Tom Heinrich was named the full-time fisheries management supervisor for Mille Lacs on Tuesday by the Department of Natural Resources.
The large lake specialist who helped cover Lake of the Woods in his previous DNR assignment is the first person to hold that newly created position.
Lake Superior is the only other Minnesota lake to demand its own, full-time fisheries management supervisor.
“Yes, he is the first,” said Brad Parsons, DNR’s Central Region Fisheries Manager. “Lake Superior is its own area as well.”
The appointment comes only weeks before Minnesota is to receive an external review of its management of Mille Lacs, a once-bountiful walleye resource now stricken by zebra mussels, spiny waterfleas, Eurasian milfoil, and a declining population of tullibees and other forage species. The outside report, sparked by the Mille Lacs walleye crisis, is expected to arrive next month from a team led by Chris Vandergoot, a federal scientist from Ohio.
Parsons described Heinrich as someone with “strong scientific skills and an open ability to communicate with and relate to various groups in the public.” He starts Wednesday as “Mille Lacs Lake fisheries supervisor” in Garrison. His job is to answer complex questions about the lake.
Besides overseeing established field operations on Mille Lacs, Heinrich will work with DNR researchers and other partners to study walleye productivity, and the potential impacts of big fish on young walleye survival and review goals for walleye spawning, the DNR said.
Heinrich began his natural resources career in New York as a fisheries technician on eastern Lake Erie and worked in that role from 1984 until 1990. That’s when he accepted a position in Baudette for the Minnesota DNR.
At Lake of the Woods, Heinrich was involved with other scientists in the study and revival of sturgeon in the Rainy River.
At Mille Lacs, Heinrich will work within a court-ordered system of resource comanagement with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and seven neighboring tribes. Tribal members have hunting and fishing rights in treaty-ceded territory that includes Mille Lacs.