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Anglers surpass Mille Lacs Lake walleye quota, but season to remain open
Catch-and-release has had minimal impact on future spawning population
The most recent Mille Lacs Lake walleye harvest estimate indicates that anglers have surpassed the state’s 2016 walleye quota. The state, however, will not close the catch-and-release walleye season at this time, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.
According to DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira, analysis of summer creel survey data has shown that the catch-and-release-only regulations on Mille Lacs are successfully conserving the lake’s future spawning population of walleye.
“Based on the data we’ve seen so far this year, keeping the season open will have minimal additional impact on the walleye population,” Pereira said. “The primary goal of the catch-and-release restriction is protecting young walleye, especially the robust 2013 year class. Current data show that only 1 percent of the 2013 fish have been impacted by hooking mortality, which is remarkably low.”
Conserving the 2013 year class of juvenile walleye until the fish reach spawning age is a critical component of recovering the Mille Lacs walleye population.
At the end of June, state-licensed angler harvest was estimated at only 6,950 pounds. But due to increased angler activity, warm water temperatures and high catch rates, the estimated harvest increased rapidly in July, putting the most recent creel estimate at 37,922 pounds.
Despite the catch-and-release season, hooking mortality – an estimate of the number of fish that die after being released – is measured to estimate total harvest.
This year's walleye harvest allocation was established in January at 40,000 pounds – 28,600 for state-licensed anglers and 11,400 for tribal fishing.
In 2016, the bands with Mille Lacs Lake treaty fishing rights modified their harvest methods to help conserve young walleye, and to date have not taken their entire allocation. The state also adjusted walleye regulations by implementing the catch-and-release restriction for the open-water season.
The DNR had not previously managed Mille Lacs walleye with a season-long catch-and-release regulation. Fisheries researchers have been analyzing the 2016 creel data to better understand the impact of conservative fishing regulations on the lake’s walleye population.
“Since the impact of catch-and-release fishing on future spawners has been minimal, we are able to take socio-economic factors into consideration as well when making resource management decisions,” Pereira said. “Keeping the season open prevents significant economic loss in the Mille Lacs community. The DNR remains committed to managing the lake as a world-class fishery for the benefit of all users.”
DNR fisheries biologists will continue to monitor creel survey results and water temperatures on Mille Lacs through the remainder of the open-water season to ensure conservation of the lake’s future spawning population of walleye.
In addition to analysis of angler creel surveys, the DNR continues to invest in research to enhance understanding and management of the lake’s fishery. Ongoing studies on Mille Lacs include advanced research on hooking mortality and the addition of temperature gauges at a wider range of locations and deeper depths than have been monitored in the past. The DNR will also facilitate new technical work and research focused on better understanding fundamental changes to the ecology and food web of Mille Lacs, including the potential effects of invasive species.
Long thought of primarily as a walleye lake, Mille Lacs has also become a premier location for northern pike, muskie and small mouth bass fishing. In September, the lake will host the Bassmaster Elite Series “Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship” – a world-class event that will bring the nation’s best bass anglers to Mille Lacs.
Additional information about Mille Lacs fisheries management can be found at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake. This year’s fishing regulations are on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/fishmn.
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Deer numbers on the rise as hunters look forward to deer season
Licenses on sale Aug. 1
Steadily growing deer populations may produce more deer sightings and slightly more harvest opportunities for hunters during the 2016 season, although one-deer limits remain in place for much of the state.
“Hunters can look forward to seeing the growth in local deer populations following two years of mild winters and lower overall harvests,” said Adam Murkowski, Big Game Program leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Hunters can buy deer licenses and apply to the lottery for antlerless deer permits starting Monday, Aug. 1. The deadline to apply for the antlerless permit lottery is Thursday, Sept. 8. Archery deer season opens Saturday, Sept. 17, and firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 5.
Every year harvest regulations are set for each of Minnesota’s 128 permit areas to manage deer populations to established goals.
In northern and northeastern areas, the 2016 hunting regulations will remain somewhat conservative to allow for a controlled increase in deer numbers, resulting in lottery and bucks only designations.
