|"The Bait Shop"|
Walleye: Two fish 18-20 inches. One may be longer than 28 inches.
Northern Pike: Ten fish. One may be longer than 30 inches. Season closes March 29, 2015.
Bass: Six total smallmouth and largemouth combined. One smallmouth may be longer than 18 inches. Season opens Saturday, May 10. Lake is exempt from mid-September catch-and-release smallmouth regulation. Bass may be caught through Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015.
Tullibee (Northern Cisco): Possession limit is 10.
Other Species: Follow statewide regulations.
Night Closure: The night ban will be lifted at 10PM on July 21st, 2014.
You'll notice that some regs have been relaxed or even temporarily eliminated. The night ban will be lifted at 10PM on July 21st, 2014. Most of the other regulations have changed to the Mille Lacs angler's advantage - the bass season coincides with the walleye season (May-Feb.), the northern limit has been increased to 10, darkhouse spearing will open December 1st and the northern season has been extended through March 15. All changes have been labeled "experimental/temporary", meaning that some or all of them will be tweaked down the road. Some folks like the changes, some hate them, some will tolerate them and some won't. Kind of like how they make red cars and blue cars... different things are important to different people.
...(12-11) Anyone who has any question whether this "northern thing" might catch-on needs to spend a day this weekend on the south end of Mille Lacs - along with a kazillion other people! This is "HANDS-DOWN" the most enthusiasm that we've seen around here in years. If you're looking at a chance at a trophy or maybe you just want to chase around a few flags, the south end of Mille Lacs is the place to be. PERIOD.
The walleye bite has been decent so far - stick to the 18-22 foot range at first and last light and 28 to 32 during the mid-day. Weasels and Jigging Raps have turned most of the fish so far. We haven't seen many folks stay overnight so far, but now that several resorts are pulling houses I'm sure we'll get a better read on the night bite. Perch action has been spotty at best.
Ice conditions are good in general - most of the bays have around 15 inches and much of the main lake runs about a foot. The warmer weather is not expected to affect the THICKNESS of the ice over the next week or so, but warm temperatures often cause the pressure breaks to flex. If you plan to cross a pressure break, it's best to use one of the resort's bridges.
On Thanksgiving day, we cruised around the lake and counted well under 100 houses (mainly spear houses) on Mille Lacs. Most of these were in the bays along the south end. Last weekend the population of houses exploded to many HUNDREDS of houses (still mostly spear houses) scattered along the perimeter of the lake and in the bays! In just those few days, Mille Lacs came alive due largely to something we haven't seen here since the 80's… darkhouse spearing. With a limit of 10 northern (only 1 can be over 30 inches) and a notion that this may be the only season that the DNR will allow spearing and/or the 10 fish limit, people are coming out of the woodwork. If you like to spear or if it's something you always wanted to try, this is your chance. There haven't been too many guys chasing walleye yet. The ones that are getting out into "walleye water" are doing OK - most in double figures, some even leaving the lake with a couple keepers. Most of the walleye so far are in that same 10-11 inch range that we saw last fall. Based on that, the future looks bright.
Mille Lacs is frozen all the way across. Ice thickness ranges from 7 to 16 inches. There is not much snow on the lake. The surface on the southern 1/3 of the lake is rough - high winds pounded from the N.E. while the lake was freezing over. ATV travel is common and we see more vehicle traffic each day in the south bays. There's a whole lot of "monkey see-monkey do" going on out there… the safest way to know the ice thickness in any given area is to CHECK IT YOURSELF. Several of the resorts are open to ATV traffic. Some of the resorts have started pulling a few rentals and some of their lighter-weight houses.
If you didn't read this last fall, it deserves your attention this week. Here a link to the DNR'S newest Hooked on Mille Lacs fall newsletter. You can check out some of the results of the 2014 fall netting survey. Of particular interest is the summary: "There is nothing in this data that suggests tribal fishing is affecting reproduction". If you're left with a shred of doubt after this compelling analysis, PLEASE contact the Aitkin Fisheries Office of the Minnesota DNR.
The Minnesota DNR has a new surprise for boaters statewide. By July 1st, 2015 each of us will have to take invasive species training, pass a test and pay a fee to obtain a sticker for our boat trailer. Own a second boat? No sweat - just pay a little extra and they'll issue you another sticker! Have any questions? Follow this link.