MN DNR and Fishing Reports Conclude Multiple Species Being Caught | Mille Lacs Lake Minnesota
Results from the Minnesota DNR reports just released show a tight 18- to 20-inch harvest slow, two-fish limit for walleyes. With looser regulations for smallmouth bass and northern pike, the first month of the fishing season at Mille Lacs Lake has gone as expected, with anglers targeting other species and reporting that multiple species being caught. Anglers harvested 2,650 pounds of walleyes in May, according to creel survey information gathered by the Department of Natural Resources. During the same time last year, a little more than 6,000 pounds of walleyes were harvested.
Also, almost 38,000 pounds of walleyes were released in May, and hooking mortality is figured to be low so far, about 200 pounds in all, thanks to colder water temperatures during the first four weeks of the season. Creel results also showed that 2,950 pounds of northern pike had been harvested compared with 1,000 pounds in May last year. Anglers also have released about 6,500 pounds of pike this year.
Catch rates for smallmouth bass are noticeably up, with more than 18,000 fish (or 61,625 pounds) have been released. Anglers only kept 1,200 pounds of smallmouth in May, up from 443 pounds in 2013, but it’s worth noting that the smallmouth season started on May 10 at Mille Lacs, about two weeks earlier than last year. Eric Jensen, a DNR large lake specialist in Aitkin, says the Mille Lacs Lake forage base is solid this season. Small perch are abundant in the system right now, and that’s led to a slower walleye bite to start this season. “It’s been a tougher bite this year compared to last for walleyes,” Jensen said. “We had higher catch rates last year, but the lake also had less forage in it.”
Mille Lacs Regulation Changes and Their Precise Impact on Multiple Species Being Caught
The increased smallmouth and northern pike harvest in May is likely the result of relaxed regulations for both species this season. Creel survey results suggest more anglers target smallmouth and pike in 2014, although angler hours for both remain well behind the number of hours spent fishing for walleyes. In 2013, the northern pike limit on Mille Lacs was three fish, and all pike between 33 and 40 inches were protected. Anglers can keep ten northern pikes this season, although only one of them can be more significant than 30 inches.
Changes to smallmouth bass regulations included starting the season (at Mille Lacs only) to coincide with the walleye opener on May 10. Last season, the limit on six smallmouths was six, but only between 17 and 20 inches. Six can be kept again in 2014, although there’s a looser slot, with only one over 18 inches allowed. “We have a few more people showing up and fishing pike, but 10-fish limits are not flying out of the lake,” Jensen said. “We haven’t looked at targeted pressure for smallmouth this year, but while it’s increasing, it pales in comparison to walleye pressure — walleyes are still king.”
Human-Induced SlowDowns – Does Fewer People on the Lake Could Mean Less Fish Being Caught?
The simple answer to this is “No.” A lot of boating and recreation watercraft activity does not necessarily turn walleyes off from feeding with a small water body. It generally means they have become more active than usual, pushing them into areas that they may not frequent or moving to more in-depth or shallower locations.
When it comes to Lake Mille Lacs, having the pond all to yourself may seem like heavenly bliss and can be the best time to fish the lake if it is a Monday morning after a high traffic weekend. If the season trend supports lower overall human traffic, this may translate into more challenging to find schools of actively feeding walleyes. On larger bodies of water, “stirring up” the lake with human-induced traffic gets the fish to be more active and has an impact on your lure crossing paths with more fish.
Angler Pressure and Its Impact On a Late Start to the Season
Combined fishing pressure for all species increased on Mille Lacs during May last year, but last May saw the lowest number of angler hours ever recorded for May. Last year, open water season did not officially start until the week after the walleye season opened due to ice still covering the lake. It was resulting in almost zero fishing pressure during the first week of last year’s season. In the unique scenario, the lake of angling pressure offset the colder than average water temps, and many anglers reported have a good walleye bite during the second week of last year’s season. The ice came off the lake just in time for this year’s fishing opener, but overall, angler pressure this spring is still down and May was the second-lowest month on record for angler pressure. While DNR numbers do reflect angler participation is up, anglers and resort owners are reporting a lot fewer people on Mille Lacs than in previous years.
Tony Roach, the premier Mille Lacs fishing guide service Roaches Guide Service, makes several fishing trips each week on the lake and does this throughout the entire season(s). He reported this week that since the walleye season began, he has witnessed the lowest angler pressure he can remember this season. Roach told reports, “The fishing opener looked like an average weekend as far as fishermen,” and he also said, “Traffic on the weekends now looks like it uses to during weekdays, and that’s unfortunate.”
We do not believe Tony’s statement wraps in on the slower than usual activity on the lake affecting if anglers will make trips north or not. We feel his information is how this will affect walleyes and their changing patterns and feeding habits. Fortunately, Roach added that the population of walleyes in Mille Lacs is at healthy levels. He admits that some clients canceled scheduled guide trips, especially those not from Minnesota, and added that most of them chose to fish in other states because they believed the walleye population in Mille Lacs has crashed.
Good luck and Good Fishing