In the highly productive deer permit areas in west central and southeast Minnesota, as well as areas surrounding the Twin Cities metro area, regulations are meant to use hunting as a tool to help manage local deer populations. These deer permit areas tend to either allow hunters to choose to shoot a single buck or single antlerless deer, or to allow hunters to harvest more than one deer.
In 67 deer permit areas, hunters must be chosen in a lottery to harvest an antlerless deer (down from 70 areas last season). Only bucks can be hunted in five areas (down from 14 areas). In 32 areas, hunters have the choice of harvesting a doe or a buck (up from 29 areas). Bonus permits allowing hunters to harvest more than one deer may only be used in 24 permit areas and for some special hunts (up from 12 areas).
Details on buying a license
All hunters who purchase licenses by Sept. 8 are automatically entered into the lottery if they declare a lottery deer permit area. Those who do not wish to harvest an antlerless deer are encouraged to purchase their license after the lottery deadline. Hunters may apply using both their firearm and muzzleloader licenses. If hunters are selected for both licenses, they must select the one season in which they want to shoot an antlerless deer.
Deer hunting licenses, lottery applications and special hunt applications are available at any DNR license agent, by telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. Lottery winners will be notified in October.
Permit area breakdown
The following is a breakdown of 2016 deer permit areas. A hunter may tag one legal buck per year, without exception. In southeastern Minnesota’s 300 series permit areas, these designations apply to both early and late – A and B – seasons.
Only male deer with one antler at least three inches long may be harvested in these bucks-only permit areas: 119, 152, 169, 183 and 199.
Hunters must be selected in the lottery to harvest an antlerless deer in these lottery permit areas: 101, 103, 105, 108, 110, 111, 118, 122, 126, 155, 156, 157, 159, 171, 172, 173, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 184, 197, 203, 208, 221, 222, 224, 234, 235, 237, 238, 246, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 260, 262, 266, 269, 270, 271, 272, 274, 275, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298 and 299.
Hunters can choose to shoot a single buck or single antlerless deer in these hunter-choice permit areas: 114, 117, 127, 201, 209, 210, 218, 219, 229, 230, 233, 239, 242, 247, 254, 256, 257, 258, 259, 261, 263, 264, 265, 267, 268, 273, 276, 277, 338, 339, 344 and 347.
Hunters may harvest two deer, only one of which may be a buck, in these managed permit areas: 213, 214, 215, 223, 225, 227, 232, 236, 240, 241, 248, 255, 287 (no archery hunting), 292, 293, 341, 342, 343 345 and 348.
Hunters may harvest up to five deer, only one of which may be a buck, in these intensive permit areas: 182, 346, 349.
Hunters need to review new deer hunting regulations, permit area designations and boundary changes before applying. Current and up-to-date information is online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer. Information about deer management is available at www.mndnr.gov/deer.
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Changes affect how deer carcasses can enter Minnesota
Starting this fall, hunters can no longer bring whole deer carcasses into Minnesota from anywhere in North America. This restriction includes all members of the deer family (deer, elk, moose and caribou).
Previously, the restriction only applied to animals harvested in areas of North America where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been known to occur.
“We are making this change to respond to the increasing prevalence and geographic spread of CWD,” said Adam Murkowski, Big Game Program leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The disease is always fatal and infected deer can appear healthy. Live animal testing is still in development.
Starting this fall, hunters may bring only the following parts into Minnesota, regardless of where the animal was harvested outside of the state:
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DNR to stock muskellunge in Gull and Fairmont chains of lakes
Decision follows 2-year public input process
Muskellunge will be released this fall in the Gull Lake chain of lakes near Brainerd and the Fairmont chain of lakes in southern Minnesota as part of an effort to establish new muskie angling opportunities throughout the state.
“We listened to and considered the more than 1,800 public comments we received during the past two years,” said Don Pereira, fisheries section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We want to thank everyone who helped guide this process.
“Our lakes are Minnesota’s most important natural resource and that’s one reason public participation is so important. The majority of the responses were positive and supportive of diversifying these fisheries in the Gull Lake and Fairmont chain of lakes and expanding opportunities that will benefit these areas recreationally and economically.”
