MILLE LACS LAKE – The Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee provided updates on the current fishing season, the development of a long-term lake management plan, and committee member recruitment during its summer meeting conducted via videoconference Thursday.
“DNR officials indicated the month-long closure in July on targeting walleyes was successful in reducing the hooking mortality, which should allow the remainder of the 2020 summer/fall walleye season to remain unchanged with catch and release.” Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said. “While the July closure was very tough on local businesses, the rest of the summer/fall walleye season should occur with no further disruptions.”
Lueck said DNR officials predict the walleye harvest by state-licensed anglers should stay within the 2020 walleye consensus harvest limit of 37,718 pounds. That would set the stage for developing the 2020-21 winter walleye and spring fishing regulations once fall sample netting and electro-fishing data has been collected and analyzed.
The MLFAC spent about half of the two-hour meeting discussing the scope and goals of a comprehensive lake management plan, Lueck said. The plan is in the conceptual stage of development. For 20-plus years, the lake has been under a consensus management approach between the Minnesota DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Game Wildlife Commission, consisting of eight tribal governments – six in Wisconsin and two Minnesota.
“What I heard from the majority of MLFAC members is that, after decades of effort under the current model, it’s time for a new approach.” Lueck said. “In order to do that, all parties, including tribal and non-tribal communities, will need to work together for the benefit of the lake and the local communities to develop an effective long-range management plan. While the DNR’s management charter is primarily from a fisheries biological view point, both tribal and non-tribal communities have a huge stake in the economic impart to their communities. That element has to be factored into any long range management plan.”
The MLFAC was formed five years ago and originally consisted of 17 members. Over time, the group has been reduced by attrition and now has 12 participating members. There was discussion as to when and how the application process should be reopened. That discussion included what skill sets and backgrounds are needed to fill the vacant slots. DNR officials indicated they would look at that and work with MLFAC on determining what if any changes need to be made and how best to bring new members on board.