Category Archives: Fishing & Ice Report

November 23rd, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It is that time of year again and the main lake ice is forming. Yesterday there was ice as far as we could see from our place, but with this warmer weather coming the next few days I doubt if it will stay.

We are busy at the place going thru trucks and equipment, checking the rentals and making improvements, and waiting for ice.

Another project we are working on this year is restoring the old barn, (the one you see when you came in our driveway),  when you see it again you will be surprised to see the changes.  The downstairs part by next year will be our Ice Fishing office, with bathrooms and showers for our customers if all goes as planned. The upstairs,(haymow), will be restored to it’s original condition and alot of the downstairs will have a restored look also.  You will have to see it when you get here.

Alot has happened on the fishing front this past summer with the DNR.  The lake is approaching the “almost recovered” stage according to them. But “politics” between the Bands and the State is affecting our harvest.  I’m not getting into it now. But you will hear more from me on that as we continue thru the year.

The TWP Fishing Contest will be held again this year on Saturday, February 24th, 2018.  So those that want to plan ahead, there is the date.   Rules, entry fee, etc will be similar to last year, but I provide more as we go.

Hope everyone had a nice summer and let’s all look forward to a fun winter on the ice!!

Keep a Tight Line!!

Eddy

July 1st, 2017

It’s been awhile since I posted, and here we are… Headed to a closure of the Walleye season on July 7th. There are so many things I want to say about all of this but I would have to write a book.   (Don’t worry…I am, and when this is whole deal is over it will be published.) I have lived here for 62 years now, been on the lake or associated with it’s fishery in one way or another for over forty.  And what is going on now is just absurd in terms of common sense… you couldn’t even make this stuff up…There is so many things that are just plain wrong in my opinion with what is happening up here with the Mille Lacs Fishery.

#1 I do not believe our DNR’s numbers based on their fall gill-net assessments for population numbers of Walleye.  The nets are in the same places they were in shallow water that were picked in 1980.  (They are the ones telling us that water clarity is changing where the Walleye are..)  They don’t want to upset a 40 year old study based on when water clarity was 3-5 feet then and now is 15-20 feet at times of no tributary runoff.

#2 Our DNR , (because of GLIFWC’s pressures of “Treaty Co-management” by the Bands), are saying the Walleye need to get back to the 2.2 million lb “spawning biomass” numbers we used to have.. Did we really even know that number was accurate? Some members of the DNR “Blue Ribbon” panel have stated Walleye populations will never get back to where they once were. But yet they are “striving” to get back to that 2.2 million pounds….   (?)   None of their biologist’s have even considered how many Smallmouth Bass were in the lake until last fall after the incredible results of the Bassmasters Angler of the Year Tournament in September.  Seth Feider won it with a record breaking average weight per fish, they touted about what a great bass fishery Mille lacs has become….Our DNR just this spring started tagging them to find out how many they think there are out there.  (Thought they might have been checking that the last ten years with all the changes..)

#3 We have had a baitfish shortage and have had it for years with dwindling Perch catches, lakeshore owners not seeing schools of minnows like they used to.  Spot-tail Shiners on the decline. And most importantly lake of surviving year classes of Walleye.  Why?  I think I know and know it well… this lake has been managed incorrectly because of “treaty management”. Because of the harvest by the Bands in the spring during the Walleye spawn, besides taking numbers of Walleye, they took literally billions of potentially surviving Walleye fry that were either “food” for others as nature intended, or surviving fry to grow.   Our DNR to keep the angler “happy” lowered the size of harvest-able Walleye to target 16-20 inch fish.  And guess what happen…we ended up with a large eating machine that kept growing older every year.

#4  Oh, and what about the Bass, Muskies, and Northern Pike? They kept eating too..  And everyone wanted to catch the trophy….and then the Walleyes became food for others also. It just amazes me that not one biologist can even acknowledge that and the press releases always say that they can’t figure out why the survival rate of the Walleyes after one year is a puzzle….talk about “fake news” this is it.  It’s all because they have to cover their tracks, because if it was proved that that was the cause, and the effects it had on the businesses, property values and social issues around the lake, they could be in deep trouble.  Already one resort filed a claim and received $150,000 from the State of Minnesota.  Boy, did they really try to cover their tracks after that…..  my opinion of course.

