|"The Bait Shop"|
... MILLE LACS LAKE
FISHING REGULATIONS 2017
(Including tributaries to posted boundaries)
* Walleye season is currently open for catch-and-release. Live bait is allowed.
* Angling for walleye is limited to catch-and-release only. All walleye caught must be immediately returned to the water.
* Walleye season closed from 12:01 am on July 7 through 11:59 pm on August 10 and from 12:01 am on September 5 through 11:59 pm on November 30. No targeting of walleye is allowed.
NO LIVE BAIT: Only artificial bait and lures allowed in possession from 12:01 am on July 7 through 11:59 pm on August 10 and from 12:01 am on September 5 through 11:59 pm on November 30. An exception is made for suckers greater than 8" in length for anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge.
NORTHERN PIKE:Possession limit is 5 with only one greater than 40". Release immediately all northern pike between 30" and 40".
SMALLMOUTH BASS AND LARGEMOUTH BASS:
* Angling season is open from May 13, 2017 - February 25, 2018. Prior to May 27, 2017, all largemouth and smallmouth bass that are caught must be immediately released.
* Possession limit is 3 combined, with only one bass greater than 21". All bass from 17" to 21" must be immediately released.
TULLIBEE (Cisco):Possession limit is 10.
ALL OTHER SPECIES:Follow statewide regulations.
NO CULLING OR LIVE WELL SORTING:Fish taken into possession may not be exchanged for another fish, except that culling is allowed for bass prior to reaching a possession limit.
NIGHT CLOSURE:From 10 pm on May 15 through 11:59 pm on November 30.
* May 15 - June 2 From 10 pm to 6 am, no one may fish for any species or possess fishing gear on the lake.
* June 3 - November 30 From 10 pm to 6 am, fishing tackle may be possessed but not used, except:
a) Muskellunge and northern pike may be targeted with artificial lures longer than 8" or sucker minnows longer than 8". No other lures or baits may be in possession if night fishing for northern pike or muskellunge. No possession or targeting of species other than muskellunge or northern pike.
b) Bow fishing for rough fish - No possession of angling equipment, and only rough fish may be in possession.
... MILLE LACS LAKE
FISHING REGULATIONS 2017
...(8-17) Last Friday the walleye "ban/drought/prohibition/closure" was lifted along with the widely-loathed "live bait ban". We saw more people come to celebrate the pseudo-opener than we would usually see on a given Friday in August... but not the flood of folks that some expected. The bite was good by mid-August standards, but noticabley slower than when we left off on July 7th. Saturday was a little better, and by the end of the weekend we had chatted with a number of anglers who had catches into the teens and low-20's. Most of these fish were in deeper (24-32 feet) water on the gravel bars and mud flats. Spinners/crawlers were good, also leeches under slip bobbers. Most of the leeches are running small, discouraging some from running leeches on a live-bait rig. News flash... they still work! The smallmouth bite continues to confound some people, while others are pounding 'em just a short distance away. Dropshot rigs are the top approach, followed by a mix of jerkbaits, swimbaits and topwaters. In other words, you'll likely change baits numerous times before you hit the perfect combination. 8-12 feet has been good through the low-light periods, and 12-20 feet during the mid-day. Northern action is unchanged from the past few weeks.
...(8-10)The countdown is on - Mille Lacs enthusiasts await the temporary re-opening of the catch-and-release walleye season and the temporary lifting of the "live bait ban" scheduled for 6am Friday, and scheduled to run through September 4th. Beginning September 5th, both the "walleye ban" and the "live bait ban" are scheduled to resume through the end of November. Recreational anglers have been assessed 47,899 pounds against the "allowable" 44,800 pound harvest cap for the 2017 season. This means we've already been charged 3,000+ pounds against the new "conservation cap" that is supposed to keep Mille Lacs open to catch-and-release walleye fishing and allow anglers to use live bait through 9-4-17. And it hasn't even re-opened yet! Expect this number to ramp-up quickly as folks head back onto the water beginning Friday.
