Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week the DNR issued notice that they will likely close Lake Mille Lacs to walleye fishing until at least Dec. 1 because non-tribal anglers are within 3000 pounds of the quota.
If you read the Pioneer Press or Star Tribune on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you noticed that I have been very involved in challenging the management of the lake for at least a dozen years and offered suggestions for a solution to the Commissioner at a Thursday meeting in Isle.
Here are some of my suggestions for a solution:
All negotiations should be held in public just like we hold hearings in the legislature - no meetings behind closed doors (HF 1759). Transparency is a must, which was stated in a hearing that was heard in committee on my bill, HF 382, last spring.
Lake Mille Lacs needs to be managed based on general, basic biology like fishery management practiced throughout Minnesota, not fishery management based on accommodating tribal harvest rights that exceed the lake's ability to sustain modern day historical walleye population numbers.
All walleye harvesting during the spawning season must come to an end. Nowhere in the history of the Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishery management, as well as any and ALL Minnesota walleye fisheries, has there been an allowed walleye harvest in any form or fashion during the spawning period. Without any doubt or question, tribal harvest, in any form, including gill-nets, spears or hook and line should never be allowed to take place while the walleyes are most vulnerable, while in the process of spawning which ensures the future of the walleye population.
The shared fishery harvest between Minnesota sport anglers and American Ojibwe Indian Bands at Lake Mille Lacs should be divided in an equitable ratio between sport anglers and tribal fishermen. Over a million Minnesota sport anglers have access to Lake Mille Lacs and only several thousand Indian Band members make up the two groups. Why does the non-tribal quota have to include hooking mortality for Minnesota sport anglers only?
The harvest quotas of Lake Mille Lacs walleyes for each group should reflect an equitable division of the fish on a per angler basis.
Years ago, the DNR publicly said tribal harvests need to be changed to allow Lake Mille Lacs walleye numbers to stabilize and grow back to historical levels. The DNR needs to seriously discuss that change with the Bands. Why has this not happened?
Whether or not the season for walleye ends after the next creel survey, please work with me to ensure that common sense biological solutions are considered.