Anglers surpass Mille Lacs Lake walleye quota, but season to remain open

Catch-and-release has had minimal impact on future spawning population.

A teleconference will be held this afternoon, however the Department of Natural Resources released the following to give the current update:

The most recent Mille Lacs Lake walleye harvest estimate indicates that anglers have surpassed the state’s 2016 walleye quota. The state, however, will not close the catch-and-release walleye season at this time, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.

According to DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira, analysis of summer creel survey data has shown that the catch-and-release-only regulations on Mille Lacs are successfully conserving the lake’s future spawning population of walleye.

“Based on the data we’ve seen so far this year, keeping the season open will have minimal additional impact on the walleye population,” Pereira said. “The primary goal of the catch-and-release restriction is protecting young walleye, especially the robust 2013 year class. Current data show that only 1 percent of the 2013 fish have been impacted by hooking mortality, which is remarkably low.”

Conserving the 2013 year class of juvenile walleye until the fish reach spawning age is a critical component of recovering the Mille Lacs walleye population.

At the end of June, state-licensed angler harvest was estimated at only 6,950 pounds. But due to increased angler activity, warm water temperatures and high catch rates, the estimated harvest increased rapidly in July, putting the most recent creel estimate at 37,922 pounds.

Despite the catch-and-release season, hooking mortality – an estimate of the number of fish that die after being released – is measured to estimate total harvest. 

This year's walleye harvest allocation was established in January at 40,000 pounds – 28,600 for state-licensed anglers and 11,400 for tribal fishing.

In 2016, the bands with Mille Lacs Lake treaty fishing rights modified their harvest methods to help conserve young walleye, and to date have not taken their entire allocation. The state also adjusted walleye regulations by implementing the catch-and-release restriction for the open-water season.

The DNR had not previously managed Mille Lacs walleye with a season-long catch-and-release regulation. Fisheries researchers have been analyzing the 2016 creel data to better understand the impact of conservative fishing regulations on the lake’s walleye population.

“Since the impact of catch-and-release fishing on future spawners has been minimal, we are able to take socio-economic factors into consideration as well when making resource management decisions,” Pereira said. “Keeping the season open prevents significant economic loss in the Mille Lacs community. The DNR remains committed to managing the lake as a world-class fishery for the benefit of all users.”

DNR fisheries biologists will continue to monitor creel survey results and water temperatures on Mille Lacs through the remainder of the open-water season to ensure conservation of the lake’s future spawning population of walleye.

In addition to analysis of angler creel surveys, the DNR continues to invest in research to enhance understanding and management of the lake’s fishery. Ongoing studies on Mille Lacs include advanced research on hooking mortality and the addition of temperature gauges at a wider range of locations and deeper depths than have been monitored in the past. The DNR will also facilitate new technical work and research focused on better understanding fundamental changes to the ecology and food web of Mille Lacs, including the potential effects of invasive species.

Long thought of primarily as a walleye lake, Mille Lacs has also become a premier location for northern pike, muskie and small mouth bass fishing. In September, the lake will host the Bassmaster Elite Series “Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship” – a world-class event that will bring the nation’s best bass anglers to Mille Lacs.

Additional information about Mille Lacs fisheries management can be found at This year’s fishing regulations are on the DNR website at

The following is a statement from Governor Mark Dayton:

“I have directed the DNR not to close the walleye fishing season on Lake Mille Lacs, and I have contacted tribal leaders to ask for their understanding and forbearance. The DNR has already imposed a very stringent, catch-and-release only, restriction on this season.

“Closing the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs would devastate area businesses and communities. The State’s fisheries experts have assured me that continuing catch-and-release on Mille Lacs will not negatively impact the health of the walleye fishery.

“We will continue to do everything possible, working with area business, community, and tribal leaders, to assure the long-term health and sustainable recovery of the Mille Lacs walleye fishery.”

(4) comments

steve fellegy

From the Messenger Face Book page-- from a prominent Mille Lacs Band member, Jim Kalk to the Mille Lacs Messenger readers today:

Ouote: "Yay! No more quotas! Just give the fish away. Forget about signed legal agreements - they mean zilch! Especially now that we're living in a Donald Trump world. Just surrender your treaty rights - the tribal bosses are giving them away just to make Gub'nor Dayton happy anyway. They're going, going, going....! Lol." ---end quote Jim Kalk


Please Steve, finish your thoughts. I would love for you to break down Mr. Kalk's words and let us (me) know what his words mean to you and Mille Lacs Lake. Mr. Kalk is a very bitter individual and thinks all white men around Mille Lacs Lake are racists. He won't listen to me. I'm racist too in his mind, even though I have virtually every nationality in my extended family and have worked for MLB. Please Mr. Fellegy, elaborate on the true meaning of his words.

steve fellegy

And now THIS dated from this past Thursday--She might want to add here that when they originally filed the "rights" case against the state ...they said they wanted around 2 dozen walleyes per year for "ceremonial purposes". That 2 dozen grew to 71 tons a year....So Dear Melanie--maybe look in the mirror!!

"Melanie Benjamin
August 11 at 8:36pm ·


Aaniin, This seems to be the summer of broken promises made to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. First, the County broke our law enforcement agreement, and so far, the State of Minnesota has turned a blind eye to this public safety crisis. Now, the State of Minnesota has broken its agreement on the ogaa (walleye) harvest for the second year in a row,…and has asked for our understanding.

This matter was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the State’s disregard for a federal court order, what happens next will be determined collectively by us and all the impacted Bands.

The State’s allocation for 2016 was 28,600 pounds and the Band allocation was 11,400 pounds. As responsible stewards of the resource and out of concern for the ogaa, the Bands have remained under our allocation. As requested by our Drum Keepers and Elders, all of the Bands have sacrificed greatly in taking much less than our communities need. The State, however, has not exercised the same restraint, going over its allocation by at least 10,000 pounds, and maybe more. And they are not stopping.

While the Mille Lacs Band depends on the lake more so than the other Bands, this issue also affects Fond du Lac and the Wisconsin Bands. Our Band and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) biologists and scientists are hard at work analyzing the State’s calculations and scrutinizing the basis for their decision to keep the lake open. Preliminary indications are that politics played a bigger role than science -- or concern for future generations -- in the State’s decision to violate the court order and leave the lake open.

Our foremost concern is protecting the ogaa for future generations and protecting your rights as Band Members. Our attorneys who have represented the Band on our treaty rights litigation for the past 30 years – and who won that case in the U.S. Supreme Court – are working closely with GLIFWC and attorneys from other Bands to determine our best legal options to protect the lake and our rights.

As has been our history, the Band has kept our promise. But in violation of the court order, the promise was broken on the other side. We will do whatever we must to ensure the ogaa are protected for generations to come.

Someone needs to protect the lake. The Mille Lacs Band will certainly do so. I know that we can count on the other Bands to stand with us, even if the State chooses not to. As with our Treaties and our other rights, the Band will fight for justice, for our rights and for our future. Miigwech.


Give it up, Fellegeedy. Your cutting and pasting is worn out. You and your brother have been unsuccessfully trying to start a white uprising for 20 years now against American Indians. Maybe you're the one who needs to look into the mirror with your sick obsession with all things "tribal."

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.