Fisheries Lake Survey

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Name: Mille Lacs

Nearest Town: Garrison
Primary County: Mille Lacs
Survey Date: 09/01/2013
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.

Fish Health:

Disease:Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)Date Tested:9/8/2009Result:Negative
Source: MNDNR
Disease:Heterosporis sp.Date Tested:10/4/2000Result:Positive
Source: MNDNR

Lake Characteristics

Lake Area (acres): 128226.17
Littoral Area (acres): 33129
Maximum Depth (ft): 42
Water Clarity (ft): 11.3 (5-29)

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

Did you know? Each year, the MinnAqua program teaches youth and families across Minnesota about aquatic biology, fishing, and conservation..

Fish Sampled for the 2013 Survey Year


Gear Used

Number of fish per net

Average Fish Weight (lbs)

Normal Range (lbs)


Normal Range

Bluegill Gill net 0.10 N/A 0.17 N/A
Hybrid Sunfish Gill net 0.02 N/A 0.41 N/A
Northern Pike Gill net 1.81 0.9 - 4.3 3.32 2.4 - 4.3
Pumpkinseed Gill net 0.06 N/A 0.10 N/A
Rock Bass Gill net 1.06 0.1 - 1.1 0.51 0.3 - 0.6
Smallmouth Bass Gill net 1.06 0.0 - 0.2 1.47 0.8 - 1.5
Tullibee (cisco) Gill net 3.42 4.9 - 17.6 1.24 0.4 - 0.5
Walleye Gill net 12.69 3.3 - 14.8 1.38 0.9 - 1.5
White Sucker Gill net 0.79 0.8 - 2.4 2.55 1.6 - 2.1
Yellow Perch Gill net 20.79 9.9 - 57.1 0.21 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 2013 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
bluegill 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
hybrid sunfish 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
northern pike 0 1 9 2 17 34 19 12 94
pumpkinseed 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
rock bass 7 24 24 0 0 0 0 0 55
smallmouth bass 0 7 14 21 13 0 0 0 55
tullibee (cisco) 0 0 28 88 62 0 0 0 178
walleye 0 365 19 20 103 137 16 0 660
white sucker 0 0 2 0 38 1 0 0 41
yellow perch 562 321 187 11 0 0 0 0 1081

For the record, the largest Northern Hogsucker taken in Minnesota weighed 1 lb., 15 oz. and was caught:

    Where: Sunrise River near Sunrise, Chisago County
    When: 8/16/82
    Statistics: 14.25" length, 7.1" girth

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 guidelin es 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 09/01/2013)

The Mille Lacs Lake game fish community is primarily composed of walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, muskellunge, 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. Curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil are well established in the lake.

Creel Survey

Fishing effort for the 2012-2013 winter season was 2.14 million angler-hours (ang-hrs), about 22% above average. Open water 2013 fishing effort was 863,000 ang-hrs, which is approximately 40% below average. A major impact to summer pressure in 2013 was the late ice-out in 2013, which occurred on 16 May, 5 days after opener. The change in regulations to a 2 fish limit and a harvest slot of 18-20 inches with only 1 allowed over 28 inches likely also affected total effort. Walleye harvest was relatively low at 74,650 lbs. Total kill was 141,500 lbs. Anglers released an additional 1,147,800 lb of walleye. Most of the harvested walleye were age 5 and age 6.

Anglers harvested 6,850 lb of northern pike, and released 94,000 lb. Total kill for pike was 11,000 lb, similar to 2012. Regulations in 2013 had been liberalized to 33 to 40 inch protected slot, with 1 fish in a 3 fish bag allowed over 40 inches. Anglers caught 73,200 smallmouth bass in 2013, which was the highest ever observed for Mille Lacs Lake. Approximately 1,630 smallmouth were harvested under the new liberalized 17 to 20 inch protected slot. Yellow perch harvest was 6,950 lb. Tullibee harvest was 2,380 lb.

Fall Assessment

Walleye catch per effort (CPE) in the inshore gillnets was 8.7 fish/net and 11.3 lb/net. In offshore nets, walleye CPE was 19.2 fish/net and 27.5 lb/net. Catch per effort was almost two times as high as the previous year, but the increase was due to abundant and larger than normal age 0 walleye that were more susceptible to the smallest mesh of the gill nets. Age 1+ walleye catch was similar to the record lows that were observed in 2012. The CPE of walleye longer than 20 inches remained at moderate levels of around 2/net in the inshore nets and 4.5/net in the offshore nets. As observed in recent years, the 2000, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2010, and now the 2011 year classes are poorly represented in the gill nets, while 2005 through 2008 appear average. Early indications from electro-fishing suggest that the 2012 year class may be low and the 2013 year class has the potential to be above average. The proportion of mature walleyes that were male in inshore gill nets decreased to the lowest observed at 36%. The catch-per-effort of mature males in both the inshore and offshore nets decreased to the lowest level observed and the second lowest observed, respectively. The number of mature female walleye in the inshore nets remains similar to the last two years, and is near the lowest level observed since 1983. Mature females continue to be caught at a moderate level in the offshore nets, where CPE has remained relatively stable since these nets were first utilized in 1998. Walleye growth was around average for male and female walleye age 2-4 and below average for older males and females. Walleye condition was above average for walleye less than 14 inches and about average for walleye greater than 14 inches.

