|Written by John Enger, Minnesota Public Radio News,
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Minnesota anglers fishing Upper Red
Lake this winter will face tougher regulations on their walleye
Effective Dec. 1, anglers can only
hold or keep keep three walleye, the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources said Monday.
All walleye 17 to 26 inches long must
be immediately released and only one walleye in possession may be
longer than 26 inches, the DNR said.
The rule changes come following record
walleye harvests the past winter and summer and are not a sign of
biological problems in the northwest Minnesota lake, the agency
"The current walleye fishery is
in excellent shape, but the great fishing has attracted considerably
more angling pressure, which resulted in walleye harvest exceeding
the safe harvest range for the first time since walleye angling
reopened in 2006," Gary Barnard, the DNR's Bemidji area
fisheries supervisor, said in a statement.
Much of Upper Red Lake is owned by the
Red Lake Band of Ojibwe. It's been managed jointly by the band and
the DNR since the walleye population there hit an all time low 15
Red Lake band Fisheries Director Pat
Brown said the lake has made a great comeback. "The lake is
probably in better shape than it ever has been," he said. "The
lake just continues to become healthier."
The new walleye limits don't apply to
tribe members fishing reservation waters.
While the off-reservation portion of
Upper Red Lake saw a large walleye harvest this year, Brown said
tribe members took many fewer fish then they could have.
"We're about 100,000 pounds under
what we could safely take out of the reservation waters," he
said. "So we may actually relax our regulations a little bit."
DNR officials remain concerned about
the walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota.
Numbers there remain the lowest seen in decades and DNR officials say
it will take time for the population to recover, though a fall survey
showed some hopeful signs.
The DNR's been encouraging anglers to
catch northern pike instead of walleye at Mille Lacs. As part of that
effort, officials on Monday announced they would loosen rules for
catching and spearing pike this winter on Mille Lacs.
Anglers and spearers can keep 10
northern pike, of which only one may be longer than 30 inches. Also,
northern pike season will be extended from mid-February to the last
Sunday in March.
The lake's walleye fishing regulations
will not change this winter, the DNR emphasized.
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