Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson today responded to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr’s announcement that the Mille Lacs walleye quota might be exceeded by month’s end.
He references Dick Sternberg’s analysis in 2003, and his prediction that “management of the lake, if not changed, likely would contribute to a marked downfall of Mille Lacs walleyes.”
“Marked downfall” is an understatement when it comes to this years token quota of 28,600 pounds. Unfortunately, it likely means walleye fishing on will end until at least Dec. 1.
Anderson notes that the DNR “largely dismissed” Sternberg’s analysis in part due to “bureaucratic parochialism,” and in part it was because “Sternberg undertook his data review at the request of PERM, or Proper Economic Resource Management, a group whose slogan is ‘Ban the gillnet.’ Consequently, some viewed Sternberg’s work as an anti-netting hit job. It wasn’t.”
Anderson points to Sternberg’s early warning about cannibalism of young walleyes: “As long as the Mille Lacs walleye population remains heavily skewed toward the larger size classes, the threat of heavy cannibalism of young-of-the-year walleyes will persist.”
Anderson adds that the DNR’s continuation of tight harvest sport fishing slot limits has also contributed to the lake’s present-day imbalanced walleye fishery.
One of Anderson’s key points is that co-management “has complicated [the balancing] task beyond measure irrespective of whatever effect, if any, the bands’ netting has on the lake’s walleyes.”
Anderson says a “safe allowable harvest’” of Mille Lacs walleyes needs accurate estimates of walleye population and size distribution—which may not be possible. And even if it was, the DNR and the bands have more or less dismissed the cannibalism problem.
What really stands out is Anderson’s suggestion that “the governor and key legislators should tell the DNR that its Mille Lacs fisheries management meetings with the Chippewa no longer can be held in secret.” (!)
“Rather, to ensure from this point on that the public knows firsthand the nature, context and agreed-upon definitions of data being used to make management decisions, these get-togethers should be open to the public.”
“And should have been long ago.”