Northern pike increased in the inshore nets to a CPE of 2.8 fish/net, which is the highest observed since 1983. The increase was due mainly to high numbers of age 0 to age 2 fish, which caused the number of fish less than 28 inches to increase. However, fish greater than 28 inches remain at below average levels in the assessment nets. Similarly, the northern pike catch in the 16 specialized northern pike gill nets increased to a CPE of 8.1 fish/net, however, the magnitude of the increase was less than that observed in the inshore due to age 0 fish being too small to be effectively caught in the larger mesh sizes of the pike nets. Inshore nets sampled 9 year classes of northern pike, with age 0 and age 1 fish at the highest levels observed. Mark-recapture population estimates are planned for the spring of 2014, for both walleye and northern pike.

Yellow perch catch was similar to last year. CPE declined slightly in the inshore gillnets to the lowest observed since 1989 at 18.6 fish/net and 3.3 lb/net. Gill net CPE of perch larger than 9 in dropped for the second year in a row to 2.3 fish/net, a 66% decrease from the previous year. In the offshore nets, perch CPE increased from the previous year by about 35% to a CPE of 24.3 fish/net and 6.02 lb/net, but was still about half of the average catch.

Tullibee CPE increased from the lowest observed in 2012 to 0.8 fish/net and 0.6 lb/net in the inshore nets, which was still about 14 times below average. CPE decreased by 63% in the offshore nets to 7.7 fish/net and 10.1 lb/net. Seventy-eight percent of the tullibee caught in the gill nets were greater than three years old, with no strong year classes available to recruit into the spawning stock. Forage gill nets indicated relatively high levels of age 0 fish, although they appear to be small. The difference in magnitude between the inshore and offshore catches over the last several years may reflect a diminished population that is no longer over-flowing into the less desirable habitat of the near shore region, or it may represent a behavioral shift to offshore areas due to other environmental factors.

Other species were also caught in standard gill nets, generally in low numbers. Smallmouth bass catch rate was the second highest observed in the inshore gill nets at 1.5 fish/net. Trends over the last decade show an increasing smallmouth bass population in the lake. Burbot continue to exhibit declining numbers, and are now only occasionally observed in the assessment nets. Rock bass increased for the third year in a row and remain at above average levels.

In addition to relatively strong numbers of age 0 tullibee in the forage gill nets, we also recorded the highest numbers of age 0 and age 1 yellow perch observed. Yellow perch and tullibee greater than age 1 were at low levels. Age 0 spottail shiners were at moderate levels, while age 1+ spottails were low. Bluntnose minnows were not observed at all in the forage nets. Age 0 walleye were observed at moderate to high levels, while no age 1+ walleye were recorded, which was the first time this has occurred in the forage nets. The CPE of YOY and age 1 yellow perch in the trawl were well below average; however, it appears that aquatic invasive species may be interfering with trawl catches, particularly in the Wealthwood area. The size of YOY perch caught in the trawl was slightly below average at 2.2 inches, which was similar to the average size of 2.4 inches that was observed in the electrofishing runs. Reduced angler catch rates for walleye beginning in July and the improved condition of predators caught in the fall sampling suggest that the higher forage levels observed in the forage gill nets are likely the better indicator of forage levels. If forage levels remain high into the open water season of 2014, anglers can expect a continuation of the reduced catch rates for walleye that were observed over winter.

Spring Muskellunge Trap Netting

Spring trap netting collected 122 muskellunge in 95 net sets for a total catch rate of 1.28 fish/net. No muskellunge were captured in the new net sets north of Hawksbill Point up towards Pine Island. The average length was 44.7 in, and 22 muskellunge (18%) were longer than 50 inches (Figure 1). The longest observed was 55.7 in. The muskellunge assessment will be repeated in 2014.

Invasive Species

Zebra mussel density appears to have stabilized over the last three years, where it has averaged about 1100/ft2. Veliger (larval zebra mussels) densities continue to increase, with the 2013 mid-July samples showing the highest counts since sampling began in 2008. Spiny water flea (Bythotrephes) was observed during each sampling period from May through September. Peak density occurred in September and was 11.9 Bythotrephes per sample, which was the highest 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 were consuming spiny water flea.

It appears that spiny water flea has 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 some level of depletion, but small cladocerans show the greatest decrease, where in several months they are barely detectable in the samples. However, in 2013, the numbers of juvenile yellow perch and walleye both appeared to be high, suggesting either the low levels of small zooplankton are adequate at the appropriate time, or larval walleye and perch found alternative prey resources.

More detailed reports are available at

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