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Minnesota News
Minnesota News

News Archive


New Upper Red Lake walleye regulations announced

Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake in northwestern Minnesota this spring will be able to keep four walleye of which only one may be longer than 17 inches, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
These new regulations, effective on the walleye fishing opener Saturday, May 13, allow one more fish in the daily bag than the regulations that were in place in the winter.
“Harvest under the three fish bag limit resulted in approximately 109,000 pounds for the winter season,” said Gary Barnard, area fisheries supervisor in Bemidji for the DNR. “There is still room within the target harvest range to allow an additional fish this spring.”
Red Lake’s walleye harvest is managed under a joint harvest plan, revised in 2015 by the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee.
“The new harvest plan recommends a more aggressive approach when walleye spawning stock is in surplus, as it currently is,” Barnard said. “The extra fish allowed by the daily bag limit will increase open water harvest some, and allowing one fish over 17 inches meets our harvest plan objectives by spreading harvest over a wide range of sizes and removing some of the surplus spawning stock.”
More information on Red Lake fishing regulations are available at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

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Elk population survey completed in northwestern Minnesota

Survey an important part of ongoing research into elk movements
Minnesota’s elk range in northwestern Minnesota has three herds with a total of 79 elk, according to the annual aerial elk population survey completed by the Department of Natural Resources in Kittson, Marshall and Roseau counties. Past surveys recorded 83 elk in 2016 and 131 in 2015.
“The variability we’re seeing in these numbers year to year is due mainly to the movement of the Caribou-Vita herd that travels back and forth across the Minnesota-Manitoba border,” said John Williams, DNR northwest region wildlife manager.
“However, we are concerned about declining numbers of elk in the Grygla herd in Marshall County,” Williams said. “This herd hasn’t been hunted since 2012, yet the population continues to trend downward.”
In Marshall County, observers counted 17 elk in the Grygla herd, down from the 21 counted last year and 18 in 2015. The current population goal for the Grygla herd is 30 to 38 elk.
Aerial surveys are a snapshot in time, meaning they are only an estimate of the population, not an exact number. The DNR counts elk only on the Minnesota side during its aerial surveys.
This year, the DNR conducted a joint aerial elk survey with Manitoba, which was completed on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 for the areas close to the border. Manitoba wildlife staff counted 108 elk near the border and 55 slightly north of Vita, Manitoba, totaling 163 animals on the Canadian side of the border. The Caribou-Vita herd is Minnesota’s largest herd, with a current population goal of 150 to 200 elk inhabiting both sides of the border.
Depending on the year and day of the survey, elk numbers on the Minnesota side can greatly vary. Observers counted only one elk this year in Minnesota in the Caribou-Vita herd. Ten animals were counted in 2016 and 79 in 2015.
“Our observers saw many elk tracks near the border during the survey on Feb. 21, and although they saw only one elk, we suspected the majority of the herd was in Manitoba,” Williams said. “This was confirmed by the results of the Manitoba aerial elk survey conducted on Feb. 22.”
Another herd, the Kittson-Central herd, is located near Lancaster in Kittson County. Observers counted 61 elk compared to 52 in 2016 and 34 in 2015. This year’s count is just above the current population goal of 50 to 60 animals.
In 2016, the DNR radio-collared 20 cow elk in Minnesota’s three herds to begin research into elk movements and habitat use that should help managers improve the effectiveness of elk population surveys, the knowledge of Minnesota elk biology and movements and elk depredation management. The study is being conducted by researchers from the DNR and Minnesota State University-Mankato. It will run through June 2018.
This research project is the first of its kind in Minnesota. The goal is to improve understanding of the species and ultimately develop management programs that benefit elk and their habitat, while also minimizing conflicts with landowners.
Funding for the project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and approved by the state Legislature. The DNR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are also providing funding.
For more information on Minnesota’s elk management, visit mndnr.gov/elk.