The smallmouth bite is a little slower than most folks expect - 12-15 smallies/trip seems pretty common, but expectations are HIGH with all of our new notariaty. Dropshot rigs have been the best lately, with jerkbaits and tubes close behind. Stick to 8-12 feet during the low light periods, and 12-20 when the sun is higher. The northern bite is better than it was last year at this time, though very few people are chasing them lately. 9-14 feet with big suckers is the ticket. Expect the walleye fishing to be good while it lasts!
...(8-4)It's been a pretty quiet week, both on the fishing front and for the ongoing Mille Lacs saga. We attended the meeting on Monday where we met Dr. Chris Vandergoot - the expert from the U.S. Geological Survey who will be looking into "all things Mille Lacs". He has a big job ahead of him. The bass tournament scheduled for Thursday and Friday cancelled day 1 due to weather. Most of the participants we spoke to remarked about how the bite was "tougher than they expected".
That said, the bite for both northern and smallmouth is much like it was last weekend - similar spots/ similar depths/ similar color patterns and VERY similar results.
The catch-and-release walleye season is scheduled to reopen on August 11th.
...(7-28)First, as I wrote in the "extra" Weekend Outlook late last week, the end of the walleye prohibition/live bait restriction originally scheduled to end today has been changed to August 11th. For now.
The northern pike action on Mille Lacs is pretty average for what we expect this time of year, with a few great days mixed in. Most of these fish are found along the weed edges in 10-14 feet. a mix of live suckers (in excess of 8 inches in length) and spinnerbaits/rattlebaits are taking most of the fish, with the bigger fish often coming on the live suckers. Smallmouth action picked up this week - we're seeing fish from 6 to 20 feet on the rocky points and reefs. Tubes/grubs are good, as are finesse baits and dropshot rigs. Browns and greens are the top colors. Some of the better smallie spots include 3-mile reef, Myr-Mar reef and Hennepin Island.
...(7-20) The northern bite on Mille Lacs has taken over the top spot this week - decent numbers of northern are being caught on the "upper 1/3" of the lake, with a good mix of big and small fish. About half of the fish are coming on live suckers under bobbers, with the other half coming from a mix of casting and trolling. 10-14 feet is the target depth along the weedlines. Smallmouth action has tapered somewhat, likely due to the young-of-the-year hatch becoming "food-size". We notice(d) this each year with the walleye bite too - oftentimes around the 10th of July or so this takes place and the can slow down an otherwise hot bite. After a certain amount of the hatch is consumed, the bite usually improves. The fish we currently see are mostly in that 12-20 foot range and hitting drop-shot rigs and Senko-type plastics. The morning bite has been best.
We're within a week or so of the scheduled, temporary "re-opening" of the catch-and-release walleye season and the scheduled, temporary removal of the "live bait ban". I've stated ever since this goofyness was announced (before the opener) that I don't believe it will re-open. I've been wrong before - I'd like to be wrong here, if it doesn't come with a litany of paybacks and consequences. The hierarchy of the DNR has been in contact with members of the MLFAC group (the group who is supposed to represent a cross-section of stakeholders in this mess) and the vibe locally is that Mille Lacs anglers are close to reaching the quota - if we're not there already. There is a provision called the "conservation cap" where the State can "borrow" several thousand pounds of (paper) fish that they/WE would pay back next year. The DNR seems to be interested in MLFAC's tollerance to using this conservation cap to lengthen the season. Unfortunatrly, even with the pounds included in the conservation cap, Mille Lacs anglers would likely only enjoy a short extention (stay of execution) until the lake was shut down once again - maybe only a matter of a few days. In ANY case, my fear is that the headline will read something like, "the Minnesota DNR, by the overwhelming recommendation of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee has reluctantly decided to ...". The committee (wrongly) lands squarely under the bus. We'll all know soon.
...(7-13)Surface temps are finally holding around the 70 degree mark. Weed growth is a little behind normal, but not too far. We're seeing a pretty-average northern bite in several of the bays along the weed edges in 10-13 feet. Live suckers (yes, it's legal to use live suckers longer than 8 inches) are taking most of the fish, with bucktails coming in second. Smallmouth continue to be active in 8-14 feet on the rock piles. Tube baits, Dingers and Dreamshots are working the best. We're also seeing a little bit of a topwater bite at first and last light.
