ISLE, Minn. – The Isle High School auditorium was full as local citizens provided Gov. Mark Dayton and other officials with input regarding the state of the Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishery Friday.
A decline in the lake's walleye population has led to the Department of Natural Resources officially issuing a warning that the walleye season could end early on Mille Lacs this year. That is cause for concern for people throughout the Mille Lacs region, where tourism dollars derived from walleye fishing comprise a major component of the local economy.
"I am very happy the governor came up here and heard people's concerns firsthand," said Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin. "Sometimes you hear about a situation, but don't fully understand it until you meet with the people being impacted. The governor listened to our concerns and pledged to do everything he can to fix this problem."
Lueck said he also was pleased by Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin's announcement that the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will, for one year, suspend walleye netting on Mille Lacs in 2016. Lueck relayed his appreciation for that action to tribal officials present at the Friday's meeting and then directly to Benjamin.
The DNR has been subject to criticism regarding mismanagement of Mille Lacs and its walleye population. The governor received that message loud and clear during Friday's town hall-style meeting, Lueck said.
"Our citizens got the opportunity to speak directly to the governor, without any state agency or media filters," Lueck said. "We need to shift our focus from the intensive management approach of the past to simply fixing the lake. It will take everyone working together to stop the economic hemorrhaging and return the lake to producing almost a limitless number of walleye."
Lueck and others have encouraged Dayton to form a working group to assess the Mille Lacs situation and establish a course of action. Lueck welcomes continued feedback from local citizens and can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
or by calling (218) 927-2495
"It's going to take a team effort to fix this problem," Lueck said. "All ideas are welcome, let's get them out on the table and see what makes the most sense."