The public input process and local discussions also prompted the DNR to decide not to stock Big Marine Lake in Washington County and to withdraw the proposal to stock the Franklin, Lizzie or Loon lakes in Otter Tail County.
Stocking muskie is part of an effort to respond to a growing interest in muskie fishing. Estimates suggest that a significant proportion of the state’s anglers either already target muskies or want to try muskie fishing.
“Minnesota is the crown jewel for muskie fishing in the United States," said Al Lindner, one of Minnesota's most well-known anglers who also produces educational fishing programs. "Creating more places to catch muskie where it’s biologically appropriate provides more than fishing opportunity for a growing number of younger anglers. It also offers a great economic benefit to resorts and tourism."
Several years ago, the DNR prepared a long-range plan designed to balance interest in expanded muskie fishing opportunities with those opposing muskie management and continued stocking. The compromise reached in this plan called for eight new waters to be stocked with muskie by 2020. Three of those lakes – Roosevelt, Pokegema and the Sauk River Chain – already have been stocked.
Last year, the DNR proposed several new waters for stocking and began asking the public for comments and meeting with angling groups, local governments, lake associations, property owners associations and others. This input was taken into account along with data from angler surveys and biological assessments.
Additional information, including a summary of more than 1,800 comments about the stocking proposals and DNR responses, is available on the DNR’s muskie management page at www.mndnr.gov/muskie.
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Grant program aims to help increase number of hunters, anglers
A dozen organizations are receiving funding to help increase how many people hunt or fish – or support those who already do – through a new Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant program.
“We’re excited about how these organizations plan to support fishing and hunting in Minnesota,” said Jeff Ledermann, DNR angler recruitment and retention supervisor. “What these groups shared was a commitment to getting people outdoors for these pursuits.”
The Angler and Hunter Recruitment and Retention Grant Program began this year and award winners are posted at www.mndnr.gov/angler_hunter_grants.html. The program was very competitive with 35 applicants in round one.
The application for round two of the grant program can be found at the same webpage. Organizations interested in applying for the grant program are invited to apply by Thursday, Oct. 13.
“We are preparing for a second round of this program and organizations can apply for funding,” Ledermann said. “We give priority to programs that are new and innovative and have an ongoing impact, rather than one-time events.”
Grant awards range from $5,000 to $50,000, and require a dollar-for-dollar match of the state grant award amount, or else a match of the value of labor, materials or services of the state award. The DNR expects to have over $100,000 to distribute in round two.
Eligible projects have a purpose that supports angler or hunter recruitment and retention. Types of activities could include fishing and hunting educational programs, clinics, workshops and camps, and funding for fishing and hunting equipment and transportation. Second-round projects must be completed in Minnesota and be finished by June 30, 2018.
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Youth can hunt with adult mentors during special deer hunts
Youth can apply to hunt deer in select state parks and other refuge areas during 17 special deer hunts in October and November.
“Parents or other adult mentors go with youth to the fields and forests during these annual hunting opportunities,” said Mike Kurre, Department of Natural Resources mentoring coordinator. “Time spent outdoors together is important and continued adult support can shape youth into lifelong hunters.”
Youth have until Friday, Aug. 19, to apply for the hunts. Of the 17 special hunts, 15 are firearms hunts for youth ages 12 to 15, and two are archery hunts for youth ages 12 to 17.
Participation in other deer hunting seasons remains an option for youth who take part in the special youth deer hunts, but any deer harvested count against the youth’s season bag limit. An adult parent, guardian or mentor must accompany the youth at all times while hunting, but only the youth may hunt. Both youth and mentor must attend a mandatory pre-hunt orientation clinic.
A limited number of either-sex permits are available for each hunt. However, the hunt in Buffalo River State Park and Camden State Park are for antlerless deer, and in the Lake Shetek State Park hunt youth need to harvest an antlerless deer before getting a permit to harvest a buck.
The two archery hunts are for youth, ages 12 to 17.
The 15 firearms hunts are for youth, ages 12 to 15.
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