Anderson: Mille Lacs ban on night fishing catches others in the crossfire

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2014 - 8:21 PM

Muskie anglers and bowfishermen would suffer under the DNR’s plan to build walleye numbers.

hide

Lake Mille Lacs

Photo: Photo By Steve Fellegy, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Understanding the logic of Mille Lacs fisheries management grew more challenging still when the Department of Natural Resources announced recently a total night fishing ban on the big lake this summer and fall. Not only of walleye angling, but of bowfishing for carp — as if this sport could be confused with jigging or long-lining for walleyes — and also muskie fishing, with its 80-pound-test line and plugs and bucktails the length of a man’s forearm.

The attempt by the DNR to reduce the big lake’s walleye harvest by limiting access between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from May 12 to Dec. 1 is a best-shot effort to keep anglers from reaching this year’s minimalist 42,900-pound quota prematurely.

Fishing is often productive at night, and by keeping anglers off the lake at that time, thereby slowing harvest, the hope is Mille Lacs walleye anglers can enjoy their sport throughout the coming year.

Among parties particularly aggrieved by the edict are the lake’s launch owners, who often stay on Mille Lacs until well after dark, particularly in the hot-bite months of late May, June and early July. Their target is walleyes, and keeping the big boats docked, as well as the many nighttime bobber-fishing anglers who cast to rock piles after dark, might, in fact, yield the slow walleye harvest the DNR seeks.

Of course to sympathize with this approach one needs first to accept that anything to do with walleye management these days at Mille Lacs makes sense, starting with the DNR’s failure to acknowledge that in effect, if not in fact, the big lake’s walleye population has collapsed. Concerning as well is the DNR’s seeming unwillingness to acknowledge that part of the lake’s walleye management equation are the nets strung in its waters in spring by eight Chippewa bands. This failure to speak frankly about all elements at play at the lake — not just its zebra mussels and burgeoning smallmouth bass and northern pike populations, among other topics — has significantly undercut the agency’s credibility.

Consider now the plight of muskie anglers and bowfishermen, significant segments of whom visit Mille Lacs each year. The former routinely fish at night, the latter exclusively. Both spend money around the lake, at gas stations, restaurants and motels — which everyone acknowledges the area sorely needs. Moreover, the actions of neither has anything whatsoever to do with Mille Lacs walleyes or the lake’s walleye harvest.

Yet these anglers, too, are banned from fishing Mille Lacs between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., in part because the DNR says enforcing a night ban exclusively against walleye anglers, and not all anglers, would be difficult.

“I can’t tell you how much this upsets me,’’ said muskie guide Josh Stevenson, owner of Blue Ribbon Bait in Oakdale. “Mille Lacs is unlike any lake in the state. It’s big, it’s wild, it’s a challenge and I, like other muskie fishermen, fish it regularly at night, maybe four hours on, four hours off, depending on the moon phase.’’

Added Stevenson: “Mille Lacs is a challenge like no other lake anywhere. If you know the lake and your timing is right, you have a chance to put a 50-incher in the boat. This might take days or weeks. But the fish are there, and they’re often caught at night. To have that taken away from me just kills me. And for what? To reduce the walleye harvest?’’

Curt Cich, president of the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association, a state group, is similarly incredulous. Not only do bowfishermen shoot carp, an invasive species, thereby performing a public service, they do so in flat-bottom boats with generators running and high-beam lights glowing — hardly the profile of walleye anglers.

Cich has met with DNR fisheries and enforcement managers to plead his case but hasn’t heard back.

“I can’t understand any reason why we should be kept off the lake,’’ Cich said. “We have nothing to do with walleye fishing, and in no way could we ever be confused with walleye fishermen.’’

In a phone interview Thursday, DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira was sympathetic but asked anglers of all stripes to see the big picture. Rebuilding the lake’s walleyes will be challenging, he said. And keeping Mille Lacs walleye fishing open throughout the year is important for anglers and the region’s economy.

Fair enough.

But might pressure from bowfishermen and muskie anglers change the DNR’s mind and allow them back on the lake at night this summer and fall?

If the past is prologue, don’t count on it.

Better that these fishing specialists plead their case with the governor or legislators, who often are sympathetic to common-sense arguments, if only in election years, which this is.

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 123
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
FIU 56 FINAL
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
ULM 58 FINAL
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
UAB 69 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
UMKC 57 FINAL
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UCLA 69
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
Montana State 59 FINAL
Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
ULM 51 FINAL
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
IUPUI 62 FINAL
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
UMKC 59
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
BYU 68 FINAL
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 55 2nd Half 4:01
Hawaii 58
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close