Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Mille Lacs

Nearest Town: Garrison
Primary County: Mille Lacs
Survey Date: 09/01/2014
Inventory Number: 48000200

Public Access Information

Ownership Type Description
Township Earthen
County Earthen
DNR Concrete

Fishing Regulations:

Special and/or Experimental Fishing Regulations exist on this lake. Please refer to our online Minnesota Fishing Regulations.

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 128226.68
Littoral Area (acres): 33129
Maximum Depth (ft): 42
Water Clarity (ft): 11.1 (5-29)

Dominant Bottom Substrate: N/A
Abundance of Aquatic Plants: N/A
Maximum Depth of Plant Growth (ft): N/A

Did you know? Fishing piers are installed on lakes to provide opportunities for shore fishing.

Fish Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Black Crappie Gill net 0.06 0.1 - 0.7 0.16 0.2 - 0.5
Bowfin (dogfish) Gill net 0.02 0.0 - 0.1 4.92 3.0 - 4.3
Burbot Gill net 0.06 0.0 - 0.2 0.17 1.1 - 2.1
Hybrid Sunfish Gill net 0.04 N/A 0.28 N/A
Northern Pike Gill net 1.71 0.9 - 4.3 4.44 2.4 - 4.3
Rock Bass Gill net 0.62 0.1 - 1.1 0.70 0.3 - 0.6
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 0.65 0.0 - 0.2 1.49 0.8 - 1.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 15.67 4.9 - 17.6 0.55 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 9.58 3.3 - 14.8 1.48 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 0.79 0.8 - 2.4 1.68 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Bullhead Gill net 0.04 0.1 - 1.1 1.02 0.6 - 1.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 27.54 9.9 - 57.1 0.19 0.2 - 0.3
Normal Ranges represent typical catches for lakes with similar physical and chemical characteristics.

Length of Selected Species (Trapnet, Gillnet) Sampled for the 2014 Survey Year

Species Number of fish caught in each category (inches)
0-5 6-8 9-11 12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30+ Total
black crappie 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
bowfin (dogfish) 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
burbot 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
hybrid sunfish 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
northern pike 0 0 0 1 13 32 27 16 89
rock bass 3 9 20 0 0 0 0 0 32
smallmouth bass 0 1 6 20 7 0 0 0 34
tullibee (cisco) 3 517 11 142 142 0 0 0 815
walleye 0 31 266 22 81 85 13 0 498
white sucker 0 9 7 3 22 0 0 0 41
yellow bullhead 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2
yellow perch 650 612 156 14 0 0 0 0 1432

For the record, the largest Chinook Salmon (King) taken in Minnesota weighed 33 lbs., 4 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Poplar River, Cook County
    When: 9/23/89
    Statistics: 44.75" length, 25.75" girth

    and by

    Where: 10/12/89
    Statistics: Lake Superior, St. Louis County

Fish Stocking Activity

Fish Stocked by Species for the Last Ten Years

Year Species Size Number Pounds
2014 muskellunge fingerlings 1,580 0.0
  muskellunge fingerlings 1,288 96.6
2012 Muskellunge2 fingerlings 3,000 555.6
2010 Muskellunge fingerlings 2,999 653.4
2008 Muskellunge1 fingerlings 2,998 616.5
2006 Muskellunge1 fingerlings 3,000 712.2

Stocking Notes
1 - indicates fish purchased and stocked by private citizens and sporting groups.
2 - indicates fish purchased by the DNR for stocking.

Stocking Fish Sizes
Fry - Newly hatched fish that are ready to be stocked usually called "swim-ups". Walleye fry are 1/3 of an inch or around 8 mm.
Fingerling - Fingerlings are one to six months old and can range from a size of one to twelve inches depending on the species. Walleye fingerlings range from three to eight inches each fall.
Yearling - Yearling fish are at least one year old. A one-year-old fish can range from three to twenty inches depending on the species. Walleye yearlings average from six to twelve inches.
Adult - Adult fish are fish that have reached maturity. Depending on the species, maturity can be reached at two years of age. Walleye reach maturity between the ages of four and six years.