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Catch-and-release summer walleye season announced for Mille Lacs Lake

21-day walleye closure in July expected to help extend fishing season through Labor Day
Catch-and-release only regulations needed to rebuild Mille Lacs Lake’s walleye population will again be in effect when anglers hit the water on Saturday, May 13. The 2017 walleye season on Mille Lacs is scheduled to run through Monday, Sept. 4. 
“Our goal is to have the longest fishing season possible while ensuring the conservation of the lake’s future walleye spawning stock,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We understand catch and release is a difficult option for anglers who enjoy a fish meal, but we are using everything in our management toolbox to ensure a heathy and plentiful walleye population for future fishing seasons.”
In addition to the catch-and-release regulation, and to help keep the walleye season open on Mille Lacs through Labor Day, the lake will have a 21-day walleye fishing closure from Friday, July 7 to July 27. During that 21-day period, anglers can fish for all other species in Mille Lacs Lake including bass, muskies and northerns but only with artificial bait and lures.
An exception exists for anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge only, and who don’t possess walleye gear. Those anglers may possess and use live sucker minnows longer than 8 inches when fishing.
The decision to have a 21-day closure period during the walleye season was made after a successful winter season on Mille Lacs drove walleye harvest higher than expected.
“Ice anglers fished more on Mille Lacs in 2017 and caught more and larger walleye than expected,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief.  “As a result, ice fishing this winter accounted for about one-third of the total amount of walleye state anglers can harvest from Mille Lacs in 2017.”
Regulation decisions also were aided by several meetings and consultations with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee. Topics discussed between DNR staff and committee members included catch-and-release only restrictions, season dates, live bait restrictions, and the reason and timing of a temporary summer closure. 
“The plan is for this closure to coincide with the hottest part of the summer when released fish are vulnerable to stress,” Pereira explained. “Warm water combined with July’s higher fishing pressure means that more fish die – even those that are caught and returned to the water.”
The tendency for caught fish to die after being released is called hooking mortality, which increases as water temperatures warm. During the last two weeks of July 2016 alone, hooking mortality accounted for more than half of the state’s walleye harvest allocation for the entire open water season.
“These measures will extend the Mille Lacs walleye season as long as possible this summer and protect the younger walleye the lake needs to rebuild its population,” Pereira said.
The state's 2017 walleye allocation is 44,800 pounds. However, during discussions, state and Ojibwe tribal leadership established that the 2017 walleye season will remain open through 12:01 a.m., Sept. 5, provided the state harvest doesn't exceed a conservation cap of 55,800. 
Additionally, state and tribal leadership agreed to return to an overage system, through which each party will be required to deduct any harvest above its allocation from a future year’s allocation.
“Our next milestone for success is to observe another abundant year class of walleye,” Pereira said. “We need more than one year when a lot of walleye hatch. What we need to see is large numbers of walleyes surviving beyond the first year to add more spawning fish to the population. We’ve not seen that yet.”
Pereira said the DNR is committed to maintaining the Mille Lacs area as a premier fishing destination. He said the agency is conducting a comprehensive review of its data-collecting methods in order to ensure the most accurate information possible is being used. For example, Michigan State University fisheries experts are now reviewing the agency’s creel survey methods.
Mille Lacs continues to make headlines for its nationally recognized smallmouth bass and muskie fisheries. For example, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship is returning to Mille Lacs this fall for the second consecutive year. Last year, some of the nation’s top competitive anglers referred to the lake as a “world-class smallmouth bass factory.”
In addition to fishing,  Mille Lacs offers numerous recreational activities including: boating, waterskiing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and public beaches.
“Mille Lacs is a premier tourism destination with diverse fishing and a whole lot more,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism arm. “The area additionally offers lots of ways outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the area’s natural beauty on hiking, biking and ATV trails, watching wildlife, golfing or visiting a Minnesota state park.”
In June 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a supplemental budget bill which included $3.6 million for local grants and loans in Mille Lacs County and $300,000 for the Mille Lacs Tourism Council to bolster area tourism marketing efforts. 
More information about Mille Lacs, ongoing DNR management and research, and area recreation opportunities is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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