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Trophy walleye lake for Otter Tail County?

A decade-long experiment is nearing its conclusion at Little McDonald Lake, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be asking the public whether or not to continue.

"Trophy walleye lake" is the DNR's vision for Little McDonald. After 10 years of an experimental "slot limit" requiring anglers to return all walleyes between 18 and 26 inches, it appears the fishery strategy is working.

The slot limit also only allows anglers to keep one walleye longer than 26 inches.

"We're in close contact with the local lake association, and they are in favor of it," said Howard Fullhart, assistant fisheries supervisor, based in Fergus Falls. "For the most part, the anglers are in support of it, too. So, we will probably approve the slot limit again."

Little McDonald is unique from a statewide standpoint. It is one of only a few lakes in which the DNR has conducted the "trophy walleye" experiment.

Slot limits are, for the most part, aimed at preserving breeding population on lakes that have characteristics that foster good natural reproduction.

In Otter Tail County, Big and Little Pine are prime examples of lakes known for quality, natural walleye reproduction. The slot limits on those lakes help maintain brood stock, said Fullhart.

In the case of Little McDonald, natural reproduction of walleye is not a strong characteristic of the lake.

"But the lake had historically produced large walleyes," said Fullhart.

Creel surveys conducted since the slot was implemented in 1999 further indicated that Little McDonald's conditions fostered large walleyes--despite natural reproduction deficiencies.

"What's going on out there is working, and we'd like to maintain it," said Fullhart.

The lake has been stocked with fingerlings most years, and the DNR is planning to increase the quantity, noted Fullhart.

"Fingerlings do well. But it is such a deep and cold lake, that when the walleyes do spawn the water is too cold for the fry," said Fullhart, explaining that stocked, larger fingerlings appear to have a good survival rate--but not the naturally produced walleye fry.

A Sept. 9 hearing is being held because it is the tenth year of the experimental slot limit, and time to review it with the public.

The hearing will be held from 7-9 p.m., at the Perham Area Community Center.