The Minnesota DNR released the new walleye hooking mortality numbers for the period ending 6-30-17. In short, the number of "dead paper fish" went from 50% of the quota on June 15th, to 71% on June 30th. The next survey (which is compiled but has not been released) will describe the period from 7/1 through 7/6 - a period of HIGH angler activity that includes the 4th of July holiday period. Expect this data to be released BEFORE the late-July scheduled "re-opening".
...(7-7) It's hard to believe it's come to this, but the walleye season is now closed and Mille Lacs anglers can no longer use live bait (with the exception of sucker minnows in excess of 8 inches). Some still believe that this is temporary - that it will end and we'll be able to resume catch-and-release walleye fishing WITH LIVE BAIT in late July for a few more weeks. I don't buy it. We'll see. I weighed in on this months ago when it was announced... I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not buying the "temporary" part. We're still waiting on the numbers from June 16-30, but if you fished it you know how hot it was. I guess the DNR's survey will tell the tale. So what will the Mille Lacs community do through this mess? Good question - I'm sure everyone has their own plan. The Lundeen's plan to stay open for now, although we will likely scale back our hours beginning 7-17. That will give us a little time to track the new traffic patterns and adjust our hours accordingly. I don't suspect it will be too drastic, but the hours will change. The weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) hours will stay close to where they are now. We'll announce them all in the Weekend Outlook and on our website when it's time. We will continue to have an assortment of live bait for those of you headed to other lakes. Here's a link from my good friend Eddy who offers a little deeper perspective on this mess.
Smallmouth and northern fishing remain unchanged from last week.
...(6-30) The walleye bite on MIlle Lacs continues to be strong. We're still seeing fish at various depths from 8 to 35 feet, with the best concentration being from 23 to 32 feet. The mud flats are giving up better NUMBERS of fish than the other areas, but the deep gravel has been best for BIG fish. Leeches on a simple rig have been working, and the same with crawlers and spinners. Smallmouth action is good - small tubes/grubs and jerkbaits in 10-14 feet have been the ticket. There aren't too many folks chasing northern or muskie, but those we spoke with thought the bite has improved A LITTLE from last week. 8-12 feet is the best depth range.
Mille Lacs has just been rated the BEST bass lake in 2017 by the folks at Bassmaster ... no need to elaborate on BEST!
Yes, the walleye season is still open through 7-6-17. Closed beginning 7-7-17.
Yes, you can still use live bait on Mille Lacs through 7-6-17. Live bait is restricted beginning 7-7-17.
From the DNR website:
If you haven't been to Mille Lacs yet this season, come now.
Walleye action continues to make headlines all over the place - locally, regionally and even well outside our traditional markets. Folks continue to enjoy the best walleye fishing we've had in years... some say the best ever! We're seeing fish shallow, deep, on rocks, gravel, mud, weeds, windy days, calm, morning, evening... it doesn't seem to matter. If you have a boat that will take you out on the water, you'll surely have your best chance ANYWHERE in Minnesota to catch a walleye - and probably a BIG one at that! Leeches are the top bait, followed closely by crawlers. Some of the better spots include Indian Point, 4-mile gravel, Garrison Reef and Sherman's Flat. We've seen the post-spawn smallmouth bite pick up a little better this week - nearly all of these fish have left the beds and made their way out toward their summer haunts. We're seeing decent numbers of smallies in 9-14 feet on the rock piles. 3-inch tubes and grubs have been good in browns and greens. A "slow" approach works best. Northern action is slow by historical standards. Usually by the 23 of June, the water temperature is established in the low 70's - this year, we're still bobbin' around the mid to high 60's. Even those couple of degrees can make a difference. Most of the fish that have been taken so far have been on live suckers in 7-12 feet. Muskie activity is slow.
...(6-16)Still great. Maybe better than last week.
Many of the Mille Lacs walleye anglers are fishing the mudflats. While this is far from the only hot spot, the flats DO hold the largest overall concentration of walleye. Leeches, crawlers, minnows crankbaits and even some plastics will all work. Leeches and crawlers are best. We continue to see fish on numerous structures with varying bottom contents, ranging from 6-35 feet. There are still a few smallies on the beds, but you'll find most of these fish in 10-14 on the edges of the rocky shorelines and reefs. Tubebaits are tops, but we've seen them respond to a bunch of presentations including a jig and minnow. Northern and muskie action has been spotty at best, with the most fish coming from the bays along the south end of Mille Lacs. Live suckers are the ticket here.