#5  There is also a hidden agenda out there that most people in this State don’t know about concerning Mille Lacs, the Mille lacs Band, and Mille lacs County. The Mille lacs Band does not have a reservation even though most of you “think” so. It was disestablished long ago thru a number of treaty’s and court decisions. They have approximately have 3000 acres of trust land where the casiono is and another acreage est of Isle,  They have been trying for over twenty years to get the public to think so, and are trying to get the State to recognize a boundary that was made in 1837 and later disestablished by the federal government.  Mille Lacs County and the State of Minnesota says no, and if it went to court the Band would most likely lose. So the decline of the fishery and seeing the resorts fail and having people getting discouraged and selling is just what they want.  The land where businesses and resorts once were are purchased and taken off the tax roles in Mille lacs County, thus increasing property taxes for those that stay, and reducing  the accessibility of Mille lacs lake by removing more accesses to it by closing down resorts for all of Minnesota’s citizens.  Sad but true folks…

#6  It is interesting that the DNR is estimating Bass population by numbers of fish and not pounds of fish like they do for Walleye .I wonder how many pounds of Bass are in the lake? If the population was estimated by pounds, the numbers might “scare” the fishermen.  Many of us have been saying for years poundage is not an accurate way to estimate or manage a population. But we are forced to “micromanage”our harvest to the pound and be penalized for overages…   Totally absurd again to me…  And not one fisheries biologist has mentioned or talked about the “too many fish in the fishbowl theory” at our meetings, despite the lack of baitfish and cannibalizing of Walleye fry. I’ve talked to a fisheries biologist from another State close by and they have worked with that principle idea for many years, and finally took control of how their lakes are managed.  But here.., they are doing a study to find out when the zebra mussels started in the lake and should have the results in 2 years…..I don’t really care when they started and it is not going to cure our problems.  Or is it to find another way to get out of mismanagement?

I’d better stop.  What is going one up here is just crazy.  I feel sorry for our DNR fisheries personal. Their working with their hands tied behind their back, (so to speak), because of “treaty  co-management” and our Governor Dayton’s ignorance to the situation.  All he is concerned about is how much tribal gaming lobbying money is given to his party at the Capitol, and will eventually “sell off” the State of Minnesota’s control of it’s natural resources to the Bands for it if you don’t call your representatives down there and tell them to stop!!….The State should have sole control of the management of it’s natural resources. It’s all politics and money now and if the sportsman in this State of Minnesota and all the other public figures, ( that could have helped if they spoke up earlier when this was going on), had better speak up now….before it is too late, or it will be lost forever…..There is a treaty rights case for off reservation harvest on all the lakes and land  from mid-Minnesota north to the Canadian border coming up soon.  And if the State buckles on that and doesn’t fight it..it’s over.  We now have a Supreme Court that can possibly change the tide if the State argues it…..

Eddy

 

April 10th, 2017

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

March 16th, 2016

Things are pretty quiet up here at Mille lacs.  Not many fishermen even though the ice is still pretty good.  The Perch bite is pretty slow and the pressure ridge that is all around the lake has halted most of the traffic that would normally be here this time of year.

Last Friday, March 10th, the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee met with MN DNR officials.  They told us of there preliminary results of the “Technical Committee” meetings with the Bands involved with the 1837 “Treaty management” of Mille Lacs.  Too say the least, it was a very disappointing meeting.  Most of us that live here and see what is going on day by day out there and we know that the bite was tremendous over this winter.  And alot of us present had questions about why it was so good.  Was there and abundance of Walleyes, (more than the MN DNR fall assessment nets last fall showed)?, or is because of the problems with the lower part of the food chain causing a “baitfish” problem and everything out there is hungry?  Most of us here already knew the answer was a “baitfish”problem. Our concerns were that the 2013 year class they are trying to protect will start the “cannibalizing”  of there own this spring and in the next couple years because of it, then we will be right back where we started 5 years ago.  Lake residents don’t see lake shiners under the docks in the spring like we used to. The Perch population of “keepers”, (10″ to 13″) Perch has been dropping consistently over the last 5-10 years, and the growing abundance of Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass could be another emerging predator.

Believe it or not this has been happening for a long time….and now they notice? The MN DNR stance is because of “their agreement” with the Bands they need to protect for future spawning Walleyes. And meanwhile they have overlooked what has been happening here for years thru “treaty management” once again..  In my opinion there are too many fish in the “fishbowl” than food for them to eat. But no one will look ahead…Because of “politics” once again…..the resource and fishermen of Minnesota will pay the consequences… A changing fishery cannot wait for “politics”..

