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Mille Lacs reopens to walleye fishing Aug. 12

The Mille Lacs Lake drama continues.

The walleye season was closed on July 21 this season after being open for catch and release only. It will be reopened to walleye fishing August 12 and remain open for catch and release only through the Labor Day weekend and be closed again starting September 5.

It will remain closed to walleye fishing again from September 5 until November 30. It will continue to be open for fishing for all other game species. Only artificial baits will be allowed for targeting other fish, except sucker minnows over 8 inches. The large sucker minnows are able to be used by anglers chasing northern pike or musky.

Anglers that have fished the lake for walleyes last winter, and when it was open this summer, have been impressed with the quality and quantity of walleyes present in Mille Lacs.

All range of sizes and year classes seem to be present. The Twin Cities Walleye Unlimited helped the DNR conduct a catch and release mortality study on the lake last summer. The survival rate has been found to be considerably better than the previous formulas used for determining catch and release mortality for estimating harvest rates. Members of the advisory group that are involved in advocating for anglers and resorts, and providing input to the DNR in helping make decisions about the lake, are confused and angered by the limited seasons and harvest limitations.

The BASSMaster "Angler of the Year" tournament will return again this September after incredible smallmouth fishing success on Mille Lacs last year. The smallmouth fishing is world class.

The attention from last year's tournament has brought many smallmouth anglers to the area, but has not made up the difference the area businesses have been used to for the many years of successful walleye angling the lake has been known for. The musky fishing on the lake also continues to show itself to be one of the best in the state, but those anglers have been coming for years of known musky success and the slight increase does not come close to touching the number of anglers that used to fish the lake for walleyes.

The lessons learned from the crisis' at Upper Red, Leech, Winni, and now Mille Lacs may have a hand in helping management for all walleye waters around the state. In our area, the slots on the Pines and Lida have helped those fisheries.

Large bodies of water that are known quality walleye waters in our area that receive a lot of fishing pressure, like Cormorant, Pelican, Rush and Ottertail, will need not only the wisdom of the DNR for management, but good stewardship practices from us as anglers practicing "catch and release" and "selective harvest."

By the way, add Rush Lake to the growing list of AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) infested lakes, as zebra mussels were recently discovered there. Remember to do your part and clean, drain, and dry after every trip ... no matter what lake you are leaving.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)