More good news for walleye anglers, as of August 15 there has been 51,610 pounds of walleye tallied against the 87,800 pound quota. With the peak season for walleye now having past, things are looking really good for the rest of the season on the big lake including the upcoming harvest season scheduled to begin on Sept. 16.
Mille Lacs Lake Area Fisheries Supervisor Tom Heinrich said in a recent email, “The slow fishing, combined with some windy conditions, has reduced participation. We are currently at 58% of our share of the safe harvest level, and things look promising for the fall season. As an aside, one of our creel clerks has mentioned that he has had comments from several anglers that are looking forward to the relaxation of the night ban and the opportunity to harvest a walleye after September 15.”
As of Sept. 16, anglers will be able to again harvest one walleye between 21 and 23 inches or one walleye over 28 inches until Dec. 1 when the regulations will be put forth for the winter season. Also starting on Sept. 16 is the extended night fishing hours. The 10:00 pm night ban will be increased by two hours to midnight.
The DNR’s post mortality number of walleyes (fish that die after being caught and released) for the first half of Aug. was way down with 648 pounds compared to the month of July which was 2,564 pounds (but note: the walleye season was closed the first two weeks of July).The average weight of each fish was just over a pound and a half. That weight would more than likely be a fish that is well under the current slot size.
Angler hours were down with 32,172 compared to 59,021 for the last two weeks of July. The total number of walleyes was down for this period as well with 3,185 fish compared to 9,290 fish for the previous period. Again, the average weight was just over a pound and a half, slightly smaller than the previous period.
As far as other species, perch were down with 398 fish weighing just 67 pounds for an average weight of just under three ounces each compared to 593 fish weighing 194 pounds for an average of about four ounces each for the previous period. Smallmouth were down again with 5,632 fish compared to 9,752 fish for the previous period. The fish again averaged around two and three quarter pounds each just like in July.
Interestingly, there has not been a largemouth bass reportedly caught since June. Rock bass were up from the previous period with 50 fish that weighed 31 pounds for an average of just a little over a half pound. Interestingly, there were 37 fish caught in the last two weeks of July that weighed 80 pounds for an average of over two pounds each. For perspective, the state record rock bass is two pounds even.
Northern pike were way down with just 75 fish caught but for a whooping 977 pounds. That averages out to over 13 pounds each compared to 222 fish for the last two weeks of July that weighed 1,191 pounds and averaged just a little over five pounds each. Interestingly, again, there were no sunfish and crappies reported during this period. The last time a sunfish was reported was in the first two weeks of June, and the last time a crappie was reported was back in May.
Another interesting note in the data was again the muskie numbers. There were 25 fish reported for the period for an amazing total weight of 1,163 pounds, or an average of over 46 pounds each. For perspective, the state record muskie is 54 pounds. As reported previously, there were no muskies reported for the entire month of July, and July is well known as being the prime time for summer muskies, yet there were 98 fish reported for the last two weeks of June and 85 fish reported for the first two weeks of June, and the muskie season was only open ten days of that period.
This creel data is information gathered from anglers at public and some select private accesses when they come in from fishing. It entails questions like: How long were you fishing? How many, and of what species did you catch? What size were they? Did you harvest any species? Did you catch and release any species? From this information the DNR will interpolate that data into how many fishermen they determine to have been on the lake during that time period and come up with the number of total fish they think have been caught - harvested or released.