Mille Lacs Lake walleye limit for summer 2024 revealed

Minnesota fishing opener on Lake Mille Lacs Saturday May 9, 2015. (Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake will be catch-and-release during the spring and early summer months. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Wednesday announced the fishing regulations for the popular lake, noting it'll be catch-and-release, but there's potential to harvest a walleye that's 21 to 23 inches in length or greater than 28 inches starting on Friday, Aug. 16, 2024. 

"Despite poor ice conditions, anglers caught a lot of walleye this past fall and winter because those fish weren’t finding enough to eat," Brad Parsons, DNR Fisheries Section Manager, said in a press release. "We need to adjust the open water season regulations to account for the active bite and for the likelihood of higher water temperatures this summer. Even with catch-and-release regulations, many fish die when water temperatures get too warm."

The open water season begins on May 11, and the DNR says "good to excellent" fishing is expected on the lake, adding "Catch rates should remain high with fish eager to bite." The open water season ends on Nov. 30, 2024.

Mille Lacs walleye population ‘healthy' and are biting

The DNR says the population of walleye on Mille Lacs remains "healthy" despite slightly lower walleye numbers in 2022, according to the DNR's 2023 assessment. The population is healthy due to the "continued abundance of walleye born in 2013 and 2017. Assessment results also indicate decent numbers of walleye born in 2021 and 2022 that should contribute to the walleye population in the future."

The assessment also found there are fewer yellow perch and tullibee, which is the primary food source for walleye in Mille Lacs Lake. With less natural food for the fish, walleye are searching for a meal and are more likely to bite on bait. 

"It seems logical that high catch rates mean there are more walleye in the lake," Parsons said. "The data we’ve collected and analyzed suggest the hot bite is because walleye aren’t finding as many tullibee and perch to eat. Our management decisions take those data into account."

Due to changing water conditions in Mille Lacs, fewer walleye are maturing past their first year, with the DNR noting invasive species like zebra mussels and spiny water fleas mean there's less microscopic aquatic food, so there's a decreased production of forage species in the lake. 

Catch-and-release only to start the season

The DNR is allowing catch-and-release only from May through Aug. 15 in order to enable the harvest of one walleye that's 21-23 inches or longer than 28 inches starting Aug. 16, so long as conditions permit. 

"Mille Lacs is a great place to fish and recreate, and anglers will continue to enjoy quality opportunities for walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and muskellunge," said Parsons. "Our management approach is aligned with the Mille Lacs management plan and reflects our commitment to navigating the lake's unique dynamics and preserving its angling tradition."

You can find Mille Lacs Lake fishing regulations here.