Leech Lake anglers will be able to keep a wider size range of walleye starting on the 2019 fishing opener.
"Walleye abundance in Leech Lake is currently at a point that we can provide anglers additional harvest opportunity beginning in May," said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "We got here through protective fishing regulations and consistently good year classes over the past 10 years."
The new regulations, which will take effect Saturday, May 11, will remove the 20- to 26-inch protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation, but with a four-fish walleye limit, only one of which can be over 20 inches.
Currently, anglers on Leech Lake can keep four fish, but must immediately release any walleye that are within a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. Only one fish over 26 inches is allowed in possession. The four-fish walleye possession limit on Leech Lake has been in effect since 2005.
Adaptive management on Leech Lake Schultz said each year on Leech Lake, the DNR evaluates the success of current regulations, and looks at fish population data and angler surveys.
"We also work with the Leech Lake Fisheries Input Group, area businesses and community members. They’ve been strongly supportive of these changes," Schultz said.
Leech Lake’s management plan includes goals for the lake’s walleye population. Walleye have exceeded the management goals for six of the past seven years, leaving a window open for increasing harvest opportunity. DNR lake surveys show naturally reproducing year classes of younger walleye are present to replace additional fish taken by anglers.
By the same token, if future fisheries assessments or increased fishing pressure indicate harvest should be reduced, the DNR anticipates revisiting the protected slot limit.
Perch populations in the lake, unlike walleye, have been below management objectives for five of the past six years, an expected result of a high walleye population. One goal of additional walleye harvest is to reduce the amount of perch being preyed upon by walleye, which may increase the perch population.
More information about Leech Lake, including the management plan for the lake, can be found at mndnr.gov/leechlake.