Anglers who fish Upper Red Lake this winter will be able to keep walleye from a wider slot limit than in previous years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR is in the process of changing regulations so a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit will remain throughout the 2012-2013 winter walleye season. The daily bag and possession limit also would remain at four fish with only one fish allowed longer than 26 inches.

“This is a significant change from previous winter seasons when the protected slot limit would revert back to 17-26 inches on Dec. 1,” said Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor.

This regulation change was prompted by annual harvest estimates below the target harvest range during the past two years. DNR discussions with the Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee last March, and again in September, confirmed that current open water regulations have been popular and effective.

For the past four years, the protected slot limit on Upper Red Lake has been 17- to 26-inches from the May walleye opener through June 14, when catch rates are high and spawning stock most vulnerable. Since 2009, there has been a mid-season slot limit adjustment to 20-26 from June 15 through Nov. 30. At its September meeting, the Advisory Committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the open water regulations remain the same and to focus on winter regulation changes to encourage additional harvest.

The proposed regulation change is expected to increase harvest to within the yearly target harvest range of 84,000-168,000 pounds. Increased harvest projections are based on several factors including the probability that more fish will be vulnerable to harvest, an increase in the average size of fish harvested, and the likelihood of additional angling pressure.

Walleye abundance on Upper Red Lake remains high, with new record gill net catch rates experienced in the 2012 assessment. Spawning stock also remains high, indicating excellent production of young walleye in recent years. Additional harvest of walleye from 17 to 20 inches may be beneficial to maintaining good growth rates and improving the proportion of larger fish in the population.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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