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News from Representative Erickson 03-28-2014

Friday, March 28, 2014
Dear Friends,
I wanted to pass along an update from the DNR on the 2014 fishing regulations for Lake Mille Lacs. Some of the highlights include:
  • Walleye--2 fish limit, 18-20 inch harvest slot with 1 over 28 inches. Night fishing ban extended until December 1.
  • Northern pike--10 fish limit, 1 over 30 inches, winter spearing allowed, season will go through the last Sunday in March.
  • Smallmouth bass--6 fish limit, 1 over 18 inches, season will commence and end with the walleye season.
The full list of changes from the DNR as well as more information can be found here.
I have already heard feedback from anglers, guides, and business owners in our district that the extension of the night fishing ban will be tough for fishing tourism. Similar comments were echoed in the Pioneer Press article about the fishing changes, which you can read by clicking here. An excerpt:
The [night] ban -- the most stringent ever employed on the lake -- is among several changes announced by the Department of Natural Resources as it grapples with a declining walleye population in one of state's most popular and legendary lakes.

But some resort owners and guides were outraged:

-- "It's like a dagger to the economy up here," said Bill Eno, owner of Twin Pines Resort in Garrison.

-- "They're going to have to figure something else out because this is blowing up right now," muskie guide Jason Hamernick said. "My phone won't stop with calls and texts."

I will continue my work with the DNR and Mille Lacs stakeholders to help find common ground so that we can maintain fish populations in our lake while protecting tourism and the local economy. Our local economy relies so heavily on Lake Mille Lacs and the thousands of tourists who come to fish on the lake -- striking the right balance is imperative for our area and for the future fish populations of the lake.

Transparency for Lake Mille Lacs
As I mentioned in a previous update, I've been working on legislation this session to increase transparency with regard to the decisions made that impact Lake Mille Lacs.

While my bill has yet to move forward after being taken off the committee schedule by members of the DFL majority, I have heard from Fisheries Chief Don Pereira already that he is committed to a more open process with input from the public, promising more meetings at more locations, a more diverse group of stakeholders, and a more open environment at meetings to allow for more people to speak up and offer their opinions.

With so much of our local economy tied to Lake Mille Lacs policies, it's important that stakeholders and legislators work to get more public input and involvement in the decision-making process. My bill HF42 would open up key meetings by subjecting them to the state's open meetings law--the same standard used for city council meetings, legislative committee hearings, and other types of government meetings across Minnesota. I hope that the majority will move forward with my bill rather than a more watered down version in effort to continue Minnesota's proud tradition of open and transparent government.

Have a great weekend,

Rep. Sondra Erickson

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