From the DNR's website:
*** Harvest & hooking mortality: 13,684 lbs. (5,261 fish) ice fishing through March 19, 2017
***Hooking mortality estimate: 2,086 lbs. (843 fish) May 13-31, 2017
***Released: 174,529 lbs. (76,019 fish) May 13-31, 2017
Tribal fishing total: 13,886 of 19,200 allowed lbs. (7,013 fish)
State angler total: 15,770 of 44,800 allowed lbs. (6,104 fish)
*** Last year for the period from the opener through May 31, State anglers were assessed a mere 453 pounds for hooking mortality (vs. 2,086 this year). Nearly 5 times more pounds assessed for hooking mortality in May?! From another perspective, State anglers were just under 10% of the total allowable pounds at this time in 2016 (2,092 of 28,600 allowed pounds) (including the poundage from winter, which is added to the following year's open-water numbers).This year, we're at about 33% (15,770 of 44,800 allowed lbs.) including the winter poundage. So what? Call me nuts, but at this rate I don't expect to see the season open again (after the July 7th closure) until December 1st.
...(6-8) Mille Lacs anglers are still enjoying an exceptional bite! Walleye action very good. Smallmouth action is very good. If you can't catch fish on Mille Lacs right now... take up golf.
We continue to see walleye range from 4-34 feet, with the most consistent depth being 27-32 feet. Leeches, night crawlers, minnows and crankbaits are all good. Spinners are good. The mud flats are better than the gravel.Don't over-think it. With the water warming up, many of the smallmouth have moved up "on the beds". You'll find a lot of these fish in 2-6 feet. Some of the favorite hiding spots are under the docks and boatlifts. Small tubes and jerkbaits are pulling most of the fish.
The surface temperature is in the mid-60's.
...(5-25)We saw a pretty lite turnout on Mille Lacs again this week - a few ugly weather days made for some pretty lonely boat ramps. Those of us who put in our time caught some pretty decent fish - more than most people expected even after all the talk about how good the bite is . Numerous people have remarked about the NUMBER of walleye they catch each trip and how they have "their spots" all to themselves. The north end still has a good daytime bite, as does most any legitimate rock reef around the perimeter. We did see some good daytime fish on the mud flats too (yes, already). Shiners and leeches hold the top spot, with crawlers coming in third. The end is near for the spottail shiners... it was a blast while it lasted! Smallie action has been decent, but is a little behind where we were last year at this time. Most folks would expect to chase the smallies on the beds this time of year, but this year the cool water has kept many of these fish in 8-12 feet. Rest assured, they'll move in - some of them have moved already, but as of today most of them are still deeper. Toss small tubes or jerkbaits at 'em. The northern bite has been spotty, with most off the fish hitting small suckers in Cove and Wahkon Bay.
The surface temperature is ranging in mid-50's.
Yes, we still have spottail shiners - yes, the end is in sight.
...(5-18)We had perfect weather for the 2017 Mille Lacs opener - couple that with a better-than-average bite and you win every time! Lake traffic was down somewhat compared to historical "opening day levels", but those we talked to all remarked about how good the walleye bite is. Also noted was the overall size of the fish - many were over 22 inches, but numerous walleye were caught out of every legitimate yearclass we have here. Looking to catch a bunch of walleye? GET UP HERE!
We saw fish from 6 to 30 feet of water, but the best walleye bite was from 12-18 feet. Often we see a bigger concentration of fish along the north end when the water temperatures are in the low to mid 50's. And we did, but we also saw some of the best opening day action throughout the entire perimeter of the lake. It was even called "easy" by many! Leeches and shiners are the top baits, but we also saw some fish on crawlers and crankbaits and even some on plastics by folks who didn't realize that YOU CAN USE LIVE BAIT ON MILLE LACS. Some of the better areas include the north-end sand, Big Point, Sherman's Point, Hawkbill and Mile-and-a-quarter reef. Smallmouth fishing was a little behind usual, as many of these fish haven't moved into the super-shallow (docks, boat lifts) areas yet. It's close, though. Even a number of the smallie anglers caught walleye while they were casting for bass. There weren't too many folks chasing northern, and those who did found it average at best. Small suckers in 6-10 feet are the ticket here.
