DNR reports walleye

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported the open water creel data for Mille Lacs for the period of June 1 - 15. Angler hours and walleye numbers were both down compared to the first two weeks of the season.

Mille Lacs Lake Area Fisheries Supervisor Tom Heinrich said in an email, “Pressure and catch rates for walleye were down quite a bit from what we measured in May. Perhaps the hot weather contributed to that. In any case, we are now at about 46% of the State’s allocation of the safe harvest level. Water temperature averaged about 70 degrees through this period, which was about three degrees higher than our previously measured high.”

This is good news for Mille Lacs walleye anglers that are hoping for a continued season on the big lake. Angler hours were significantly down at 74,933 and were less than half of the previous two week period of 173,875. Walleye numbers followed suit with 34,208 fish released compared to 117,749 fish for the two weeks prior. The released fish averaged a little over two pounds each.

The post mortality number (the fish that die after release) came in at 2,525 fish which equated to 5,419 pounds or a little over two pounds per fish. These fish were once again under the slot size that was harvested previously, and those fish came in at just over three pounds each indicating they were probably from a different year class than the harvested fish. The 5,419 pounds will be added to the angler portion and count toward the 87,800 pound allocation. At 46 percent, that equates to 40,371 pounds of total take so far for the angler portion.

As far as other species, there was some harvest of northern pike and smallmouth bass, but the most significant numbers of both species were the release numbers. Smallmouth were up at 34,807 fish compared to 21,183 fish from the previous two weeks and still averaged an impressive three pounds plus each. Northerns were down at 1,088 fish compared to 1,268 but still averaged almost four pounds each. Largemouth bass were also down at 113 fish. And interestingly enough, the muskie numbers were up slightly at 85 fish (even though the season did not open until June 5) compared to 82 fish previously and averaged 21 pounds each where the previous 82 fish averaged just 10 pounds each.

Another interesting note is that during the period of May 15 - 31, there was zero yellow perch reported caught and for this period there were only 28 fish reported for a total of only four pounds. That is an average of a little over two ounces per fish. A disappointing stat if you’re a perch fisherman and not a good forecast for the overall catchable perch population presently in the lake. Surprisingly, zero crappies were reported as well and only 85 sunfish for a total of four pounds, that average is less than one ounce each.

With that downward trend for walleyes in the early June report, it should be interesting to see how the rest of June shapes up. Anglers hope to keep the post mortality numbers down and enjoy another harvest season slated to start on Sept 16, where anglers will be able to once again keep one fish between 21 and 23 inches or one fish over 28 inches.

Currently, anglers are facing the two week shutdown that started on July 1 and ends July 15 where walleyes cannot be targeted. On July 16, the catch and release season for walleyes will start up again.

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