Mille Lacs Lake Winter Fishing Regulations Released
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released winter fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake which will be effective starting on December 1, 2022. As was the case during our three prior Mille Lacs ice fishing seasons, anglers will again be allowed to keep one walleye between 21-23 inches or one walleye longer than 28 inches.
We at the Red Door Resort are looking forward to the hard water season and wanted to provide a summary of the Mille Lacs Lake regulations that will be in place during ice fishing:
Walleye: From December 1, 2022, through Sunday, February 26, 2023, anglers will be allowed to keep one (1) walleye between 21-23 inches or one (1) walleye longer than 28 inches. All other walleye must be immediately released.
Tullibee (Cisco): Each angler’s possession limit is five (5) tullibee (cisco).
Burbot (Eelpout): No burbot harvest is allowed. All eelpout must be immediately released.
Northern Pike: All pike greater than 30 inches must be immediately released. Now through Thursday, March 31, 2023 the daily limit is three (3). The spearing season lasts from November 15, 2022 to Sunday, February 26, 2023; see additional Dark House Spearing information below.
Perch: The perch season is continuously open. The daily limit is 20 fish and the possession limit is 40.
Muskellunge: The muskie season closes Wednesday, November 30, 2022 and will reopen in early June 2023.
Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass: The largemouth bass harvest is open through Sunday, February 26, 2023; all largemouth bass greater than 17 inches must be immediately released. The smallmouth bass angling season is catch-and-release only through Sunday, February 26, 2023.
Dark House Spearing: Northern pike are allowed to be speared from a dark house on Mille Lacs from sunrise to sunset from November 15, 2022 through Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. Pike size and harvest restrictions for spearing mirror those for angling (i.e., no spearing pike over 30 inches and the possession limit is 3). No artificial lights are allowed to attract fish; lighted decoy fish are allowed, but must not contain batteries with mercury. If you are age 18 to 89 or a non-Minnesota resident, don’t forget to add the Spearing / Annual endorsement to your angling license and please, for ice safety reasons, mark your spearing holes when you depart. As noted above, the Northern pike angling continues to be allowed after the dark house spearing season closes.
Ice Fishing Shelters on Mille Lacs Lake must be off the ice no later than midnight on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Follow this blog and The Red Door Resort’s various social media channels (@thereddoorresort) for the latest updates on ice conditions. We hope to see you soon on the north side of Lake Mille Lacs!
Current Mille Lacs Lake fishing regulations can be found here.
The full DNR press release is below.
Mille Lacs Lake winter anglers can harvest one walleye starting Dec. 1
Fall assessment shows walleye population is abundant enough to sustain some harvest
November 10, 2022
Winter anglers on Mille Lacs Lake can enjoy a walleye harvest opportunity for the seventh season in a row. Starting on Thursday, Dec. 1, anglers will be allowed to keep one walleye between 21-23 inches or one walleye longer than 28 inches on Mille Lacs.
“Our assessment netting shows that the walleye population is abundant enough to sustain some harvest again this winter,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We know offering harvest opportunities when possible is important for anglers.”
Winter regulations are set after completion of the DNR’s annual fall netting assessment of the lake. The 2022 assessment found higher numbers of walleye than in the 2021 assessment, with walleye caught in similar numbers to what were found in the 2017-2020 assessments.
State-licensed anglers share the harvest of multiple species on Mille Lacs with eight Ojibwe tribes that have fishing rights under the 1837 treaty. The safe harvest levels for the fishing year will be set in early 2023 through discussions between the state and the tribes. The DNR will determine regulations for the 2023 open water season once the state’s allocations, calculated based on those safe harvest levels, are known, with an announcement of regulations in the spring.
Insights from fall assessment
The 2022 assessment showed improvement from the 2021 netting. Fisheries staff observed an abundance of walleye similar to numbers seen in recent years. The 2013-year class continues to be the most abundant, followed by fish hatched in 2017. The 2017-year class fish are now 18-21 inches long, with faster growing individuals exceeding 21 inches.
Fish that hatched in 2020-2022 were also sampled in higher numbers. It is encouraging to see additional year classes that may eventually contribute to the fishery, but the ultimate impact to the walleye population won’t be known for several years, Parsons said.
“Although there is no guarantee these fish will survive to adulthood in high numbers, we are cautiously optimistic that these year classes could contribute to the fishery in future years,” Parsons said.
The fall assessment also looks at food abundance and walleye health. Perch and cisco are the primary food source for Mille Lacs’ walleye. Perch abundance has increased because of strong 2020–2021-year classes.
Walleye condition, or “plumpness,” improved significantly for fish greater than 14 inches, reflecting the increased availability of forage fish. The higher abundance of food in the lake also has likely affected anglers’ catch rates, which were lower in 2022 than in recent years.
“A lower catch rate in the late summer and fall can sometimes carry over into the winter if forage is abundant, but predators can also reduce forage later in the winter and the bite may improve,” Parsons said.
Complete winter fishing regulations for Mille Lacs Lake are available on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/millelacslake).
Contact: Tom Heinrich, Mille Lacs area fisheries manager, 320-525-3882.