Anglers could be taking fewer walleye and sauger next year from Lake of the Woods in far northern Minnesota, thanks to a proposal under consideration by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The proposal would lower the winter harvest limit from a combined eight walleye and sauger a day, to six fish.
It would limit spring Rainy River anglers to catch and release. According to the DNR, this will help stop the decline of male walleye in Lake of the Woods.
The tighter limits are part of an ongoing plan for the Lake of the Woods fishery. The plan gets updated every five years.
"We recently ... identified several potential areas of concern with regard to current levels of harvest," said Baudette fisheries supervisor Phil Talmage. "That's why we're discussing these potential changes."
One of those areas of concern stems from a massive increase in winter angling on Lake of the Woods.
Thirty years ago, ice fishing made up a tiny fraction of the year's harvest. Anglers from southern Minnesota and out of state swarmed the lake in the summer months, but rarely showed up in the winter.
In 1988, for example, summer anglers took a little less than 200,000 pounds of walleye from the lake. In the winter, they took one-eighth as much.
Thirty years later, anglers take roughly 296,000 pounds of walleye in the summer, and just a little less in the winter.
In a 2014 interview with MPR News, Lake of the Woods resort owner Nick Painovich said winter has become one of his busiest seasons. Small cities of ice shanties emerge in late December.
If the proposal is approved, after a two month public comment period, harvest limits will be the same in summer and winter.
The final Lake of the Woods management plan will be completed in September.