Good old days of fishing return to Leech Lake
The good old days of fishing have returned to Leech Lake as the combined efforts of state and tribal officials have helped restore the fishery to its previous renowned status.
A decade ago Leech Lake walleye populations were in decline and the drop prompted the 2005-10 Leech Lake Management Plan.
The plan sought to improve walleye abundance and size structure through a variety of methods including protection of the female walleyes through the implementation of a protected slot, the reduction of the cormorant population, an aggressive stocking campaign and protecting the shoreland from human disturbance.
All of those aspects were addressed during the past five years and the lake and its fishery are displaying the benefits.
From 2005 to 2010 Leech Lake was annually stocked with 22.5 million walleye fry, the walleye slot protecting fish 18 to 26 inches and allowing only a four-fish harvest was implemented, hatch rates of wild walleye were determined to be similar to the Red Lake estimates and approximately 3,000 cormorants were removed from Leech Lake each year.
Additionally, nearly 5,000 feet of key shorelands on approximately 300 acres were acquired for protection near or adjacent to sensitive fish spawning and nursery areas.
The result of those combined efforts is one of the best multi-species fisheries in Minnesota.
Above-average walleye year classes established during 2005-08 combined with protection of older fish to produce record catch and harvest rates by walleye anglers during the 2008-09 season.
Yellow perch abundance and harvest have also increased in the past five years while catch and harvest rates of other species have remained within their relative historical ranges.
The lake management walleye plan objectives for the next five years call for a mature female biomass ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 pounds her acre, a gill net catch rate of at least 8.5, summer angler harvest rates of .25 fish per hour and reaching the point where natural reproduction alone can maintain a sustainable population.
Stocking and cormorant control will continue to be tools the DNR officials will use to enhance the fishery. The stocking schedule includes 22 million Boy River strain fry this year, 7.5 million in 2012 and 2013 plus 22 million in 2014.
Other aspects of the 2011-2015 management plan include aggressively treating aquatic invasive plant species and working with local organizations to educate resource users on responsible aquatic invasive species prevention practices.
A telemetry study to determine muskie spawning locations is also planned as is continued dialog with Leech Lake stakeholders.
For complete details on the 2011-15 Leech Lake Management Plan contact the Walker Area Fisheries office in Walker (218-547-1683).