I agree with the DNR that the introduction of “spiney water fleas”, “zebra mussels” and the natural change of of “cleaner water” due to sewer system improvements around the lake in the 1980’s  is changing the dynamics of Mille Lacs. But our MN DNR knew about that years ago, especially “zebra mussels”.  On top of that, the abusive spring harvest of Walleye, Northern and Perch by the Bands, ( They can because of a court ruling allowing rights of an outdated 180 year old treaty, added to the decline whether you want to agree with it or not.) If more people had actually been here at Mille Lacs and actually seen what was happening back then they would understand why some feel the way they do about it.  If 3250 – 100 ft gill nets along the shores of Mille Lacs in 2011 and didn’t affect the reproduction of the Walleye I guess nothing will?

Now we are in a situation where “here we are… what are “we” going to do to about it”. After last Friday’s meeting it’s obvious to me that the “who’s the good guy and let’s play politics behind the scenes” part of this is surfacing.  All at the cost of Minnesota’s citizen’s expense. Meanwhile taking down the resort owners that have provided a way for the people of Minnesota to enjoy this lake for over 100 years. Of course, it’s all in the “protection” of a resource is what you will read in the papers, meanwhile behind the scenes (where most media doesn’t go), the story is totally opposite. Plus we have a Governor that doesn’t even care enough to see what is happening to the State of Minnesota and it’s tourism industry. All it seems he is worried about is his “budget surplus” and how it will look good for him when he leaves..

And sadly it’s not just about Mille lacs anymore….if you don’t believe me…research it…you’ll find that the Bands want to have off reservation harvest rights all the way to the Canadian border and are planning to go to court with it soon. If Governor Dayton and your Legislature representatives don’t get some “balls” and do something soon it will be all over with.  Time to wake up people…

Keep a Tight Line!!    Eddy

 

March 5th, 2017

We have decided to keep our access closed for the rest of the ice season.  With the pressure ridge blocking us from the Tullibee Hole and the warm weather returning it just doesn’t make sense.   Maybe the shallow water will have some late Perch fishing, but this last week did not show that.

All in all it was a good winter season for ice fishermen on Mille Lacs.  The Walleye bite showed anglers that they are here in numbers despite the claims from our DNR.  Mille Lacs Lake and it’s Walleye fishery is definitely on the comeback.  Now the most important thing coming in the future is for the Bands and the DNR not to make the same mistakes as they did that put the  Mille Lacs Walleye Fishery, and it’s economy in the dumpster. Plus turned most of it’s loyal anglers that fish this lake away in disgust. I know that our DNR has learned from it’s mistakes, but we have to wait to see if the Bands have learned from theirs. Yes the lake is changing, but anyone with common sense knows that harvesting by a gillnet during the spawning time, (example: 3250 gillnets in Mille Lacs Lake in the spring of 2011), will damage the fisheries to the point of not being able to maintain it’s own and surviving.  Sometimes traditions need to change..

I will keep posting on the report as spring progresses, but not as often. Most reports will follow a Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee meeting, (that I am a member of), so you will know what is happening.  With all the “politics”  being played by the Tribes over this issue, I’m sure it will be a very interesting summer. Maybe it’s about time voting angler’s of this State wake up and tell their Governor and their legislator enough is enough. I don’t know if many of you realize this but Governor Dayton has instructed our MN DNR not to challenge anything with the Bands when it comes to anything “treaty” related when it comes to managing the State’s resources, (which can be challenged and changed)…Is that what you want?

Keep a Tight Line!!     Eddy

Saturday February 25th, 2017

Yesterday we got the last of the houses off the ice except for 3 rentals that are in close for Tournament workers.  What a relief it was to get the houses in the storage lot and with the cooler weather after the first day of mud everything firmed up and we didn’t make a mess of it like we would have if we had not waited for the cold.

The prize drawing will be held at 3:00 pm,  Last evening we packed up all the prizes and marked them.   This year there is just over $18,000.00 in prizes (valued at retail) so everyone will get at least their entry fee back and more.  Customers that have houses here and want to sty over night in them on shore are welcome to.Being that it is cold there will be no problem of parking or muddy spots, even back in the storage lot.

Depending on the weather forecast for cold we might open up again after I have had a couple day to go out and check the areas we go to for water holes and see their progress as far as freezing up, but that will not be determined until next week sometime.

February 23rd, 2017

Today we started pulling houses off the lake into the storage lot. With the rain earlier in the week the frost started going out and despite the gravel it was soft  but with the 277 Cat skidsteer with tracks all went really good.  Tonight it is going to freeze up even more and tomorrow evening the rest of the houses will be will be off the lake. Somebody above was watching out for us this weekend.  With the major snowstorm going south of us it was definitely a blessing.

