Isle, Minn. — The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA) has accomplished a great deal in its first year of existence. MLSA has been busy educating anglers about techniques and benefits of catch and release, informing area businesses of potential business from this world-class bass fishery, dispelling myths that bass eat walleyes (they don’t), and challenging resource management to use scientific-based information to advise regulatory changes. However, all the good work the organization has done to date could be lost if the 2017 regulations aren’t modified to preserve this fishery.
“We need changes and we need them now. It’s called the Falcon Lake effect,” Jim DaRosa, President of MLSA said. The decimation to Falcon Lake’s fishery occurred swiftly after a high-level tournament drew national attention. The fishery—to this day—lives in a shadow of its former glory. Just a few months ago, B.A.S.S. illuminated the quality of the world-class smallmouth fishery on Mille Lacs during their Angler of the Year Championship. DaRosa claims America’s bass anglers will make a mad dash to fish it next year. “Without tighter regulations to protect the smallie population, they’ll get fished out, especially the biggest fish, and we won’t be able to recover.” Local area businesses want the added tourism for resorts and restaurants, but they want to be smart and keep the lake healthy for generations to enjoy.
To affect tighter regulations in 2017, MLSA plans to run advertising advocating a stakeholder recommendation for DNR regulations: a summer limit of two fish 15″ or smaller (with no overs) and catch and release only seasons in spring and fall. It’s simple. It still provides a few eaters and this recommendation has the support of MLSA’s over 200 members, plus hundreds more members between the Minnesota Bass Federation, and, pending the anticipated favorable vote in December, the MN B.A.S.S. Nation. MLSA will continue to secure signatures for the stakeholders’ petition.
“We support the MLSA on this recommendation,” Steve Galletta, conservation director with the Minnesota Bass Federation. “All those elite anglers this fall said we have something special here and we have to protect it.” Minnesota Bass Federation agrees with the stricter harvest recommendation (two 15″ or under – no overs) and getting Mille Lacs in-sync with the rest of the state for catch-and-release only in spring and fall. “Plus, the exception for special permits for tournaments is a good idea,” Galletta continued.
“If a DNR decision was to offer a more generous harvest than our recommendation, it should only come from new scientific data that dictates the decision,” DaRosa continued. “Failing to add scientific information to the discussion, the voice and opinion of the local stakeholders should trump bureaucratic opinion. We want to welcome tourists to our lake but we need these regulations for it to be a positive experience for everyone.”
The anglers’ and businesses’ voices clamor to be heard. Working together, they hope to have a strong say in the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee (MLFAC) during the next meeting December 15. However, March is typical for the DNR to announce their final decision. “Show me a constituent group unhappy with our suggested harvest limit, if there is one,” DaRosa continued. “I don’t think there is one. And if there isn’t a scientific reason to do something else, we hope they will listen to a reasonable, viable plan.”
The MLSA website is www.milleleacssmallmouthalliance.com for more information.