MILLE LACS LAKE, Minn. (FOX 9) - For the first time in years, walleye fishing will be open all summer long at Mille Lacs Lake.
Resorts and bait shops are ecstatic about the potential impact on their local economy.
"It’s huge," said Twin Pines Resort owner Linda Eno. "I mean, let’s face it: Minnesota summers are pretty short, period."
Mille Lacs Lake once considered itself the walleye capital of a state where walleye is part of the identity. But recent years on the lake have included serious restrictions on walleye fishing, including a total ban for two weeks in July, because their numbers got too small.
"What happened is we had an invasion of zebra mussels in 2006, and they gradually increased until they basically exploded in 2012," said Tom Heinrich, the Mille Lacs Lake Fisheries adviser for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Zebra mussels eat planktonic algae at the bottom of the food chain, disrupting the chain all the way to walleye at the top.
Their population is about one-third what it was at the 2012 peak, allowing walleye and other fish populations to grow again. So live bait is allowed again and walleye season will stay open straight through November.
That erases inconsistencies and unknowns for visitors planning their summer trips and gives business owners hope for a big season.
"My restaurant will be busier," Eno said. "My rooms will have more people in them. And my fishing boats will be busier, so we are excited to get to this summer."
Walleye season officially begins on the lake on Saturday, May 13 with fishing allowed 24 hours a day on that first weekend. The end of the open water season is on Thursday, Nov. 30.
The DNR said licensed anglers will be allowed to harvest walleye 21-23 inches long or greater than 28 inches throughout the 2023 open water season on the lake.
Harvest levels for Mille Lacs Lake are set annually. The DNR's fishing regulations on Mille Lacs Lake can be found here