|"The Bait Shop"|
... MILLE LACS LAKE
FISHING REGULATIONS 2018
(Including tributaries to posted boundaries)
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass: Bass season is open May 12, 2018- February 24, 2019. Prior to May 26, all largemouth bass and smallmouth bass must be immediately released. Beginning May 26, 2018, combined possession limit is three, with only one bass over 21". All bass 17-21" must be immediately released.
Northern Pike: From May 12 through November 30, 2018, possession limit is five, with only one over 40". All northern pike 30-40" must be immediately released. Beginning December 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019, possession limit five, but only one northern pike over 30" is allowed in possession provided that the angler, on the same day, has also harvested two northern pike less than 30" in length from Lake Mille Lacs prior to harvesting a northern pike over 30".
Tullibee (Cisco): Possession limit ten.
Walleye: From May 12 through November 30, 2018, catch-and-release only. All walleye must be immediately released.
Night Closure: From 10 p.m. on May 14 through 11:59 p.m. on November 30. May 14 - June 1, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., no one may fish for any species or possess any fishing tackle on the lake. June 2 - November 30, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., fishing tackle may be possessed but not used except: a) muskellunge and northern pike may be targeted with artificial lures longer than 8" or suckers 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; and b) bowfishing for rough fish is allowed, but no possession of angling equipment, and only rough fish may be in possession.
No culling or live-well sorting: Fish taken into possession are considered part of an angler's bag limit and cannot be exchanged with another fish. However smallmouth bass and largemouth bass may be culled following statewide culling rules.
... MILLE LACS LAKE
FISHING REGULATIONS 2018
I think we saw more people on Mille Lacs last weekend than we've seen all season so far - the good bite, good weather and a few extra days off seemed to really bring out the people! Walleye numbers (and overall size) remain impressive for most Mille Lacs anglers, although it's not uncommon to bump into a few folks here and there who didn't fare so well. The mud flats continue to kick out the most consistent numbers of fish. The gravel is close behind. Night crawlers/spinners fished at .7MPH or faster have been great. Leeches (yes, we still have leeches) are just as good as the crawlers, both on a live bait rig or beneath a slip bobber. Don't get too hung-up on the size of the leeches... the bite has been good enough that the size doesn't seem as critical as it does when the bite gets tougher. Some of the better spots include Seguchie Flat, Greg's Flat, Highway Bar and Sloppy Joes. Smallmouth action has been running behind where we were last year at this time. Most of the catchable smallies are running from 10-18 feet in the biggest rocks you can find. Senkos and fluke-style baits have been good. Some of the better spots include Hawksbill reef, 3-mile and Brown's Point. Northern activity is a little better so far this week - 8-12 feet on the deep edge of the weeds with a small sucker should do the trick.
We got a ton of rain this morning - 5.5 to 6 inches by most accounts. This could have an impact for the next few days, both with water clarity and the difference in temperature (rain/run-off vs. lake temp). This often affects the shallower fish more than the deeper ones. Take that for what it's worth.
The walleye bite on MIlle Lacs continues! The strong bite we've been enjoying since the opener is STILL strong. Often when we see a ton of people around on weekends and holidays, the bite will seem to slow down when in fact it simply gets diluted across MANY more anglers - still big numbers, just spread out more. That hasn't been the case this year, where the increase in weekend/holiday anglers just seems to make things bigger and better. We're still seeing good numbers of multiple sizes/year classes of walleye coming from the mud flats and deep gravel. 22-32 feet is a good range to start, with the "sweet spot" often falling in that 27-30 feet. Night crawlers/spinners are equal to leeches/live bait rigs during the daytime hours, but it's ALL leeches/slip bobbers from 7-10PM. Some of the better spots include Seguchie Flat, 7-mile, the Boot and the 4-mile gravel. Smallmouth action has been hit-or-miss, but is noticeably behind where we saw the bite at this time last year. Most of the folks are working the 8-15 foot rocks with wackys, Ned rigs and dropshot rigs. Northern action has been spotty at best.
