Monday, August 3 is the last day to catch a walleye on Lake Mille Lacs. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is pulling the plug months ahead of schedule because anglers have already gone over the harvest quota. Despite drastically limiting the size and number of walleye anglers could keep, the walleye season on Lake Mille Lacs will close at 10 p.m. Monday.
In 2012, the walleye quota was 500,000 pounds. This year, the DNR slashed that to just 40,000 pounds with a one-fish harvest limit. In a rare Sunday press conference to announce the decision, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said things seemed fine until July, when walleye numbers went "haywire."
“This action is necessary to conserve walleye populations in Mille Lacs Lake for the long term. Despite the walleye closure, Mille Lacs remains a world class fishing destination with some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the country,” Landwehr said “Working together – tribes, local businesses, local government and the state – we will get through this difficult period.”
Even with tight restrictions in place, anglers had a successful walleye summer thanks to beautiful weather over a long Fourth of July weekend, and there were larger fish caught than expected. Warmer water led to a higher death rate for catch-and-release walleye, with a quarter of them dying compared to just 5 percent normally
The decision to close the lake will likely harm area resorts and businesses that cater to anglers, but it's a decision the DNR doesn't take likely, balancing the local economy versus irreversibly harming the lake's walleye population,
State officials are tentatively planning to re-open the lake on December 1 for winter fishing. In the meantime, Gov. Mark Dayton will meet with state leaders this week to discuss another special session to approve relief for area businesses. That could mean no-interest loans, property tax abatements and more state money for advertising to promote other fishing species.