Joe Fellegy, in his June 3 Outdoor News commentary, challenges the importance of “hooking mortality” in the DNR’s “co-management” of Mille Lacs.

He agrees that hooking mortality plays a role in walleye sport fisheries. Modern angling trends encourage more release and more interest in mortality and survival of released fish.

Fellegy covered a lot of research that has been done on hooking mortality. Then he adds that mortality is almost never a player in lake management decisions impacting local fishing-related economies.

The “giant exception” of course is Mille Lacs. Hooking mortality is a huge issue at Mille Lacs because it’s factored into already stringent walleye quotas set by state and tribal co-managers.

Last summer, “guesstimated” hooking-mortality pounds pushed anglers over the state’s super-low quota and closed walleye fishing for four months. This year a low quota and hot walleye bite could bring a shutdown—even with catch and release only and foregoing the lake’s popular night-fishing tradition.

Fellegy questions why a shutdown would even be considered, when there is no allowed harvest and an all-time-low fishing effort. Especially when it would be based on “fuzzy hooking-mortality guesstimates.”

Fellegy blames a “flawed Mille Lacs-unique state-tribal co-management system” for such a convoluted arrangement that was “never envisioned by the 1837 treaty.”

Study dodges angling realities

Fellegy reports that the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee (MLFAC) never got much of an answer to the question of how hooking mortality was brought into Mille Lacs management. Skeptical anglers and some MLFAC members further questioned whether hooking mortality can be reliably quantified for the way it’s being used in managing Mille Lacs.

DNR’s response is another study. It will be two years of collecting details on 1,500 walleyes per year to “refine” the hooking mortality model. The DNR also greatly expanded its list of creel survey topics, spreading response data over a large number of categories.

Bottom line, Fellegy believes certain MLFAC members and others are “right-on in demanding that there be no walleye-fishing shutdown based on fuzzy and unbelievable guesstimated mortality pounds.”

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