Anglers on Lake Vermilion in northeastern Minnesota will be able to keep walleye up to 20 inches long, with one allowed over 26 inches, starting with the May fishing opener, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The new regulation will require release of walleye from 20 to 26 inches, a change that is less restrictive compared to the current regulation that requires release of walleye from 18 to 26 inches. The four fish bag limit will remain the same.
“Lake Vermilion has abundant walleye with good numbers of large females, ” said Edie Evarts, Tower area fisheries supervisor with the DNR. “The regulation change allows slightly more harvest while still protecting plenty of mature female walleye that produce future year classes.”
The DNR considered and modeled several options for the regulation change, and sought opinions from the public, as well as from the Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group that represents lake and statewide interests.
The group generally was in favor of a regulation change although had no majority opinion on a specific regulation. The broader public also had a range of preferences, with two-thirds supporting a regulation change and one third preferring no change.
“We went through a rigorous regulation review that allowed us to take the biological and sustainability considerations into account while trying to satisfy a diverse angling public, ” Evarts said.
The DNR chose the 20-to-26 inch protected slot because it has a lower risk of harvesting too many fish and is in line with public input indicating a preference for less risk.
In Lake Vermilion, walleye abundance has remained relatively steady during the last 20 years and the proportion of mature females in the population has increased.
Harvest levels have changed over the years. In 2006, regulations were put in place that had a protected slot, which requires release of certain lengths of fish, and a reduced bag limit. The goal was reducing walleye harvest to a sustainable level – 65, 000 pounds for the open water fishing season – following years in 2002 and 2003 when harvest had been more than 22, 000 pounds above that level.
More recently, harvest has been significantly lower, falling to the 40, 000 to 45, 000 pound range. This lower harvest allowed the DNR to consider a less restrictive regulation while also taking into consideration the health of the fishery, potential harvest levels and public interest.