DNR OKs taking more winter walleye from Upper Red Lake

Jason Wachter | St. Cloud Times via AP 2014

Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake this winter will be able to keep three walleye daily, one more than last winter's limit, state officials said Monday as the noted the "excellent health" of the fishery.

Besides the increase in the daily bag limit, those ice fishing the lake this winter will be able to keep one longer than 17 inches. Last winter, anglers could keep only two walleye, one of which could be longer than 26 inches while all walleye 17 to 26 inches long had to be immediately released.

"The coming winter's less restrictive regulations are based on the excellent status of Red Lake's walleye fishery," Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said in statement.

The fall survey by the DNR and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa found "high walleye abundance and large numbers of fish from 12 to 21 inches," he added.

The Upper Red Lake announcement is the second bit of good news for walleye anglers this year. The DNR in October signed off on a winter walleye season on Lake Mille Lacs, with the agency saying it saw hopeful signs there for the walleye population which has been in decline for decades.

Many Mille Lacs businesses say they struggled after the state this summer closed the open-water walleye season on the lake early amid ongoing concerns about the fishery and the long-term decline of its walleye.

Red Lake was reopened to walleye fishing in 2006 after being closed in the 1990s due to overfishing that nearly ruined the fishery. State and tribal officials keep close tabs on the numbers now. Last year's winter walleye limit, for instance, was stricter than the year before.

"We are optimistic these regulations will be successful at keeping walleye harvest within the established target harvest range for the winter season," Joe Corcoran, a member of the citizen's advisory committee on Red Lake, said in a statement. The panel, he noted, "wholeheartedly endorses the new winter regulations for the 2015-2016 ice fishing season."

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