Fish Consumption Guidelines

These fish consumption guidelines help people make choices about which fish to eat and how often. Following the guidelines enables people to reduce their exposure to contaminants while still enjoying the many benefits from fish.

Pregnant Women, Women who may become pregnant and Children under age 15

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Mille Lacs Co., 48000200
Burbot   All sizes     Mercury
Carp   All sizes     Mercury
Cisco All sizes        
Crappie   All sizes     Mercury
Northern Pike   shorter than 30" 30" or longer   Mercury
Smallmouth Bass   All sizes     Mercury
Sunfish   All sizes     Mercury
Walleye   shorter than 20" 20" or longer   Mercury
White Sucker All sizes        
Yellow Perch   All sizes     Mercury

General Population

County, DOWID
Species Meal Advice Contaminants
Unrestricted 1 meal/week 1 meal/month Do not eat
Mille Lacs Co., 48000200
Burbot All sizes        
Carp All sizes        
Cisco All sizes        
Crappie All sizes        
Northern Pike All sizes        
Smallmouth Bass All sizes        
Sunfish All sizes        
Walleye   All sizes     Mercury
White Sucker All sizes        
Yellow Perch All sizes        

DOWID - MN DNR, Division of Waters' lake ID number.

Contaminants listed were measured at levels that trigger advice to limit consumption.

Listing of consumption guidelines do not imply the fish are legal to keep, MN DNR fishing regulations should be consulted.

PCBS - Polychlorinated biphenyls
PFOS - Perfluorooctane sulfanate

Status of the Fishery (as of 09/01/2014)

The Mille Lacs Lake game fish community is primarily composed of walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, muskellunge, tullibee, and smallmouth bass. Other game fish include largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie. Common minnow species include spottail shiner and mimic shiner. Invasive animal species include common carp, zebra mussel, Chinese mystery-snail, banded mystery-snail, and spiny water flea. Curlyleaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil are well established in the lake.

Creel Survey

Fishing effort for the 2013-2014 winter season was 732,500 angler-hours (ang-hrs), almost 60% below average. Only trace levels of angling pressure (700 ang-hrs) were observed once walleye season closed in late February. Ice fishing pressure was severely curtailed by poor ice conditions that prevented anglers from freely accessing major portions of the lake until mid-January. Ice angling pressure was further impacted by some of the lowest harvest rates ever observed for both walleye and yellow perch.

Open water 2014 fishing effort was 597,500 ang-hrs, which is also approximately 60% below average and the lowest observed. Open water night effort was the lowest observed, mainly due to an extended night closure that was in place through late July. Open water day pressure was low throughout all periods of the summer; likely due to low walleye catch rates and restrictive regulations.

Walleye harvest, for the entire season, was the lowest observed at 11,000 lbs. Total kill, which includes hooking mortality, was 23,650 lbs. Anglers released an additional 210,750 lb of walleye. Most of the harvested walleye came from the 2006 through 2008 year classes.

Anglers harvested 16,500 lb of northern pike, the highest observed since 1999. The increase in northern pike harvest was likely due to liberalized regulations that began in the summer. An additional 45,000 lb of northern pike were released. Total kill for pike was 18,800 lb.

Yellow perch harvest was extremely low at 3,100 lb, and tullibee harvest was similarly low at 1,700 lb. Anglers caught 81,000 smallmouth bass in 2014, which was the highest ever observed for Mille Lacs Lake. Approximately 3,850 smallmouth were harvested under the newly liberalized 6 fish bag, with only one over 18 inches, regulation.