Surface temps remain in the low/mid 50's.
The "night ban" is now in effect. 10pm - 6am.
...(3-24) As most of you have heard by now, the Mille Lacs open-water walleye season will be catch-and-release. Mostly. At least until Labor Day. Probably. In addition, the DNR announced this week in a press release that walleye fishing will close (no pursuit - no catch and release) for the period from July 7th to July 27th. "During that 21-day period, anglers can fish for all other species in Mille Lacs Lake including bass, muskies and northerns but only with artificial bait and lures. An exception exists for anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge only, and who don’t possess walleye gear. Those anglers may possess and use live sucker minnows longer than 8 inches when fishing. The state's 2017 walleye allocation is 44,800 pounds. However, during discussions, state and Ojibwe tribal leadership established that the 2017 walleye season will remain open through 12:01 a.m., Sept. 5, provided the state harvest doesn't exceed a conservation cap of 55,800." It appears (although it isn't printed in the press release) that the walleye season would re-open (catch and release, live bait allowed) from 7-28 through Labor Day (9-4-17). I'm not sure why Labor Day became the official end of the walleye season on Mille Lacs, but this will be the 3rd year in a row (8-1-15, 9-6-16, 9-4-17) that Mille Lacs anglers get screwed out of fall walleye fishing. No catch and release, just a clear message to stay the #$%& away. Also, what about grandpa and the grandkids who want to go down on the dock with a box of crawlers to catch some perch or sunnies - sounds like this is off the table during the July "pause"?! And before your math gets away from you, remember that our "year" (from a harvest standpoint) begins December 1st. That means that the whopper winter season we had counts against the "quota" for the open water season. We were assessed about 1/3 of the annual take (according to fisheries section chief Don Pereira) leaving walleye anglers with +/- 29,000 pounds to work with - similar poundage to 2016.
While the Mille Lacs community didn't "invent" the concept of catch-and-release, we've been a conservation leader in Minnesota and beyond. From the groundbreaking, voluntary efforts of the 70's and 80's when most people considered fish a food source, to the 90's when the "1-over-20" sent some folks into a tizzy, to "harvest slots" and "release slots", to 4 inch slots and even 2 INCH SLOTS, to reduced bag limits, to lofty concepts like ""spawning stock biomass", "harvestable surplus", "Condition 3" (where overage = shutdown) and ultimately the dreaded "HOOKING MORTALITY" - the bane of reason - the scourge of Mille Lacs loyalists - paper fish, some call 'em. No, we didn't invent catch and release - but we didn't invent hooking mortality either... that's one that the DNR invented and shoved up our XXXXXX. We get a quota that, against the master plan of the Minnesota DNR and their alpha-partners, will allow "us" to fish walleye in Minnesota's premier fishery. A quota made up of fish that we can catch, but must release even though they might die after being released. Or they might not. Unless the water is too warm... like in July. Sometimes. Until later in July when it will cool off. Probably. Unless we've already surpassed the quota with dead "paper fish", in which case we'll need to stop anyway. Even though it's before Labor Day. Which is significant why? Because, right?! Just ask any 4-year-old. Because.
The quintessential Mille Lacs angler has tolerated (sometimes begrudgingly) this same crap sandwich (only on a different bun) year after year, and persevered to fish the lake that they love. I admire your conviction - I can't give it up either. But that doesn't make the sandwich any easier to swallow. Fish another species? Sometimes. Go birdwatching? Maybe by Spirit Island while we're whackin' walleyes! Try paddleboarding? Too fat. Hitting the beach? See paddleboarding. As anglers I think we've taken our "one-for-the-team" enough. We encourage everyone who may attend the Sports Show over the next few days to visit the DNR booth... I think it's important that they "feel the love" from all the Mille Lacs anglers.
This will be the last Weekend Outlook until things start to fire-up ahead of the opener. We sincerely thank all of our patrons and friends who helped make the winter season a success.