If the rain hadn’t come Monday we would have still been out there for this weekend. But the water going down the holes and cracks created some very big waterholes that a person, even a vehicle could have went down in.  Last night we got about 2 inches of heavy wet snow that stuck on the ice and with tonight’s cold those holes are going to crust over and with the little snow forecasted tomorrow with the wind they will be hidden from view.  The thickness of the ice is not a problem especially now that that top 3-6″ of soft ice is refreezing. Most of it out there is 24″ or more. Just a word of caution to anyone going out venturing out on the lake if you don’t know where the the holes are…..beware…

We are going to have our Lybacks/TWP Tournament prize drawing Saturday at 3:00 pm.  Not sure if it will be back in the field along our entrance or on the ice down in front.  We will wait and see how bad the wind is blowing and decide then.  If you come up you will know where we are going to have it when you turn in….

Keep a Tight Line!!     Eddy

February 22nd, 2017 6:30 pm

Today we pulled all the rentals and private customers houses close to shore on better ice. Blocked them up and are going to wait for colder weather the next two to three days to get them in the storage lot. Wheelhouse customers need to come and get their houses after the weekend when things freeze up better too. We are closing….

We canceled all reservations for rentals for the weekend.  We will not be letting anyone out on ATV’s, snowmobiles, trucks,etc.  We found numerous water holes from draining water that a person could possibly fall into, so we are basically closed for the rest of the season, unless something drastically changes.

The Lybacks/TWP fishing Tournament, (The fishing part is cancelled).  The prize drawings will continue as planned at 3:00 pm Saturday for those that might come up for that.  However  you DO NOT HAVE TO BE PRESENT to get your door prize..(Change in rules since we are not fishing). So if the weather is bad stay home.  We are going to organize the prizes Friday night like we always do.  We will compile a list of all 150 prizes.  And Saturday we will draw just like we have in the past.  All tickets, prize numbers, and names will be documented in a notebook and marked on the prize awarded. Next week we will contact ALL contestants and inform them of what they received.  We will mix up prizes, big and small just like we always have so everyone will have a chance for a big one at the end as always. You can come up later and pickup prize, or we will send it to you if you pay the shipping.

Its too bad the warm weather stayed so long.  At the beginning of the week I thought we would make it thru it, but when I started seeing waterholes like I did it was time to pull the plug.  It’s quite a financial hit to Cindy and I to lose the last weekend of the season’s income, but I won’t take the chance of someone having a problems out there either.

The office will be open to receive calls if any have questions.     Keep a Tight Line!

Eddy

 

February 22nd, 2017

Most of the weather forecasts are showing us on the edge of the heavy snow although a couple models show 4-8 inches.  Today we are going to move and block rentals.  The weather is to turn colder and tomorrow we will be moving privates off their spots and closer to roads that are ready to pull already.  Alot depends on what will happen weather wise and I will be updating again tonight.  We will be deciding tomorrow if we are going to cancel rentals or not for the weekend.  It all depends on the weather.

Our plan is to get things ready to pull as soon as the colder weather firms things up over the weekend.  For know the Lyback/TWP Tournament is still on and we will let you know of any changes that we make with that.  Either way, fishing or not, we will have the drawings for prizes.  Keep watching the report.

Keep a Tight Line!      Eddy

February 21st, 2017

We went out on the ice this morning and checked houses and ice depths.  Yesterday’s rain did some damage to the ice, but not as much as I thought it was going to.  The near freezing temps late night helped.  The ice thickness ranged from 24″ in the clear dark ice to 28″ in the cloudy ice closer to shore.  When we drilled the top 2 inches was soft and when you got about 3-4″ from the bottom and would pull up and watch, water would slowly seep in. so a small amount of honeycombing is starting. There are a few spots where waterholes formed from water draining, but none we found on the shoreside of the pressure ridge where we go that were bigger than 18″ in diameter.  We did not check the main lake side. But fishermen out there will have to beware. But with the colder weather coming for the weekend things will firm up well, especially on top.

Our biggest challenge is that we are going to have to move all the rentals to a new spot, set them up and get them ready by Friday noon.  Most of the private customers houses will need to be moved also.  Reason being that most of them slipped off the blocks as the top ice was melting and the holes don’t line up anymore.

My plan is to open the access Thursday am. ,but we might delay it a day depending on how much thing freeze up.  I will update this report at 6:00 pm Wednesday so you will know by then. I will also decide if we are going to let wheelhouses out or not by Friday morning.  The Lybacks/TWP Tournament is still going to happen on Saturday and I have scanned and attached the rules to this report so everyone is aware.   Keep a Tight Line!!

Eddy