Crises and Mission Creep

After years of co-management, it’s not news that the situation at Mille Lacs is more and more often described as a “crisis.” That’s especially true for the angling and hospitality industry that grew up around a once-premiere walleye-angling destination.

So it’s a little off-putting to hear about the DNR’s proposed $3.5 million facility on Mille Lacs. It’s said to come with educational programming, outreach staff, and community meeting rooms. And a fishing museum? That seems too much like leveraging a crisis for bureaucratic gain.

Given Mille Lacs’ size and complexities, the DNR’s recent decision to open up a storefront office in Garrison, putting them right at Mille Lacs, is a good idea. Why not hold off on the Taj Mahal until they can bring walleye quotas back to what it was in the early days of co-management?

See Tim Spielman’s article on the “new” Mille Lacs walleye quotas for 2016 below.

Doug Meyenburg

Mille Lacs 2016 Walleye Quota Same as 2015

Tim Spielman, Associate Editor at Outdoor News, Friday reported on a pre-DNR announcement of the 2016 walleye quota by Dylan Jennings, GLIFWC public information director. As expected by many, total allocation would again be 40,000 pounds, with the same 28,600 pounds for state anglers and 11,400 pounds for the tribes.

The bands haven’t announced their plans for 2016, although Mille Lacs band announced last July they planned not to net walleyes on the lake this year.

The DNR is looking at options for this year’s fishing regulations. They likely know that the number one concern of Mille Lacs resorters and businesses is the DNR managing the lake so that angling doesn’t get shut down mid-season.

Resorters Spielman spoke with prior to the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Group’s Thursday, January 28 meeting said they wanted the Committee to look at all options. They especially wanted to know more about how options would be shaped by the DNR’s use of a “hooking mortality” measure. Interest grew after the DNR assessed 12,500 pounds of hooking mortality in just two weeks last July. That led to a first-ever mid-season shutdown of walleye angling.

Hooking mortality and data derived from creel surveys were discussed by the Committee on Thursday. DNR representatives faced a great deal of skepticism over their assessment of fishing pressure as well as their hooking mortality and creel estimates for those weeks in July.

Legislator’s Take

Spielman also shared Rep. Tom Hackbarth’s take on Mille Lacs and DNR plans. He is one non-committee member who is allowed to sit in on the “closed” state-tribal technical meetings. Hackbarth mentioned discussions about walleye stocking, the processes involved, and a decision to maintain the unique genetic strain of Mille Lacs walleye. He described the last meeting as having “no surprises.”

However, Spielman noted that Hackbarth did take exception to a proposed $3.5 million DNR facility at Mille Lacs. The facility would be a resource for public information and research. Attendees at Thursday’s Advisory Committee also learned that the Fishing Museum now in Little Falls has agreed to move operations to DNR’s proposed facility. Hackbarth did not think bonding for the facility would be funded by the legislature. Or that it should be funded.

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