Removal of the minimum length requirements for bass is but one of the new regulations recently implemented at Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake in hopes of bolstering the sagging walleye fishery.
But it is the extension of the nighttime fishing ban until Dec. 1, instead of lifting it in mid-June, that has stirred the most controversy. That’s because summer anglers like to pursue walleyes after dark.
“It’s like a dagger to the economy up here,” said Bill Eno of Twin Pines Resort.
Guide Jason Hamemick added, “They’re going to have to figure something else out because this is blowing up right now.”
Others think that the “bad publicity” generated by the change in regulations is worse than the reality.
The reality, meanwhile, is that walleye numbers are at a 40-year low, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“The current walleye regulation and extended night fishing ban will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye, adult spawning stock, and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief.
By contrast, northern pike numbers are at record highs, and the smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s. But populations of tullibee and perch, both important forage species, are relatively low.
“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improving the walleye fishery as quickly as possible with as little harm to the local economy as possible,” Pereira added.
“More liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressures because their populations are at or near record highs.”
For bass, the creel limit remains at six, with no minimum size. Only one can be longer than 18 inches.
Previously, smallmouths had to be between 17 and 20 inches, with one longer than 20 permitted. Additionally, Mille Lacs will be exempt from the statewide catch-and-release smallmouth rule that goes into effect in mid-September.
The northern pike limit has been increased from 3 to 10, with one of more than 30 inches allowed.
For walleyes, daily and possession limits remain unchanged at two fish of 18 to 20 inches, with one of more than 28 inches allowed.