Gov. Dayton took some well-deserved heat Friday when he held a meeting in the Isle High School auditorium. He got criticized because he didn’t know what he was talking about and because the MNDNR has lost its credibility. A resort owner said that “the DNR’s numbers are skewed from the beginning. From the minute they say that netting over spawn beds is not affecting the walleye population, that’s nuts.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out that netting spawning beds will dramatically (and negatively) affect the walleye population of any lake. What does the DNR think happens when you remove walleyes that are trying to breed from the lake? Does the DNR think that they’re magically replaced by other breeding walleyes?

Another thing that Gov. Dayton got criticized for was his mentioning restocking the lake. That’s beyond foolish. As recently as the early 1990s, Mille Lacs Lake produced more walleye fry than all of the state’s fisheries combined. It isn’t possible for the DNR to restock Mille Lacs without hurting most of their other restocking projects across the state. Mathematically, it’s simply impossible.

Thankfully, legislators are pushing back against a special session:

“I think the suggestion of a special session is a little bit premature,” said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, chair of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee. The state should look at alternatives, he said, such as promoting other fishing options on the lake and catch-and-release requirements for walleye.

Hackbarth said he isn’t convinced the DNR should be shutting down walleye fishing on Mille Lacs at all.

“Maybe we can get past this without closing the season, and that would take care of a lot of the economic problems that they’re having in the area,” he said. “How critical is it that we close it right now? Maybe we don’t need to do that.”

Rep. Hackbarth is onto something. In fact, he might’ve identified a long-term solution to the problem. The guides in the area have talked about the increase in the northern and musky populations. If Explore Minnesota started highlighting the quality musky fishing on the lake, that might reduce musky populations enough to help the walleyes rebound. I wouldn’t hesitate in highlighting the smallmouth fishing to be had on the north end of the lake.

One Response to “Gov. Dayton, Mille Lacs and the DNR”

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    Isn’t part of the problem that an Indian tribe has won federal court orders giving them greater control on how they can fish on the lake.

    Walter Hanson
    Minnepolis, MN

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