Steve Johnson Report

Steve Johnson, Johnson’s Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR’s new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee’s meetings as they happen.

January 27 Mille Lacs Update

By now many have heard that the bite on Mille lacs is good. We have seen some nice fattys in the mid 20’s. Also there are some slot fish being caught. But the story is the sheer numbers being caught in the 11″ to 16″ range. It seems the 2013’s are everywhere and in huge numbers, (handle them carefully) I believe we have 2012’s and 14’s mixed in but the 2013 is boss. They are aggressive and I believe they may be getting short on forage. The pigs this year have bellies on them like we haven’t seen in awhile. There is an abundance of small perch and tullibees that are keeping them fed. Some Jumbo perch ( 12″+) have been caught and seem to be showing up in a few places. Lots of perch to be caught and sorted of course, you can get some nice 10″ for a great meal.

Its been one of the best winter bites I have seen and most of it came in the last 3 weeks of late ice.

I believe there is a very very large 2013 year class and and its eating machine is just kicking in. Hopefully they graduate to a new forage like the small perch, but then what? The DNR has decided to protect all of them so that eating machine will only shrink because of starvation and mortality formulas.

She is cycling as usual and putting out a huge year class and we should use the only management tool we have, harvesting some. But my guess is the DNR will gift us with a 1 fish summer and few extra pounds with a catch and release benchmark. They will own the decision to protect the eating machine and the consequences that become of it, oh wait, thats our job!

MLFAC meeting tonight, I will update.



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Steve Johnson, Johnson’s Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR’s new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee’s meetings as they happen.

January 19 Mille lacs DATA vs. TRUTH and MAGIC Update #5

Those of you who fished Mille lacs this summer know that it was a fantastic Walleye bite. Those of you who avoided Mille lacs missed out on some great fishing and catching. DNR collected data and their conclusion has been that Mille lacs has a depleted walleye population. This would be a complete opposite of the actual activity of walleyes that went on this summer.

Why did walleyes bite in Mille lacs this summer? Two reasons this may happen.

  1. There is a forage shortage (not enough to eat).
  2. There is a good population of walleyes.

Now if you ask the DNR, they will tell you that there is no forage crash (eliminates reason number 1) and the population of walleye is low (opposite of number 2). So the only reason we had such a great bite is simple. IT’S MAGIC.

With 35% of normal pressure on Mille lacs this past summer, those few anglers released 200,000 pounds of walleyes. Harvested only about 13,000 pounds because of the tight slot and limit of 1. (Add another 15,000 pounds for hooking mortality)

Skip ahead to the present winter bite and we are right back at the MAGICAL MIRACLE OF MILLE LACS. Reports started right away this winter, great walleye fishing, jumbo perch showing up, and the Northerns have been active too. Walleye of all sizes are being reported, the largest number being the 2013 year class 13″-15″ and the 2014 class 9″-12″.There are walleyes from 15″-20″ being caught and the big walleyes are plentiful coming though the ice.

Look at social media (Facebook etc.) or call any resort on the lake and you will get the same story, fishing is great on Mille lacs. But, how can this be?

Mille lacs is managed with a system relying on accurate data, the DNR considers the 20-30% margin of error in the data going in as acceptable. Huh? To determine the success or the “harvest” they again use an inaccurate (creel survey) type of data collection. This also has a high MOE. So if they are inaccurate on the input (low) and again inaccurate on the outcome (high) we have been double damned.

In my opinion, Mille Lacs has and always will be a Mother nature controlled cyclical monster that cannot be manipulated in a positive way by anyones actions.


  1. Clear water, this was blamed on zebra mussels starting in 2008, now because zebra mussels have DECLINED 25%, they say the clear water started in the early 90’s because of the federal clean water act. (Nice switch) Wind, rain, algae blooms, all effect the clarity on a daily basis.
  2. Zooplankton is too low in the lake (spiny water fleas and zebra mussels are the cause) to support the smallest of baitfish etc. Yet we have walleye year classes coming in and we have baitfish that is not lacking and everything seems to fat and healthy.
  3. Netting in the spawning areas is not now nor ever has been a problem. Their DATA shows that walleye production is VERY good. This will need to be proven to the anglers on Mille lacs and in Minnesota (who find it culturally offensive) in some other way, maybe another STUDY. They like studies.

So here we are heading into the black hole of the unknown, waiting for the DNR to meet with the Biologists, and then determine the fate of not only Mille lacs lake but the entire community surrounding it.

I will not drink the magic kool aid they keep handing out. I will continue to look at the actual activity that happens on Mille Lacs every day. I believe it is more accurate than having a few biologists spending a few hours on the lake and shoving their data into the laptop waiting for the winning lottery ticket to come out of it.

Rant continued later.



Steve Johnson Report

Steve Johnson, Johnson’s Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR’s new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee’s meetings as they happen.

January 11 Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee Update #4

Good news first: The DNR has no clue what is going on right now on the early ice bite, so since the fishing is fantastic on all species we will keep this to ourselves.

Ice conditions improve daily and by this weekend there will be resorts pulling houses in some areas. So far we have had many happy anglers enjoying the bite.

YOU CAN’T, WE CAN’T, WE WON’T, WE HAVEN’T, is how most of the answers start from the DNR when we ever bring up any subject matter outside of the TFM box.

When asked if “ANYONE” has ever offered to sit down with the band and talk COMPROMISE? The simple answer WE HAVEN’T.

Can we attend the FTC meetings? Answer WE CAN’T.

Not a KOOL AIDE drinker here, everything, all decisions about management is based on data with a margin of error of 20-30% depending on who answers the question. Most of the anglers and resorters simply shake their heads when told how few fish are in the lake (disagree) and that there is no forage crash (agree), yet we all saw the how the catching was this summer and how the winter is following the same route. HMMMMM? Fat healthy Walleyes in all sizes were the norm this summer.

3 Main areas of concern for me under TFM

  1. 30% data MOA “margin of error” on population of walleyes.
  2. TFM is assumed accurate using this input and success and progress is based on #3
  3. CREEL survey results that also have a 30% MOA.

So if you are low on the population “input” and high on the creel survey “outcome” you are double damning us. Welcome to Mille Lacs management.

We listened to the legalese of the court agreements. We listened as they told us they have never made an effort to change the system, only to blindly follow the TFM rules and never question.

NETTING: “Spring gillnets are not an issue as we have good production every year” This argument will never go away until proven one way or the other. I suggested a Grid/Area study to actually look at the eggs themselves inside a netting area and inside an “off limits” netting area. It has been done before in other lakes successfully so why not here.

As I write this, the DNR is ready for the FTC meeting, they know exactly what they will be putting on the table and yet they will not tip their hand to us. (More sleepless nights).

We were asked about next summer regulation goals “given no clue as to any numbers” most of us said to avoid closure of the lake, this opens the door to blame the group if they decide to go to C&R at some point. One person on the MLFAC was ok with closing the lake. It was the same one that said we should not have opened the winter season. I will let you find out who this is.

I asked why the DNR does not involve the public on data collection through a website or something? Well Ill be darned, its already in use by Bass groups and the U of M has its own version, yet our DNR didn’t even know it. They stated that they gave logbooks out 1year to launches and it didn’t work so they quit. BRILLIANT!

WE, not the DNR, at some point will attempt to open a line of communication with the BAND and at the very least talk. The higher powers have their model gods to follow blindly as they always have.

More later. Please share and “like” this post to get the word out