Mille Lacs walleye season catch-and-release only in 2016

Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake will be catch-and-release only in 2016, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Monday. A ban on taking walleye from Mille Lacs this season is part of the state’s plan to revive the walleye population in the destination lake.

“A catch-and-release walleye season allows us to protect future spawners yet acknowledges the desire that fishing remain open,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. “Not allowing harvest is a difficult decision but it provides our best option.”

Artificial bait only, immediate release required

From May 14 to Thursday, Dec. 1, walleye anglers must use artificial bait and immediately release all walleye caught. Anglers targeting northern pike and muskie may use sucker minnows longer than 8 inches, but all other anglers must not possess any other bait that is live, dead, frozen or processed.

Changes from last year

Last year on Mille Lacs, walleye anglers could use live bait and keep one walleye 19-21 inches long or longer than 28 inches. Walleye fishing closed in August when the quota was met. Fishing re-opened on Dec. 1, 2015, with a walleye limit of one 18-20 inches or one longer than 28 inches.

“The possibility of closing Mille Lacs to walleye fishing is greater this year than it was last,” Pereira said. “Even with our catch-and-release approach, the risk remains considerable.”

Tribal limits

This year’s walleye harvest set by the DNR and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission remains at 40,000 pounds, with 28,600 allocated to state anglers and 11,400 to tribal anglers.

Other changes on Mille Lacs in 2016

Walleye: Night closure beginning Monday, May 16, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and continuing through Dec. 1. Muskellunge anglers may fish at night but all baits, live or artificial, in possession must be at least 8 inches long.

Northern pike: Five fish with only one longer than 40 inches. All northern 30-40 inches long must be immediately released.

Bass: Four fish with only one longer than 21 inches. All fish 17-21 inches long must be immediately released.