Leech Lake Minnesota Walleye, Musky and Bass Fishing Articles, Updates and Reports

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Leech Lake Fishing and Fisheries Updates Page. Items of special concern for Leech Lake Anglers and Businesses.

2005-2010 Leech Lake Action Plan Experimental Walleye Slot Limit Regulation Proposal

What is being proposed? Possession limit of four (4) walleye and all walleye from 18 inches to 28 inches must be immediately returned to the water. Only one (1) walleye over 28 inches is allowed in a possession limit.

Why is this regulation being proposed? The Leech Lake walleye population is well below the long-term goal with regard to overall abundance and size distribution. Subsequently, walleye fishing on Leech Lake has been difficult during the last three years. In combination with predation by a rapidly expanding double-crested cormorant population since 2000, high angler harvest in the late 1990s likely contributed to a decline in the Leech Lake walleye population. Walleye recruitment has been poor since 1997. Given poor recruitment over the past seven years, DNR biologists believe increased protection of the brood stock is warranted until additional year classes are mature (see graphs). A variety of regulation options were considered but deemed either too restrictive or not restrictive enough. Any experimental regulation for Leech Lake must protect the current brood stock for the long-term health of the walleye fishery.

How will this regulation be evaluated? If enacted, the proposed regulation would be implemented on the walleye opener in 2005 and evaluated for a period of five years. Annual walleye sampling, which is part of the large lake monitoring program on Leech Lake, will allow continual evaluation of changes in the walleye population, specifically walleye abundance and changes in walleye biology that indicate population health. Angler surveys are scheduled for 2005 and 2010.

*Recruitment is a term used to describe the point at which an age class of fish has matured to the point of being able to reproduce.

How is this regulation part of an overall DNR strategy for Leech Lake?

This regulation proposal is one component of a multi-faceted approach to improving the walleye fishery on Leech Lake over the next five years. The proposed changes will protect walleye brood stock, which is essential to the long-term health of the Leech Lake walleye fishery. Other important elements of the plan include a stepped-up cormorant control program, walleye stocking and an increased focus on habitat protection.

What are the DNR’s walleye management goals for Leech Lake?

  1. The standing stock of mature female walleye is maintained at 1.25 to 1.75 pounds per acre. (See graph on back.)

  2. The number of walleye sampled in experimental gill nets increases from less than 5.0 walleye per net in 2004 to the historical average of 7.4 walleye per net. (See graph on back.)

  3. The catch rate of age-1 walleye in DNR trawl samples increases from less than 10 age-1 walleye per hour to at least the historical average of 45 age-1 walleye per hour. (See graph on back.)

  4. The sizes of walleye sampled in experimental gill nets includes fish of all sizes, with at least 50% of walleye sampled measuring less than 15.0 inches in length. (See graph on back.)

  5. Two good walleye year classes are established within the next five years.

For more information or to submit public comments, please contact the Walker Area Fisheries Office; 07316 State Highway 371 NW, Walker MN, 56484; (218) 547-1683; harlan.fierstine@dnr.state.mn.us

 2005-2010 Leech Lake Action Plan Stocking Marked Walleye Fry 12/16/04

What is being proposed? The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be stocking Leech Lake with 5.0 million marked walleye fry for three consecutive years beginning in the spring of 2005. The fish will be marked with oxytetracycline (OTC), which is an antibiotic that leaves an identifiable mark on fish bones. By marking fish, the DNR can identify them as a stocked fish when they are captured later.

Why is this being proposed? The objective of this stocking proposal is to estimate the natural fry production in Leech Lake and determine the optimal level of mature female spawners needed to provide consistent natural reproduction. Recent recruitment of walleye in the lake has been poor.

How will the stocking effort be evaluated? Walleye fingerlings will be sampled using shoreline seining, trawling and electrofishing for three consecutive years beginning in the summer of 2005. These fish will be examined for the OTC mark. Once all samples are examined for marks, an estimate of natural walleye fry production will be made.

How is stocking part of an overall DNR strategy for Leech Lake? This experimental stocking is one component of a multi-faceted approach to improving the walleye sport fishery on Leech Lake over the next five years. The marked, stocked fish will help the DNR determine what the optimal level of walleye brood stock is for Leech Lake (as measured by mature female biomass) so future management objectives can target maintaining that level. Other important elements of the plan include a stepped-up cormorant control program, experimental angling regulations and an increased focus on habitat protection.

What management concerns were addressed in the stocking plan?

Source of walleye eggs. It is critical that any walleye stocking conducted on Leech Lake not jeopardize the genetic integrity of this fishery. Leech Lake walleye have evolved in this system over thousands of years. DNR fisheries staff has worked with the University of Minnesota to identify the best genetic match, with the lowest level of associated risk. The Boy River spawning run (Woman Lake) has been identified as the closest genetic match.

Developing a robust research design for stocked fish. Fish population data suggest that the current level of brood stock is sufficient to naturally repopulate the lake. This stocking study will help determine the optimum number of mature female walleye needed to sustain the fishery. The regulation proposal also ensures that is the case for the coming years. From this study we hope to determine why young walleye are not being produced in the main lake in sufficient numbers, and to take corrective action once the reasons are identified. The current research design includes stocking marked walleye for three years and conducting mark-recapture studies over the course of the next five years to determine optimal female biomass for the lake. Opportunities to integrate the stocking evaluation with the cormorant diet study will also be explored.

For more information or to submit public comments, please contact the Walker Area Fisheries Office

07316 State Highway 371 NW, Walker MN, 56484; (218) 547-1683; harlan.fierstine@dnr.state.mn.us

Minnesota DNR To Focus on Restoring Leech Lake Walleye Fishery 12-12-04 - Jeff Sundin

Leech Lake has long been one of my favorite Walleye Fishing lakes. Unfortunately, Walleye fishing has been extremely tough during the past few years and my visits have become increasingly less frequent. Walleye reproduction in the lake appears to be in trouble and almost all of the Walleyes that are caught by anglers are older, adult fish considered to be prime spawning size females. Young of the year Walleyes seem to disappear every year and it's been several years since there's been a year class adequate to generate a comeback. Opinions vary about the causes and the severity of the problems, but most folks are beginning to agree about one thing; The large population of Cormorants on Leech Lake has contributed to the decline and threatens to prevent a recovery from taking place. Since Cormorants target smaller fish, protecting brood stock now by initiating a protected slot size limit is unlikely to help because at this point, producing more young of the year fish is probably just going to provide the birds with more food and serve to perpetuate the problem.

I've been trying to learn as much as I can about Cormorants during the past few months and after reading some of the studies, it doesn't take long to realize that this problem is not limited to Leech Lake, Minnesota or even North America. European anglers face the same problem, as evidenced by the articles, studies and links you'll find on this page. You be the judge, how can you control a population of predators that have no natural enemy? 

There are a lot of folks who depend on the health of this great lake for their livelihoods and we ought to do whatever we can to help Leech Lake and the folks who depend on it make a comeback. Even though Leech Lake is the focus of attention right now, it's just a matter of time before the over-population of Cormorants will be affecting many other lakes in our region. So in my view, getting a handle on the Leech Lake problem is going to give us a leg up on the problem throughout the area. Public comments are being accepted right now by the DNR, see the notice below.

Doesn't look like too many birds in this flock does it? Try counting them and remember you're only looking at the ones on the waters surface. Each bird is eating as much as one pound of fish each day. This flock alone can take 50,000 pounds of fish in an average Minnesota summer.

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