Abundant Lake Vermilion walleye lead to possible regulation change

SEPTEMBER 12, 2016 —

Lake Vermilion’s abundant, healthy walleye population is leading the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to consider a walleye regulation change starting in 2017.

The DNR will host an open public meeting about the regulation proposals from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Tower Civic Center, 402 Pine St., in Tower.

“We are in a good situation, with abundant walleye and lots of large female walleye to produce future year classes,” said Edie Evarts, Tower area fisheries supervisor. “It is nice to offer a regulation change because the population is healthy. At the same time, we want to protect the overall abundance and still offer opportunities to catch and release large fish.”

The regulation options would continue the four-fish bag limit while allowing increased harvest by changing the size ranges of fish anglers could keep. Under current regulations, anglers must release all walleye from 18-to 26-inches long, and are allowed to keep one walleye longer than 26 inches.

Proposed regulation options would require:

  • Release of walleye 18-to 22-inches long, or
  • Release of walleye 20-to 26-inches long, or
  • Allow anglers to keep one walleye longer than 18 inches out of four allowed.

Lake Vermilion, covering nearly 40,000 acres with over 340 miles of shoreline in northeastern Minnesota, has east and west basins that are substantially different. West end walleye grow faster and this has resulted in a larger proportion growing into the protected size range where they are no longer available for harvest.

The annual safe harvest level for boat anglers May through September is 65,000 pounds of walleye. In 2014 and 2015 based on angler creel surveys, harvest was at or below 45,000 pounds, indicating that the regulation could be adjusted to allow more harvest.

In recent DNR surveys of walleye populations, walleye have been showing up in numbers above historic averages.

“We continue to monitor harvest levels and the health of the walleye population,” Evarts said. “All our options do carry some risk of exceeding the safe harvest level. However, unless we see a large increase in the number of anglers on the lake, we are pretty comfortable that we will stay near the safe harvest with a less restrictive regulation.”

Special walleye regulations on Lake Vermilion first began in 2006, to address high harvest. In 2012 the current regulations were put in place, which had included a 1-inch change to the protected slot limit.

“We know from results of DNR lake surveys and estimates of harvest from angler creel surveys that there is room to harvest more fish while continuing to maintain the quality of fishing in the lake,” Evarts said. “A regulation change will also address some anglers’ concerns that there are few fish of a size they can keep on the west end.”

The DNR’s Tower area fisheries office is currently working with a public input group in revising the Lake Vermilion Fisheries Management Plan. This group has contributed insight and comments on different regulation options and members have helped keep local stakeholders informed.

After the Oct. 25 meeting, the public comment period will extend for 10 more days, closing on Friday, Nov. 4. Questions or comments may be directed to the Tower area fisheries office, 650 Highway 169, Tower, MN 55790, by calling 218-753-2580, or email to edie.evarts*AT*state.mn.us.

Additionally, an open house about this proposal and other fishing regulations under review is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul. Staff will take comments on this proposal and other fishing regulations under review around the state.

More information about Lake Vermilion is available on the Lake Vermilion webpage.

© 2016 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources