Mille Lacs walleye and northern quotas increase

Minnesota DNR news release.

Anglers will be able to keep more walleyes and northern pike from Mille Lacs Lake this fishing season.

The 2005 walleye safe harvest level of 505,000 pounds is five percent higher than last year’s safe harvest level of 480,000. The increase is due to a stable spawning stock biomass. In addition, biologists say the 2002 year class of walleye, now 11 to 13 inches, was the strongest year class since 1988 and represents the lake’s future spawning stock.

“This is good news. The higher-than-average safe harvest level is a reflection of a healthy fishery,” said Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries Management Section Chief. “We have a strong 2002 year class that will provide abundant fishing opportunities this summer. Plus, in the coming years, we’ll see some nice fish.”

State and tribal biologists agreed to monitor the harvest of the 2002 year class to ensure that it is not excessive.

At its Jan. 19-20 meeting in Duluth, the 1837 Ceded Territory Fisheries Committee (CTFC), composed of tribal and state biologists mutually agreed to the new quota, the second highest since treaty harvest began.

Based on the tribes’ five year management plan for Mille Lacs Lake, the 2005 tribal quota is 100,000 pounds of walleye, which will be allocated among the eight Ojibwe bands.

The 2005 state allocation is 405,000 pounds of walleye. Last year, state anglers took 79,000 pounds of their available quota while releasing just over 200,000 pounds.

The CTFC reviewed the safe harvest levels for 2005 for other species in Mille Lacs Lake and agreed to leave them unchanged except for a modest increase of 2,000 pounds for northern pike. These safe harvest levels are 270,000 pounds for yellow perch; 25,000 pounds for northern pike; 24,000 pounds for tullibee; and 28,000 pounds for burbot.

The increase for northern pike was based on an analysis and review of the pike population, which suggests it is currently at a higher level than in the mid-1990 when it was first established. This new safe harvest level will be re-evaluated following a northern pike tagging study to begin this spring.

Federal courts have ruled since 1994 that the state and the eight Ojibwe bands share fish and game in the 1837 treaty ceded territory.

To ensure the long-term health of the Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishery, the yearly walleye harvest has been managed so that it does not exceed the safe harvest level (harvestable surplus) as directed by the court order. The court left determination of harvestable surplus levels and other biological issues up to the CTFC.

© 2005 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.