting Gov. Mark Dayton held with local business owners in the Mille Lacs area, where walleye fishing is the engine that drives the economy.

Resort owners said they are already getting cancellations for August,

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Gov. Dayton says he wants to call lawmakers back to St. Paul for a special session to provide economic help to Mille Lacs area businesses.

The DNR said in its Sunday announcement that such aid could include no-interest loans, property tax abatements and more money for tourism promotions. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr got that promotion started by reminding anglers that Mille Lacs is a good place to catch northern and bass.

Studies are underway to determine the causes behind the declining walleye population in Mille Lacs. The DNR says it's encouraged by the strong population of walleye that hatched in 2013, which are now 10 to 13 inches long.

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