DNR to further tighten Upper Red walleye limit

This news release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources concerns upcoming changes in Upper Red Lake’s walleye limit:

Beginning Friday, Jan. 23, walleye regulations will become more restrictive on Upper Red Lake because of a record December walleye harvest, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The daily bag and possession limit will be two walleye, and anglers must immediately release all walleye
17- to 26-inches long. Only one walleye in possession may be longer than 26 inches. The current regulation allowed three walleye in the daily bag and possession limit.

Walleye fishing pressure and harvest continue to increase on Upper Red Lake despite more restrictive angling regulations that were implemented on Dec. 1, 2014.

“Fishing pressure in December was more than double compared to last December,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor. “High walleye catch rates and ideal ice travel conditions attracted a record number of walleye anglers to Upper Red Lake this winter.”

Walleye harvest is up 57 percent from estimates for a comparable time period last year, requiring some action to help curtail excessive winter harvest.

Upper Red Lake harvest restrictions are necessary to comply with a joint walleye harvest plan agreement with the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. For more information on Red Lake fishing regulations, see www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

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DNR, BIA and Red Lake Nation renew Red Lake walleye recovery agreement

There was more good news in the ongoing story of the Red Lake walleye recovery today when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Red Lake Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs signed a new five-year memorandum of understanding to continue the cooperative management of the walleye population in the Upper and Lower Red lakes.

The signing took place during a brief ceremony in Red Lake, Minn.

“Red Lake Band members are pleased that our walleye have come back and our fishing community is revitalized,” Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that Red Lake walleye are managed sustainably in the future.”

Renewing this agreement will enable the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee to continue its work to help protect this valuable resource, added Seki.

The participating entities signed off on the first walleye recovery agreement in April 1999. Buoyed by aggressive stocking, a moratorium on walleye harvest and stepped-up enforcement, the walleye population rebounded faster than anyone could have envisioned, and walleye fishing in state and tribal waters of Minnesota’s largest inland lake resumed in 2006.

In my years of reporting on the outdoors, the fall and rise of Red Lake and the crappie boom that rejuvenated the area’s tourism industry in the wake of the walleye collapse ranks right at the top of my favorite stories list.

The new MOU closely parallels previous 1999-2014 agreements and states that each entity will support the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee, a joint panel of experts that recommends policies and practices to maintain a healthy fishery.

“We’ve come a long way in the past 15 years,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a news release, noting that the combined state and tribal harvest approached 1 million pounds in 2014. “By renewing this agreement, we are reaffirming our commitment to a successful process that has delivered excellent results.”

Walleye populations in Upper and Lower Red lakes collapsed in the mid-1990s after years of overharvest, and the technical committee formed in 1997 to address options for reversing the decline.

DNR plans aerial elk surveys in northwest Minnesota

The Department of Natural Resources again this winter is planning aerial elk surveys in Kittson County and the Grygla area of northwest Minnesota. The DNR uses low-flying helicopters to conduct the survey.

Doug Franke, area wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Thief River Falls, said the surveys will be held sometime between now and the end of March. That’s a big window, but the survey can’t begin until the DNR completes its aerial count of moose in northeast Minnesota, Franke said.

The helicopters and pilots are tied up until then.

While the two elk survey blocks in Kittson County — near Lancaster, Minn., and in Caribou Township along the Minnesota-Manitoba border — have shown stable populations, the Grygla herd has been below management goals in recent years.

Last winter, for example, the survey tallied 20 elk in the Grygla survey block, down from 28 in 2013. The DNR for the second consecutive year didn’t offer a season this past fall because the population was too low.

The DNR’s management goal for the Grygla herd calls for a pre-calving population of 30 to 38 elk. The Grygla herd has been on a steady decline since 2008, when the winter survey counted 55 elk. Numbers dipped slightly in 2009 to 53, before declining to 40 in 2010.

I’ll provide additional info as it becomes available.

The DNR this winter also will be conducting aerial deer surveys in permit areas 214, 215, 218, 219, 221, 223, 224, 229, 241, and 248 in Becker, Benton, Cass, Hubbard, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wilkin and Wright counties, along with several permit areas in the southeast part of the state.