Last evening the ice cleared off of Mille Lacs and we now have open water. It is about two weeks early from the normal ice-out.
Meanwhile the “politics” of “Treaty Management” are going to affect Minnesota’s anglers at Mille Lacs Lake once again. This summer will be catch and release only for Walleyes all summer long. Plus “closure” from after July 7th for three weeks, with a live bait ban to “insure” no Walleyes will be caught…. And a “closure” after the Labor Day weekend for the rest of the open water season. (Probably with a live bait ban also). Meanwhile all anglers that fish other species with artificial bait, (anglers still fishing Mille Lacs…) will be catching and releasing Walleyes that (with the hooking mortality that goes along with it), will add to the “hooking mortality” for Walleyes and affect the “quota” even though they can’t legally fish for them because the season is closed. Makes alot of sense…..right?
Maybe we should close the lake for the same times for ALL fishing and allow recreational boating only? Then the BASS Angler of the Year Tournament that brought the Mille Lacs Band’s Casino and the area as much as an estimated $3,000,000 in revenue last year, and possibly could again, would be forced to cancel.. Maybe they would “feel it” in the pocketbook like the rest of us… Might not be a bad idea….(boy am I going to get flak over that comment)…but then again, maybe it’s time for someone to say it…
Just so you know the “politics” behind it, our MN DNR said anglers could safely harvest 90,000 lbs of Walleye. But in negotiations with the Bands, they said if the State declared the 90,000 lbs they would in turn declare 50% of it. (More than they ever had in the 20 plus years this has been going on.) BUT.. if the State agreed with a lower safe harvest they would declare only 30% like they normally have in the past… So now anglers have a lower quota due to the political pressure from the Bands. Bait shops and fishing businesses will suffer even more, all in the Bands “conservationist” approach that in the media always seems to sound good. But the reality is, the Bands and their Casino’s are most of the media’s top advertisers, a huge revenue stream.
The reality of all of this in my opinion, is that this form of “management” is creating the loss of the future spawning classes so the repeated cycle of missing year classes will continue. This is why we’ve seen the almost record breaking Walleye “bite” anglers experienced on Mille Lacs this past winter. I have lived on this lake and fished it for almost 60 years, and this year was probably one of the best “bites” I have ever seen in the winter.
Plain and simple, the reason the “bite” was so good was because Walleyes have no food to eat. Whether there are too many predators for the existing baitfish, or the baitfish supply is suffering from not enough for them to eat in the lower food chain is yet to be found out according to our MN DNR. Meanwhile, I really think what will happen this spring is when the Walleye fry shows up with a lack of other food and hungry larger fish, they will not survive. Another year class will disappear which is what we were trying to prevent from happening in the future…a continuous cycle of cannibalism. In my opinion the major cause of the Walleye decline of year classes. Not global warming, spiney water fleas, zebra mussels, and water clarity. Just look how the lake is recovering without extensive netting in the spring like there was prior to 2012, and the lack of harvest from anglers due to strict regulations since that time. I agree the lake is changing, but if there is something changing out there, it’s in the lower part of the food chain. If the goal is to improve maintain more consistent year classes of Walleyes I disagree with what is going on right now.
No one but our MN DNR should be in charge. Mille Lacs Lake is Minnesota public water along with it’s resources. What has happened here at Mille Lacs the last twenty years is a travesty and definitely proof that the “treaty management” system does not work. It is time for our MN DNR to have sole management authority when it comes to Mille Lacs Lake and the rest of our natural resources in this State. Not two resource managers. Especially when one of them only represents a small number of people compared to the citizens of Minnesota. The State of Minnesota, and it’s DNR needs to stand up for biological management of it’s resources, and take control of it for all involved. This is not working for anyone at Mille Lacs Lake, including the Walleye….,it’s not getting better and will continue this way until something changes……
You would think that our Governor Dayton and our legislative representatives would want to protect for all citizens, the closest large lake to the metro area… that was once called the Walleye Capitol of Minnesota. Especially when it is so close to the majority of anglers in the Twin Cities. But unfortunately he and the rest are getting their pockets lined by the Bands Casino’s lobbying money for their respective campaign’s, they don’t care. Ironically one of the lobbyists was a Band member that resigned from the Mille Lacs Fishing Advisory Committee because he said we were racist… which was totally false and was a “media” ploy. But of course the money and the media put his story in front of us on the committee. It’s all about money, politics, and 180 year old treaty rights… not the resource anymore….they are in it for themselves…no different than anyone else lobbying the government for their interests in St. Paul.
In addition a new court case is coming that will affect the whole northern half of Minnesota and the control of natural resources in the future. If Governor Dayton and your legislature doesn’t step up to the plate and take a stand, the outcome could have the potential to negatively affect the quality of Minnesota’s natural resources, and in turn negatively affect Minnesota’s Tourism Industry from here to the Canadian border. Ultimately the State will lose control of it’s management of it’s citizens resources. You only have to look at Mille Lacs lately to see what has happened here…..Remember that the next time you vote…if you care..
Keep a Tight Line! Eddy