After six years of failed treaty management on Mille Lacs—
IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE
by Dick Sternberg
on behalf of PERM
Following the “bite of a lifetime” in 2002, Mille Lacs anglers experienced the direct opposite in 2003—the worst fishing ever. After it became apparent in early season that the walleye kill would fall hundreds of thousands of pounds below the safe harvest level, PERM representatives met with DNR officials in June and again in July in an attempt to convince them to make a regulation change that would allow more summertime harvest.
But our suggestions were rejected because the DNR wants “stability” so that they can evaluate the present regulations. In addition, they stated that the Mille Lacs input group was also in favor of stability, although the input group members we contacted did not reflect that sentiment.
We responded to the stability argument by pointing out that even though the detail of the regulations has changed many times in recent years, the intent has remained the same: Allow harvest of small fish while protecting practically all of the large ones. The result of this philosophy was not difficult to predict—a scarcity of small fish and a glut of big ones. Because the results of the present regulation philosophy are apparent, there is no need for continued stability for the purpose of assessment.
After failing to convince DNR biologists that a change was needed to bring the population back into balance, PERM representatives contacted the Governor’s office and requested a meeting to discuss the Mille Lacs regulation problem and the effects that overly tight regulations were having, not only on the walleye population but also on angler and business interests. We are still waiting for the Governor’s scheduler to set a
In the meantime, we are working with Commissioner Merriam and John Guenther, the newly appointed Director of the Division of Game and Fish, to work out the problem. We believe there is still a good chance of a favorable regulation change in time for the 2004 season.
The data on the following pages makes a strong case for a regulation change. The information was collected from DNR gill netting, trawling and creel surveys.