The leech supply has changed dramatically. All over. Each year we experience a shortage of big leeches about now (early July). While this doesn't mean that there aren't ANY, it does mean that the supply becomes tight. For the past several years, I've re-printed a piece explaining the process - I'm pasting that piece below:
"Now that mid-summer is upon us, I thought I would explain a little bit about the life cycle of leeches. The ribbon leech is thought to have a 2-year lifespan. Around the middle of July, the mature leech will go into a spawn cycle and drop a "pod." Not long after dropping the "pod", these mature leeches will die. Over time, this "pod" will produce a new, almost microscopic hatch of leeches. These new leeches grow for a short time and then are thought to go dormant over the winter months. In the spring, they emerge as a "panfish grade." As the summer goes on, they will usually grow to a "regular grade" and by fall, a few will even make a "light large." Once again, they will go dormant over the winter, and in the spring they will grow to a "large" or even "jumbo." Around mid-July, they will go into their spawn and the cycle starts over again. "What does this have to do with the price of tea in China," you ask? As the large and jumbo leeches die off after they spawn, we are left with a much smaller leech to take their place. The overall supply drops dramatically, and the price goes up. This time of year is upon us now. The current supply of big leeches will dwindle away and we can expect to see the changes very soon. We should always have a meager supply of decent leeches, but expect these to be sold by the dozen ONLY. Any 1/2 pounds or pounds will soon be limited to a "first year" leech."
So what is the best way to take care of your leeches going forward? 1. Keep your leeches cool - placing them in one of these "livewell leech bags" is great when the water is in the 50's. Now that the surface temps (remember, that's where your livewell water comes from) are running in the mid 70's, YOU will kill them in a matter of minutes. The same goes for leaving them in your trunk while you stop for a burger - once they're damaged, they won't come back. 2. Buy what you need - some folks go long on their leeches and then try to hold the leftovers from week-to-week in the fridge. Again this is ok early in the year, but this time of year it's more likely that you will come back to a container of weak or dead bait. 3. Give them some room - the little cups that leeches often come in are not meant to be a permanent home for them, rather, a way for you to get them to a decent size container that holds a fair amount of water. Styrofoam buckets or Playmate-type coolers work best AND they help maintain cooler water temps for the leeches. Try these tips and keep those leeches happy!
(6-28)...The walleye bite on Mille Lacs is still exceptional - these fish are hungry! The mud flats offer the best opportunity, but there are plenty of fish on the gravel and the deep rocks too. Nearly all of the walleye we're seeing are still "structure-related", meaning you'll want to look near the edges of your favorite flat or gravel bar first before you venture out to the basin areas. Leeches and crawlers are producing about the same during the daytime, but leeches under slip bobbers are the clear deal for the evening bite. This bite WILL slow down at some point - often times around the 10th or so of July depending on the year, so if you want to cash in on some excellent walleye fishing... COME NOW! Smallmouth action is right where we usually see it for the beginning of July - no real surprises there. Folks are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them,, but the top producers have been whackys and dropshots. Much of the smallie bite is in 8-14 feet now over the biggest rocks you can find. Northern activity has been hit-or-miss. Big suckers have been the best bait.
(6-22)...I don't do this very often, but after reading and re-reading the walleye portion of last week's Weekend Outlook I'm going to go back to Waite Park Elementary School in Northeast Minneapolis and proclaim an old-fashioned "do-over" like we used to do - there's NOTHING I would change! The bite is STILL on, it's STILL improving, the depths, baits, techniques and spots are the same... you just need to do it again this weekend. The smallmouth bite is decent, but not as good as we saw earlier in the season. We've had a few good topwater sessions, but they usually don't last very long. Most of the folks are tossing wacky rigs, dropshots and plastic craws this week. Northern action improved again - not on fire, but as good as we've seen it yet this season. Live suckers and small bucktails are doing the trick.
(6-14)...The bite is on! The bite was good going into last weekend, but it looked even better coming out of the weekend. The deep water (mud, rock and gravel) has been very solid. Much of the bite has been on leeches, with crawlers running a reasonably close second. And even though much of the activity has been in this deeper water, there are still a BUNCH of walleye left in the mid-depth rock and even in that 6-12 feet (evenings) still off the ends of the docks! In all, if you like to fish walleye it's time to come to Mille Lacs. The smallmouth action has shifted from mainly sight fishing under the docks and boatlifts to a bigger focus on that 7-12 foot range adjacent to those same areas and even out to some of the "free-standing" reefs. The top baits still include smaller tubes and grubs, Ned rigs and hair jigs. Drop shots too. Northern activity has improved a little from the past few weeks, both in size and quantity. Small suckers work best.
