Mille Lacs Lake is only a couple hours away from us and has been one of the best walleye fisheries in the country for many, many years.
We all know the yo-yo regulations that have been a part of micro-managing the lake the last five or more years to try to maintain a healthy multi-year class walleye population.
Even with the one-fish harvest limit, the lake gets an unbelievable amount of fishing pressure. Some of the fishing pressure now is due to anglers chasing smallmouth bass, as it is one of the best smallie fisheries in the state now.
Musky anglers come from all over the Midwest to hunt trophy fish, and the big northern pike that roam the lake get some attention as well.
The last couple of weeks has been a no-walleye fishing period for the lake. Starting July 15, anglers can start targeting walleyes again, but for catch and release only through Sept. 15.
Angling hours for the lake (not just for walleyes, but for all species) will remain 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. until Sept. 15, also. Starting Sept. 16, you can keep one walleye again between 21-23 inches until Nov. 30. During that late season period, anglers will be allowed to fish from 6 a.m. until midnight.
The winter harvest rates will be set before anglers are able to take to the ice for the 2021-22 ice season.
We have some walleye-managed lakes in our 412 lakes area. We also have some that are northern managed lakes, some that are managed for crappie, and starting this year, some lakes managed for the harvest of bluegills
I have heard very little in the way of complaints for most of the special managed lakes. My experience tells me that the special regulations have an impact and make a difference. I believe most anglers would agree.
Some of the frustration I do hear is from out-of-state anglers, or locals who only fish a few times a year, that get frustrated or confused about what lakes have what special regulations.
The state publishes a regulation book that you should get when you purchase your license. License sellers also have copies that can get picked up free of charge. Everyone seems to have a smartphone and the DNR website is easy to navigate to check on regulations. A short minute at the public access of the lake you are going to fish will also have any information posted you may need to know including Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) information.
The Mille Lakes dilemma gets a lot of criticism, including from me. There have been so many cooks in the kitchen, special consult boards, public opinion feedback, fishing clubs input, and so many other stakeholders that want to be heard, all to solve a problem that might not be as bad as we are all led to think.
We can’t go back and change the goal of making it a trophy walleye, smallmouth, musky, and northern pike lake. Nature always finds a way to bring things back into balance -- sometimes even when we get in the way, thinking we are helping or making a difference. I think the big lake has found its way back with the walleyes more than we may yet realize. Just a view and opinion from the crow’s nest.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)