Fall Assessment

Walleye catch per effort (CPE) in the inshore gillnets was 7.1 fish/net and 11.5 lb/net. In offshore nets, walleye CPE was 13.6 fish/net and 18.3 lb/net. Catch per effort in the inshore nets remained low and was similar to the previous year. Numbers in the offshore nets decreased to the second lowest observed, while biomass decreased to the lowest observed. The bulk of the walleye catch came from one year old fish. Only age 1 and 9+ walleyes were observed at above median levels in the gill nets. The CPE of walleye longer than 20 inches decreased to 1.4/net in the inshore nets, a level not observed since1984, while the catch rate in the offshore nets, which have a much shorter history, was the lowest observed at 2.7/net. The CPE of mature males remains low in the inshore nets and is the lowest observed and continued a decreasing trend in the offshore nets. Mature female CPE was the lowest observed in both the inshore and offshore nets and continued to exhibit a decreasing trend. Walleye growth was below average for male and female walleye ages 2-4 and older males, while growth was above average for older females. Walleye condition was the lowest observed for walleye less than 14 inches and about average for walleye greater than 14 inches, suggesting that forage for small fish may be in low abundance.

Northern pike CPE in the inshore nets remained high at 2.7 fish/net and biomass in the nets increased to the second highest observed at 11.1 lb/net. The high number of pike is mainly due to strong numbers of fish from the 2010, 2012, and 2013 year classes, which resulted in a high number of fish less than 28 inches, however, fish greater than 28 inches remained near average levels. The northern pike catch in the 16 specialized northern pike gill nets increased for the third year in a row to a CPE of 9.1 fish/net and 40.6 lb/net. About 44% of the northern pike captured in the specialized nets were from the 2012 year class. While northern pike catches continue to remain low in the offshore nets (n=4), the catch rate of 0.2/net is above the 75th quartile. All four pike observed in the offshore sets were greater than 29 inches in length.

Yellow perch CPE increased in the inshore nets to 28.1/net and 4.3 lb/net, but is still below the 25% quartile for Mille Lacs Lake. Gill net CPE of perch larger than 9 in dropped for the third year in a row to 1.8 fish/net, which is the second lowest observed. Yellow perch CPE in the offshore nets was similar to the previous year at 25.9/net and 6.5 lb/net, with both metrics near the 25% quartile for Mille Lacs Lake.

Tullibee CPE increased to 7.8 fish/net and 1.9 lb/net in the inshore nets, both around the 75% quartile for Mille Lacs Lake. CPE also increased in the offshore nets to 28.2 fish/net and 19.3 lb/net. Over 60% of the tullibee observed in the inshore nets were from the 2013 year class. The offshore nets were more age-diverse with 33% of the tullibee from the 2013 year class, 21% from the 2008 year class, and 13% from the 2009 year class. The difference in magnitude between the inshore and offshore catches over the last several years may reflect a diminished lake-wide population that is no longer over-flowing into the less desirable habitat of the near shore region, or it may represent a behavioral shift into offshore regions due to other environmental factors.

Other species were also caught in standard gill nets, generally in low numbers. Burbot continued to exhibit a declining trend in number, and are now only occasionally observed in the assessment nets. Rock bass declined to an average level of 0.8/net. Smallmouth bass declined to 0.8/net in the inshore nets, but remain at above average levels. Smallmouth bass continued to incrementally increase in the offshore nets and are now at the highest observed at 0.4/net. Trends over the last decade continue to suggest an increasing smallmouth bass population in the lake.

Forage gill nets showed mixed results. Young-of-the-year (YOY) yellow perch were the lowest observed in both numbers and biomass over the nine year history of the forage gill nets. Age 1 yellow perch, which were at the highest level observed as YOY, were observed at a more moderate level in 2014, presumably due to predation. Age 0 tullibee were observed at moderate numbers and biomass, while age 1 tullibee were at the highest observed. Moderate numbers of spottail shiners were also observed.

