The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 19, 2013

Walleye rules tightened on Mille Lacs

(Continued)

ST. PAUL —

The lake's protected slot for northerns will be narrowed to 33 to 40 inches, meaning fish within that range must be released immediately, with only one northern longer than 40 inches allowed. Last year's slot was 27 to 40 inches. The limit remains three. But the smallmouth bass limit has been raised from one to six. The new protected slot is 17 to 20 inches, with only one longer than 20 inches allowed. Last year all smallmouths under 21 inches had to be released.

DNR officials and the eight Ojibwe Indian bands with treaty rights on the lake agreed in January to cut the maximum allowable walleye kill to 250,000 pounds, down from 500,000 pounds last year, after a netting survey last fall indicated the walleye population had fallen to a 40-year low. The quota was cut in half for both sport anglers and tribal members. Hook-and-line anglers will be allocated 178,750 pounds, while the tribes can net up to 72,250 pounds.

The bands' new regulations are aimed at encouraging their members to shift toward spearing the lake's more abundant larger walleyes and away from netting medium-sized walleyes, said Charlie Rasmussen, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which represents the bands.

The tribes have typically taken the vast majority of their walleye share through netting, and netting tribal regulations won't change, Rasmussen said, but size limits for spearing have been raised. Band members will also be allowed to take 25,000 pounds of northerns, compared with 15,000 pounds last year, he said.

"It's up to tribal members to use the fishing tools of their choice," Rasmussen said. "Most tribal members are well aware of the situation. We will adjust the harvest accordingly."

Linda Eno, co-owner of Twin Pines Resort near Garrison, said she was grateful the DNR decided not to impose a night fishing ban because night fishing traditionally has been an important source of revenue for resorts, bait shops and other businesses near the lake. She said her family's business has survived 2-inch slot limits before, though others have not.

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