(6-7)... We're finally seeing surface temperatures running consistently in the (low) 60's. This signals the un-official beginning of a number of benchmarks on Mille Lacs - the "end" of the spottail shiners, the beginning of a legitimate crawler bite, spinners will have a better impact than they did when the temps were cooler, the transition toward a "deeper" bite (mud flats, deep gravel, deep rock), smallmouth spawning on "the beds", and the dreaded "bugs" (may flies, lake flies, gnats and skeeters). This isn't to say that all of this kicks in the first day the temperature hits 60, rather it's more of an indicator that each of these phases will begin soon... some have already begun.
Many of the smallmouth are on the beds right now. Whether they should be protected or molested during this period of reproduction and sustainability of the species on any body of water, including Mille Lacs is a question that gets batted around all year... especially now. By Minnesota law (and many other states) it's legal to fish smallmouth and largemouth bass while they're in the pre-spawn/spawn/and of course post-spawn periods. A smart person somewhere has determined that interrupting this process doesn't impact the future of the species. They may not have anticipated the LINE of boats spending 5-15 minutes on each dock/boatlift plucking these fish from underneath, eventually moving onto the next dock/boatlift while the next sparkly boat in line slips into their previous spot. From 5 minutes ago. It reminds me of bass fishing's rendition of "duck, duck grey duck"! To be clear, the season is open, and by Minnesota law you may fish for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. The decision lies with each individual angler whether or not to pursue and/or harvest these fish at this stage of the season. If you're conflicted about what YOU should or should not do, just ask around - there's no shortage or opinions on this topic!
We're still seeing walleye scattered between 7-28 feet, but the trend has started toward deeper water. This isn't to say that everyone should rush out to the mud or gravel - there's a TON of structure that lies within this range that the next boat will drive right over. Look at some of these mid-depth rock humps as you head to deeper water... many of them are holding good numbers of fish, and you usually get to enjoy fishing them by yourself without any/much other competition from other anglers. The evening bobber bite has been very good in 12-18 feet on the rocks. Use an Angle Jig tipped with a MODEST-SIZED leech for best results. During the daytime we're seeing it all - trolling hard baits, bobber'n, jigging, spinners and especially the classic leech/live bait rig. Some of the better areas this week include the north end sand, Sherman's Point, Indian Point, Big Point Hennepin Island and 1 1/4 mile reef.
(5-24)...We've had a pretty good week on Mille Lacs so far, and it looks like it's setting up to be a great weekend. The bite remains strong, the surface temperature is inching up (and will likely jump higher over the next 5 days with temperatures forecast in the mid to high 80's), the bait supply has loosened up a little... all just in time for the extended weekend.
The walleye bite is good. It appears like the spawn is over, but a number of catchable fish remain in shallows. Some have moved out a little, still others have headed out to 20+ feet. To say that they're "everywhere" is an overstatement, but they are certainly spread out across a wide spectrum of depths. Low light conditions have found the shallower (5-14 feet) fish more catchable, while the deeper (15-24) fish go better throughout the rest of the day. Shiners (yes, we have shiners) on a jig or a 6-foot snell continue to be a great presentation. Leeches on that same 6-foot snell or a jig/slip bobber (evenings) will be your runner-up choice. Crawlers are clearly in third. This will all change as the water temperatures continue to warm. Some of the better spots include Pike Point, the north-end sand, Big Point and Vineland Bay. Smallmouth action is improving with the warmer water too - we're not seeing tons of fish on the "beds" just yet, but they're staging just outside these areas. Small tubes, grubs and bucktail/maribou jigs are working well.
Yes, we have spot tail shiners. Leeches too!
(5-17)...Sort of a "non-opener" for many on Mille Lacs last weekend - we started with roughly 25% of the west/south part of the lake hosting a bunch of unwelcome ice. While there were still plenty of good spots from Garrison to Malmo to Isle to get the boat wet, a number of folks opted to wait. Those who DID get out enjoyed mixed success - some struggled, others figured out that the bite was mostly shallow... REALLY shallow. Once they adjusted, it was game-on. Minnows and smaller leeches on a jig have been the ticket. The long snell and slip bobber folks caught some fish, just not as many. In all, there weren't nearly as many people around as there are on a "normal" year. Whatever that is. Northern and bass action was slow.
