4 things to know about Mille Lacs fishing changes - FOX 32 News Chicago

4 things to know about Mille Lacs fishing changes

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MILLE LACS, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Minnesota DNR is making some big changes to fishing regulations on Mille Lacs Lake for the 2014 season, and it's got a lot of anglers sizzling.

NIGHT FISHING BAN: The main change for walleye anglers is the extension of a night fishing ban until Dec. 1, instead of mid-June.

WALLEYE LIMITS: Daily walleye limits and possession limits remain unchanged at 2 walleye from 18 to 20 inches, except one longer than 28 inches may be taken.

NORTHERN PIKE: Limit increased from 3 to 10, with only one longer than 20 inches. Season extended to last Sunday in March. Spearing ban on Mille Lacs removed.

SMALLMOUTH BASS: The smallmouth season will be extended from the May 10 opener through the last Sunday in February. The limit remains at 6, but size restrictions are being relaxed.

The new rules were put in place in an effort to restore a healthy walleye population to a lake that has historically been a go-to location for anglers due to its abundance of large fish.

"The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible," said DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira. "The current walleye regulation and the extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level."

In Minnesota, fishing is a billion-dollar industry, and those attending the Northwest Sportshow were buzzing about how the chances could affect the guides, resorts and marinas there.

"Guys go out to Mille Lacs now and they can hardly keep any fish," Dan Altman said. "They're catching giant nice walleyes but they want to bring something home."

In 2012, fishermen pulled 500,000 pounds of walleye out of Mille Lacs. Last year, that number was cut in half. This year, the harvest is capped at 60,000 pounds -- and it could go quick.

"When the bite is good on the north end and the fishing is easy, 60,000 pounds can happen in the first week," said John Nelson, of Thorne Bros.

Although the DNR says there are plenty of spawning fish, there are not enough walleye making it to maturity in Mille Lacs.

"We typically like to see a big year class about once every 3-5 years, and we've seen very limited young fish production since about 2008," Periera explained.

One problem is an abundance of predators, including larger walleyes, small mouth bass and northern pike. DNR officials now hope that anglers will be content to take home those other species so that the walleye population can recover.

"More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressure because their populations are at or near record highs," Pereira said.

Minnesota DNR Mille Lacs guide: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/millelacslake/index.html

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