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DNR tightens winter walleye rules for Upper Red Lake
Friday, January 09 2015
 
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 catch.

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 added.

"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 years ago.

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.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard on MPR's statewide radio network or online at mprnews.org


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