Editorial: Focus Mille Lacs solutions on harvest, stocking

Published 9:26 am Friday, August 14, 2015

A legislative working group is scheduled to meet again Thursday to discuss possible economic aid for businesses affected by closing Mille Lacs Lake to walleye fishing until at least Dec. 1.

That’s an admirable suggestion, and one certainly needing more details for legislators (and taxpayers) to judge as a reasonable short-term solution.

To be honest, though, legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton need to focus on long-term solutions, especially the factors over which humans have the most control. Specifically, that means the harvest and potential stocking of walleye in Mille Lacs.

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Those are the two most controllable factors in the complex equation that make up the Mille Lacs ecosystem.



Legislators should study two aspects of harvesting. First, determine what changes need to be made to sport angling for the walleye population to become and remain more equally balanced among fish of all sizes. Second, legislators should propose the state pay eligible Indian bands to stop using gill nets on Mille Lacs.

Scientists will tell you gill nets have no significant impact on walleye numbers. Regardless, their use is toxic to resolving not just this issue, but reducing racial tensions on the lake and across the area.

If the bands are open to this idea, they still could spear walleye plus receive compensation and — as an added bonus — the move would finally prove whether the science is correct about netting.

Finally, before you say “whoa, reel that idea back in,” please note the state has often used similar proposals to settle treaty rights cases. In fact, back in the late 1980s a similar approach almost settled the battle between the state and the bands over Mille Lacs.

Twenty-five years later, with the state sitting on almost a $1 billion surplus and Mille Lacs in a management mess, why not offer to pay the bands to stop using gill nets?



Dayton is advocating stocking of walleye in Mille Lacs, something that Department of Natural Resources scientists say would not make a difference.

Sorry, but the DNR’s record in managing Mille Lacs the past quarter century plus changes during that time over which humans had no control do provide a basis to seriously pursue stocking walleye in the lake.

Again, thanks to a variety of issues Mille Lacs has become a complex fishery. The best state leaders can do now is to craft policies that focus on controlling human-based factors — namely the harvest and stocking of walleye.


— St. Cloud Times

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