Age 0 walleye were observed at lower numbers and biomass, while ages 1 walleye were at the highest observed. Overall, the forage nets would suggest low forage availability for smaller walleye, which is corroborated by the low condition observed in walleye less than 14 inches that were captured in the fall gill nets. Further, there would appear to be sufficient alternative forage available to larger piscivores, in the form of age 1 tullibee and yellow perch, so that the strong age 1 walleye year class should have a greater probability of getting through the remaining predatory gauntlet.

Age 0 walleye CPE in the six electrofishing transects was below median levels for the first time since 2009 at 106.5/hr and 65.0/mile. However, this level of abundance has previously been sufficient to produce a decent year class, as long as survival is above average. Average length for age 0 walleye was 4.85 inches. Age 1 walleye CPE was the second highest observed at 46.4/hr and the third highest observed at 28.3/mile. The average length of age 1 walleye was 9.41 inches. Forage electrofishing runs of two minutes duration showed extremely low numbers of age 0 yellow perch and low to moderate numbers of age 1 yellow perch. Age 1 walleye and age 0 largemouth bass CPE was the highest observed in the four year history of forage electrofishing.

Trawling was expanded in 2014 to cover more areas throughout the lake and to sample additional habitat types. Of the twenty-three locations sampled, age 0 yellow perch were the most plentiful species observed at 283.8 fish/hr, however, 99.8% were captured at a single site. Average length of the YOY yellow perch was 2.41 inches. The second most observed fish was age 0 tullibee with a CPE of 142.2 fish/hr and were collected at eleven different trawl sites. Average length of YOY tullibee in the trawls was 2.85 inches. Ten YOY walleye were caught while trawling and their average length was 3.92 inches.

Invasive Species

Zebra mussel density appears to have stabilized over the last three years, where it has averaged about 1050/ft2. Veliger (larval zebra mussels) densities decreased in 2014 and were the lowest observed since 2009. Peak veliger densities for 2014 occurred in late June.

Spiny water flea (Bythotrephes) was observed during each sampling period from May through September. Peak density occurred in September and was 2.6 Bythotrephes per sample, which was the lowest observed since spiny water flea was first observed in the fall of 2009. Cursory spot checks of fish stomachs show that age 1+ tullibee and age 1+ yellow perch are consuming spiny water flea.

It appears that spiny water flea have taken a toll on zooplankton numbers and biomass. Native zooplankton are a vital dietary staple for many larval and juvenile fish in Mille Lacs. We have been observing severe declines in various species that belong to three broad functional groups. Currently, all three groups show a severe level of depletion, but small cladocerans and large cladocerans show the greatest decrease, where throughout the summer they are now barely detectable in the samples.

Muskellunge Assessment

Adult muskellunge were sampled during one week of the spring spawning run, with net sets occurring from 18 May through 22 May. In this five day period, 245 muskellunge were captured in 140 large frame trap net sets (1.75 muskellunge/net), mainly in the southern half of the lake. Twenty of the 245 fish were recaptures from a previous day, making a total of 225 individual fish sampled. 141 muskellunge were mature males, which ranged in length from 34.9 inches to 46.5 inches, with an average length of 42.1 inches. The remaining 104 muskellunge were mature females that ranged in length from 37.8 inches to 55.7 inches and had an average length of 49.6 inches. About 25% of the fish were greater than 50 inches in length. A Chapman modified Petersen mark-recapture population estimate utilizing marked fish from the 2013 spawning run estimated a population of adult muskellunge at about 1,920 individuals (? 870).

For more information on this lake, contact:

Area Fisheries Supervisor
1200 Minnesota Ave S
Aitkin, MN 56431
Phone: (218) 429-3010
Internet: Aitkin Fisheries

Lake maps can be obtained from:

Minnesota Bookstore
660 Olive Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 297-3000 or (800) 657-3757
To order, use B0212 for the map-id.

For general DNR Information, contact:

DNR Information Center
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
TDD: (651) 296-6157 or (888) MINNDNR

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    Toll-free: (800) 652-9093