Spring creel data looks promising for walleye season
By Erik Jacobson      Mille Lacs Messenger      Jun 30, 2021

The numbers are in from the Minnesota Department of Natural resources for the time period of opening day on May 15 through May 31. Mille Lacs Lake Area Fisheries Supervisor Tom Heinrich stated in an email, “Overall, walleye fishing was pretty good, with almost 13,000 pounds of harvest and another 6,000 pounds of hooking mortality. Hooking mortality was higher than expected due to the relatively warm water temperature of 61 degrees. For reference, the median water temperature documented in May is 53 degrees, and the previous high was just under 59 degrees.”

According to the DNR, during the above time frame, there were 173,875 angling hours which resulted in a harvest of 4,089 walleyes for a total weight of 12,969 pounds. The DNR determined the hooking mortality (fish that die after release) was 3,078 fish for a total weight of 6,122 pounds. That brings the total number of walleyes to 7,167 for a total weight of 19,091 pounds.

With that said, that tacks on 19,091 pounds to the winter angler take of 15,861 pounds for a total as of May 31 of 34,952 pounds. The total angling allocation is 87,800 pounds of the agreed-upon 150,000-pound total allocation of safe harvest for the lake. That leaves anglers 52,848 pounds for the remainder of the open water season that ends on November 30. On December 1, regulations will be determined for the coming winter season.

On the release side of the numbers for that same time frame, according to the DNR, anglers caught and released 117,749 walleyes that weighed a total of 232,915 pounds. Adding it all up, anglers caught a total of 124,916 walleyes for 252,006 pounds or an average weight per walleye of a little over two pounds. If you look at the weight of the walleyes that were harvested, they averaged over three pounds each. That is because the slot limit was 21-23 inch fish, generally a larger fish than most anglers would usually keep. Interestingly enough, the released walleyes averaged just under two pounds surmising the bulk of the released fish were under the slot limit.

As far as other species harvested during that time frame, the DNR stated there were 204 northerns harvested for a total weight of 635 pounds, or an average weight of just over three pounds each. There was also a post mortality of 70 northerns for a total of 294 pounds or an average of just over four pounds each. On the release side, the DNR said that 1,268 northern pike were caught and released for a total of 5,354 pounds or an average weight of just over four pounds.

Other release highlights include 21,183 smallmouth bass with an impressive average weight of just over three pounds each. There were 327 Largemouth bass with an average weight of just under two pounds each. There were 736 rock bass, each averaging just under a pound. There were 41 black crappies, each averaging an impressive pound and a half. And lastly and most interesting, according to the DNR creel data, 82 muskies were caught and released averaging just over ten pounds each. Muskie season was closed during this time frame, so the 82 muskies were apparently caught by anglers fishing for other species.

With those kinds of numbers for the walleyes, it looks promising that the season may stay open until Nov. 30. Just note, starting July 1 through July 15, walleye season is closed on Mille Lacs, and no targeting of that species is allowed. On July 16, the season will re-open to catch and release. A planned harvest season is slated to open on Sept. 16 where one fish will be allowed between 21 and 23 inches or one fish over 28 inches. This will be in place until Nov. 30.

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