If you’ve been following Minnesota news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the new sweeping fishing regulations facing one of Minnesota’s premier fishing lakes, Lake Mille Lacs.
I’ve outlined the major changes below facing walleye anglers:
- Beginning on May 14th and running through December 1st, all walleyes must be immediately released
- All anglers targeting walleye must use artificial bait or lures
- Muskie and northern pike fisherman may use live or dead sucker minnows 8 inches or longer
- Night restrictions put in place for walleye anglers. No walleye angling between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Monday, May 16 through through December 1
- Muskie anglers may fish at night
(How the live bait/night restriction is going to stop shifty fisherman from dangling a monster sucker minnow in front a hungry 30″ plus walleye cruising the shallows at midnight is beyond me, but I’m sure it won’t be as big of a problem as I imagine)
Walleye anglers are not the only ones looking at changes, with slight bag limit changes for northern pike and bass.
Let me preface everything I’m about to say by saying that I have never fished Mille Lacs, and have only seen the massive lake once from Highway 169 when I decided to take a detour on my way to Bemidji one fall my freshman year. I don’t know a lot of the lake’s history or the intrinsic value that the lake has for those who live near or vacation on the lake each year. But at the same time, I consider myself a person who understands the value and importance of the state’s natural resources.
For me, the regulation changes on Mille Lacs were inevitable, and the right choice for the fishery and the fishermen who frequent the lake. Walleye populations in the lake have been consistently falling for the past several years, and when the #1 most targeted game fish in the lake is threatened in any way whatsoever, the right decision is to do whatever necessary to protect them.
And while fisherman, resort owners, and fishing guides are understandably nervous about what the news means for them, I think it is important to realize that Lake Mille Lacs is not just a walleye lake, and to think that the lake’s resorts and guides will go into a tailspin because clients will not longer be able to keep a limit of walleyes is a bit over dramatic. The lake has incredible fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, muskie, and northern pikes besides walleyes, and these species are traditionally under appreciated in most lakes in which there is good walleye fishing. While walleyes are king in Mille Lacs (and in my own heart as well), I think nearly anyone would agree that fighting a 45″ muskie, 40″ northern, or a four pound smallmouth is just as much, if not more, intense than a typical 20″ walleye.
In short, fishermen will just have to plan on targeting other species if they’d like a meal of fresh fish, something that the lake’s excellent populations of pike and perch will be more than capable of providing while the lake’s walleye fishery has an opportunity to rebound.
To read more about the new regulations facing Lake Mille Lacs, click here.