When the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that 2017 would be a catch-and-release season for the state’s most popular fish — the walleye — on one of its biggest, most popular lakes — Mille Lacs — anglers and resort owners revolted.
The cries rang out. “How can you be so sure the walleye population is stressed?” “Don’t you realize how this will affect tourism and sport fishing?” “How did your brains get so full of shit?”
These and other responses seem to be winning the day in online conversations I’ve seen about the catch-and-release walleye season on Mille Lacs.
“Our goal is to have the longest fishing season possible while ensuring the conservation of the lake’s future walleye spawning stock,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr in a statement. “We understand catch and release is a difficult option for anglers who enjoy a fish meal, but we are using everything in our management toolbox to ensure a heathy and plentiful walleye population for future fishing seasons.”
This year’s walleye regulations on Mille Lacs also includes a temporary restriction on live bait.
In its own way, the arguments surrounding the walleye season seem to mirror our fraught political environment. Experts, upon doing research, develop a plan. Those affected by the plan reject the concept of experts or research. There’s not much that can be said to assuage that response.
But Gov. Mark Dayton will try.
Every year, Minnesota’s top elected official holds the “Governor’s Fishing Opener” on a North Star State lake. It’s a publicity stunt, a political rally and a orgy of local boosterism all wrapped into one event. Governors have been doing this a long time.
This year the Governor’s Opener will be held on Mille Lacs, the very lake ensnared in this walleye controversy. So Dayton is using the opportunity to point out that there are other fish in the metaphorical sea (and literal lake).
ST. PAUL, MN – On Saturday, May 27, 2017, Governor Mark Dayton will travel to Mille Lacs for the state bass fishing opener, to celebrate the start of the summer season. Governor Dayton will be joined by outdoor celebrity Ron Schara and Bassmaster Champion Seth Feider, to highlight the lake’s status as one of the 10 Best Bass Lakes in the United States for smallmouth bass, according to Bassmaster Magazine. And USA TODAY recently profiled Mille Lacs as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country.
“Bassmaster Magazine has rated Lake Mille Lacs one of best lakes for bass fishing in America,” said Governor Dayton. “I invite all bass fishing enthusiasts from Minnesota and across the country to join us for Minnesota’s Bass Opener and the start of another terrific bass fishing season on Lake Mille Lacs.”
Governor Dayton’s visit also will highlight the family resorts and other local businesses that make Mille Lacs Lake a great community for the whole family to visit. On Friday night, the Governor will stay at McQuoid’s Inn in Isle, Minnesota. Located near the southeast corner of Mille Lacs, McQuoid’s offers a variety of accommodations and year-round activities, including guided fishing, snowmobile rental, and an events center.
Over the last three years, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature have invested $4 million in economic development and tourism promotion for the Mille Lacs area.
“While anglers wait for a walleye comeback, there’s no reason to avoid Mille Lacs this summer if you like to catch fish,” said Ron Schara, host of Minnesota Bound and Minnesota fishing legend. “Mille Lacs is today ranked as one of the top ten bass lakes in the nation. In addition, Mille Lacs harbors a good population of northern pike, including many trophy size. What’s not to like about those fishing odds?”
If it all goes to plan, Dayton will return from the lake with a simple message for the Great State of Minnesota: