Walleye limit for ice anglers on Mille Lacs shrinks

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Anglers will be allowed to keep one walleye when ice fishing begins on Mille Lacs Lake this winter.

The fish must be 18-20 inches or longer than 28 inches, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Monday. The winter walleye regulation goes into effect on Dec. 1, and goes through Feb. 28, 2016.

“The clear consensus among committee members was to implement a conservative regulation allowing fishing to continue throughout the winter without the risk of closure,” Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief, said in the announcement. “We believe this regulation meets that criteria.”

If the harvest approaches the established cap of 5,000 pounds, which was announced last week, then catch-and-release will be implemented so anglers can continue fishing throughout the winter.

Last year, anglers could keep two walleye from 18 to 20 inches, with one of the walleye allowed to be longer than 28 inches and the harvest set at 3,100 pounds.

The decision to allow winter walleye fishing was cheered by area businesses that depend on fishing and tourism dollars, following an unusually early end to the summer walleye season on Mille Lacs.

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.

Northern pike limit reduced to 5

The DNR also reduced the limit of northern pike on Mille Lacs from down five this year, with one fish longer than 30 inches allowed.

However, anglers may only keep a northern longer than 30 inches if they've netted two pike shorter than 30 inches and have both in immediate possession.

This regulation goes into effect Dec. 1, and continues through March 27, 2016.

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