MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The DNR says walleye numbers in Lake Mille Lacs could be the lowest in 40 years.
Test netting done by the DNR found an average of 9.7 walleye per net last year. That number dropped to an average of 4.8 this year.
Greg Thomas, of Gregory’s Resort, has fished Mille Lacs for decades. He says fishing is good right now, but thinks regulations have anglers targeting fish under 17 inches. And he believes that’s depleted the perch population for walleyes. With little food, he says, walleyes are eager to take the bait.
“I’ll show you two walleyes in my freezer. They are both about 28-and-a-half inches and they only weigh 5 pounds. They are starving to death. And if it doesn’t change, we may be out of fish in three or four years,” Thomas said.
Rick Bruesewitz, the Aitkin area fisheries supervisor for the DNR, said they expected there to be fewer fish in Lake Mille Lacs, just not as much.
But Bruesewitz believes it’s too early to jump to conclusions. Test netting is only a part of the data, and other information still needs to be collected. Still, if these numbers hold true, the future of fishing on Lake Mille Lacs will likely change.
“If population is as low as this indicates, then I’m quite concerned,” Bruesewitz said. “I think we are looking at more conservative fishing in the future.”
Bruesewitz said there are some positive signs. Electrofishing surveys show that walleye reproduction in Mille Lacs was good this year.
Bruesewitz said they hope to have a clearer idea of where the walleye population stands by December.