The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that walleye season on Lake Mille Lacs could come to an end by early August. Resort owners have been receiving notices from the DNR warning them to prepare for closures as early as Aug. 3.
DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr said “unprecedented” conditions in July pushed the lake toward its quota, partially blaming the high catch rates during the Fourth of July holiday and first two weeks of the month.
As of July 15, the state was within 3,000 pounds of reaching the annual quota. The decline has been apparent over the last decade, DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira said, and while it’s not wholly a result of fishing, it is a result of the changes in water clarity and warm temperatures.
“We have one tool to manage our lake, and that is managing the fish that people take out,” Landwehr said.
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Catch rates of walleye in first 2 weeks of July increased compared to second half of June, which has only happened twice in 30 years, Pereira said.
During the first seven months of the monitoring period from December 2014 through June 2015, DNR officials said walleye harvest rates were “at or below predicted levels, based on tight regulations adopted for the open-water season.”
Gov. Mark Dayton told the DNR to wait until after the next survey period from July 16 to July 31, and officials at the DNR, the Office of Tourism, and Department of Employment and Economic Development will meet with resort owners and other affected stakeholders on Mille Lacs to discuss the situation and seek recommendations.
Landwehr said anglers can still take advantage of “liberal” northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations on the lake, as other fishing remains unaffected.