Anglers who catch a Mille Lacs Lake walleye with an orange tag on its body can receive a free fishing lure if they return that tag to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The offer is part of a broad effort to better understand the lake’s walleye population. DNR fisheries biologists are in the process of tagging and releasing 20,000 walleye. A new walleye population estimate will be based on the number of tagged fish captured in survey nets after spawning is completed. A selectivity estimate – an estimate of the sex and sizes of walleye anglers are most likely to catch – will be based on tag returns from anglers.

“To maximize tag returns and thereby the accuracy of our estimates, we are offering an incentive for the actual return of orange tags,” said Tom Jones, DNR regional treaty fisheries coordinator. “We are taking this additional step because we want the best data possible for future management decisions on Mille Lacs.”

Jones said the orange tags are labeled “REWARD.” Anglers that catch a fish with such a tag should remove it from the fish, even if the fish is released. Tags should be returned to DNR Fisheries, 1200 Minnesota Ave. S., Aitkin, MN 56431. A fishing lure will be mailed in return.

Tag return boxes will also be available at several businesses around the lake, or anglers can simply mail them to the address on “REWARD” signs posted at the boat accesses.

Incentives will not be rewarded for older yellow tags, but anglers are encouraged to return information on fish with these tags. Anglers are encouraged to leave yellow tags in the fish if they are released. These related projects will enable biologists to determine what proportion of the lake’s walleye are harvested, and will help refine population models.

“The anglers who drop their tags in the mail are doing all Mille Lacs anglers a favor,” Jones said. “The higher the tag returns the higher the data reliability . . . and that’s what you want when managing an asset as valuable as Mille Lacs.”

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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