By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After more than a month off, catch-and-release walleye fishing re-opened on Mille Lacs Lake Friday morning. And anglers are allowed to use “live bait” once again.

The DNR had enacted a temporary ban as they continue to try and bring the lake’s walleye population, back up.

“There were days when we’d come up here and my brother and I, we’d have our limit of six each,” said angler Jerry Ketcher.

Ketcher has been fishing Mille Lacs for 25 years and remembers when walleyes were the draw. But this year, without the possibility of keeping even one, he never even put a line in the water.

“I left the walleyes alone. I didn’t even put my boat in this year. Politics again. Catch and release? Nah,” said Ketcher.

In a statement, Don Pereira, the DNR’s fisheries section chief said, “After an extended mid-season closure, we look forward to reopening the lake to catch and release walleye fishing.” Though some resort owners aren’t sure it’ll make much of a difference.

“The walleye fishermen have not been here. They’ve been going to Brainerd or Winnibigoshish or other places where they can fish those fish,” said Ben Lapinski.

A year ago, Lapinski bought Beachside Resort in Wahkon. He envisioned summer evenings with a lake full of walleye anglers. That hasn’t exactly happened.

“The bass anglers, they are catching walleye on bass baits. There’s walleye here, they are everywhere,” said Lapinski.

While bass fishing has helped his resort some, Lapinski said keeping walleyes off the hook and out of the hands of anglers, has hurt.

“I think people would rather have this be there destination and if some of those burdens or those things get lifted, then I think there’s good enough reason to believe we’ll bounce right back to what they once were,” said Lapinski.

The DNR enacted the walleye ban this summer to help with “hooking mortality,” as a way to try and build up the walleye population.

Walleye season will now continue on Mille Lacs through Labor Day. However, a night fishing ban on walleyes remains in place through November.

John Lauritsen