Could Walleye Population Drop in Mille Lacs be Future of Metro Lakes

Updated: 03/04/2013 1:02 PM KSTP.com By: Tim Sherno

Recent declines in the walleye population of Mille Lacs Lake have prompted the DNR to propose new restrictions.

Certified Lake Manager Dick Osgood says changes in fisheries in Mille Lacs Lake has several contributing factors, one chief among them, "I think you can tie it all back in a large way to zebra mussels." 

The invasive species was first discovered in Mille Lacs in 2005, since then their number has grown and recently spiked. According to Osgood, the profile of growth on zebra mussels in a lake begins slowly, "There's a lag phase, in this case it's been 4 or 5 years for the zebra mussels numbers to even become apparent. And then they've exploded more recently."

Osgood says popular metro area lakes that have been infested more recently will likely follow the profile of impact demonstrated by zebra mussels and fisheries in Mille Lacs, "The zebra mussel population is just beginning to become apparent to casual observers; people taking their docks out in the fall are seeing them on their posts, swimmers are starting to get their feet cut at beaters." Osgood says metro lakes won't see dramatic increases for a few years, "It's going to change, what's difficult to predict is how.  But the sport fishery will likely change for the same reason, you destabilize the entire food game, and food structure of the game fish and the impacts cascade up."