A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the updated Mille Lacs regulations for winter. I also reviewed the regulations for some of the other prime winter ice fishing destinations.
At the time, the new Red Lake winter regulations had not been released and I committed to letting you know as soon as the DNR made the decision regarding Red Lake. Monday, Nov. 9, the new regulations for Red were released. Starting Dec. 1, you will be allowed to keep three walleyes with two being under 17 inches and one being over 17 inches. Until Dec. 1, the still in place regulation of two walleyes with both being under 17 inches or one under 17 and the other over 26 inches is in play (the protected slot is 17-26 until Dec. 1). Again, after Dec. 1, you can only ever possess three Red Lake walleyes. It is three per day, and only ever three in possession of the possible six walleyes by law you are allowed to possess. You can’t catch three, eat them on the lake, and catch three to take home, or go fishing on Red Lake for two days and keep three per day and bring six home.
It is important to follow the rules, as this helps reduce harvest limits, and will keep that fishery healthy. We have already been down the road of the over harvest of walleyes on Red, and significant effort for recovery of the fishery. It is in great shape now. Let’s keep it that way.
We are seeing the consequences of the over harvest of the crappies out of Red. Yes, it is still got some great crappie in the lake, but nothing like it was, or still could be. It will take time and effort to get that back in shape now also.
Your fishing isn’t just about you, it is about others, your kids, grand kids, and the future of our fisheries. Take some, put some back, be selective with your harvest. Don’t be a meat hog, or let your ego effect good judgement.
Now, just because you are allowed to keep one over 17 inches on Red, doesn’t mean you should disregard good selective harvest practice. I recommend continuing to put the over 20 inch walleyes back so they can continue to be the producers for the lake. Keep that 17.5 to 19.5 inch fish for your third fish. The 14-18 inch fish are the best eaters anyway!
If you catch that 28-32 inch fish and want to take it to the taxidermist for your trophy mount, go ahead. Those older fish don’t produce the same way they did in their prime years between 20-27 inches. The other option is to take a picture and release it for someone else to catch the fish of a lifetime also. Live fish pics rock!
I never did understand this “26 inch” top end of a slot set by the DNR on many of the slot lakes. A 26 to 28 inch walleye is a great fish for a picture, but in my opinion, is not a trophy fish worthy of a mount. It is also not a good eating walleye compared to that 15 or 16 incher. Follow the laws, if you do, you have the right to make that fish yours if it is to the rules and regulations of that lake. I am just suggesting a more common sense approach to having management be an issue of personal ownership on your own part - go above and beyond what may be allowed. Take pride in being a good steward of the fisheries and a good role model for the younger anglers. Like many things in life, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you ought to.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)