Building a sustainable future

3 different methods confirm low walleye population

While it is true that anglers have been catching a lot of walleye and the hot bite should continue, it's also true that three different scientific population measurements indicate the walleye population has declined by about 50 percent during the past 20 years.

While this fact may at first seem to be counter-intuitive, good catch rates can occur when fish populations are down or declining. Scientific studies have documented this.

This situation also can occur when fewer anglers go fishing. These fewer anglers have less competition and therefore tend to be more successful because they are catching biters that would have been caught by others.

Good fishing also can happen when the fish population is in decline due to low prey fish populations. In Mille Lacs, the perch population is lower than average. So despite a reduced walleye population, that bite is good because prey numbers are down, making angler's minnows, leeches and lures more likely to get hit.

The result for Mille Lacs? Low food and low pressure have resulted in phenomenal walleye catch rates.

Improving the walleye fishery is a top priority

This year's catch-and-release only walleye season and temporary walleye fishing closure from July 7 - Aug. 10 are designed to ensure Mille Lacs always will be a healthy and popular walleye fishing lake.

These conservative regulations are necessary because despite more than enough walleye eggs being deposited and more than enough walleye fry being hatched, a complex and changing set of environmental circumstances hasn't produced a strong walleye year class since 2013.

Most walleye die before their third year so we need to protect current and future spawners until that problem is resolved, which will create several strong walleye year classes in the lake – not just one.