DNR tightens winter walleye rules for Upper Red Lake

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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.

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