The ice is gone from Mille Lacs.
Most of the people we talked to found the surface temps in the low to mid 40's. That's cooler than we usually find on opening day. Some of these walleye were post-spawn, but a good number of them were right smack in the middle of doing what they do. So it stands to reason that the shallow (10-) bite could be better than the deep bite. Oddly enough, there were a lot of folks cruising along in the deeper (20+) water picking up a fish here and a fish there who WOULD NOT MOVE, because "that's where we ALWAYS fish on the opener". Memories. I have a good friend (let's call him Lucky) who is an accomplished walleye angler - especially when it comes to Mille Lacs. But sometimes (like every time Lucky is on Mille Lacs) Lucky gets to remembering how he used to smack 'em on 3-mile casting Rogues, or pound 'em on Anderson's Reef trolling Shad Raps, or even wear-out slip bobbers on Sherman's. Are these still good spots and valid techniques? Of course they are. But often, more than one condition will dictate where and when the hot walleye bite will be. Just because it's the opener doesn't mean that the fish will be in the same spot year after year. Water temperature, wind direction, spawn-status, angling pressure, cloud cover, moon phase, lake level... and an endless litany of other conditions may be minor of themselves, but when a number of them align they can TOTALLY change the "opening day bite". Or any other day of the year. That's fishing. A lot of the long faces we saw over the weekend could have been smilin' and dancin' if they would have made a few simple adjustments. Maybe this weekend.
(5-10)...Here we stand, counting down the moments to another Minnesota fishing opener! The ice has held on at Mille Lacs longer than usual - enough that we still have a certain amount of chunks and "mister misty" floating around the lake. Is it all frozen? No. Is it all open? No. We may have to play the wind come Saturday to fish the "open side" if the ice and slush doesn't melt down by then. In any case, there WILL be areas of open water even if an official "ice out" isn't declared.
As of 11:00 AM 5-10-18, about 1/3 of Mille Lacs still has ice on it.
There has been a lot of chatter on the Twin Cities television channels about a "bait shortage". This is new? Every year we face challenges getting ample quantities of all the varieties and sizes of bait NEEDED not only for fishing the Mille Lacs opener, but also to satisfy our "road business' (thanks, guys!) and to fill in the gaps from other shops who didn't order accurately or who couldn't get what they needed for "their" clientele. Fact is, each year it's a guessing game compounded by early ice out, late ice out and the ever-changing DNR restrictions (mostly with respect to invasive species regulations) on the waters we get bait from. In short, this isn't new. Today, spot tail shiners and rainbows are tough to get. Leeches are available. Don't "oversize" your leeches with the water this cold - a modest-sized leech will often work/swim better.
Remember, you can fish Mille Lacs "'round the clock" for the opener... the night ban doesn't go into effect until 10PM on May 14th.
(5-3)...After driving around again today, it looks like we may be in for another "iffy" opener next weekend. Probably not as bad as 2013 when we missed the first weekend altogether (and almost the second weekend!), but possibly more like 2014 when it came down to the last minute before "ice out" was declared. No matter, TODAY we have a significant amount of ice left on Mille Lacs. Most of the area lakes are clear of ice. The bait supply (minnows and leeches) is tough right now, but will improve as the water warms. Not the best outlook, but we deal in reality... we've been here before and frankly we've seen worse. We'll post a simple "ice out yes" or "ice out not yet" regularly on our website www.lundeens.com until we see ice out. Calling 4 times per day (you know who you are) won't change when the ice goes out.
Not much for an early crappie bite on Mille Lacs yet. Look toward Knife Lake or Platte for your best chance in the area right now.
Along with the lingering ice theme, remember that much of our bait in Minnesota (especially leeches) comes from ponds NORTH of here. This means that there may be a statewide "delay" in specialty items like leeches, shiners and rainbows. Unfortunately open water is a MUST to trap/seine these critters... at this point many of the ponds are still in "winter mode".