Mille Lacs, one of the Midwest’s most revered and iconic freshwater lakes, may be making a comeback to its once-renowned walleye fishing with the opening of the lake to walleye harvest on the traditional opening day of the Minnesota fishing season, May 15.
Anglers may harvest one walleye measuring 21 to 23 inches, or one walleye longer than 28 inches during the first two weeks of the state season, running through May 31.
While seemingly restrictive, this is an increase in the allowable early walleye harvest compared to recent years. This years regulations are allowed because fewer walleyes were caught through the ice last winter, according to a state DNR report.
“Lower walleye catches this winter is allowing us to offer some open-water walleye harvest this year,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for DNR. “We’re glad Mille Lacs anglers will have the chance to keep a walleye on opening weekend and Memorial Day weekend—two of the most popular times to fish during the year. We also hope to allow some harvest this fall.”
In its heyday, Mille Lacs was arguably one of the best walleye fisheries in Minnesota. Because the lake is only 75 miles from Minneapolis, it’s also one of the state’s most popular waters. But changes in the lake’s clarity and limited walleye production in recent years have put a dent in the lake’s fisheries. The 132,000-acre lake averages a depth of 25 feet and also offers fishing for pike, muskies, bass, perch, and panfish.
Mille Lacs walleye fishing this year will be catch-and-release only from June 1 to 30. From July 1 to 15, walleye fishing is closed. The lake will allow catch-and-release walleye angling again from July 15 to Sept. 15. From Sept. 16 through November, walleye take will tentatively be allowed again. Anglers will again be able to keep one fish 21 to 23 inches or one fish over 28 inches.
“Our projections strongly suggest that fall harvest can occur,” Parsons said. “However, we will monitor the factors that determine walleye take throughout the open-water season.”