The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to the Lake Mille Lacs fishing regulations by a group of local residents and resort owners.
The court ruled Tuesday against a suit filed by Save Mille Lacs Sportsfishing challenging the validity of fishing rules imposed by the Department of Natural Resources last year. Among those rules was a night fishing ban, a two-fish walleye limit and a restriction allowing anglers to only keep walleyes between 18 and 20 inches.
Erick Kaardal, a Minneapolis attorney for the Mille Lacs group, argued that the DNR hadn’t considered the 1998 constitutional amendment ensuring Minnesotans’ right to hunt and fish when it developed the fishing regulations. The court agreed the DNR didn’t state on the record that it considered the amendment before adopting the fishing regulations, but the three-judge panel said it believed the agency considered the amendment’s objective.
Besides, the court argued, the DNR’s failure to cite or consider the amendment doesn’t affect the validity of the regulations.
“We were surprised the decision doesn’t require the DNR to apply the hunting and fishing preservation amendment to Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishing without a specific statute,” Kaardal said.
Said Chris Niskanen, DNR communications director: “It’s clear the court felt we were following our statutory authority. The agency is dedicated to preserving the values set forth in the constitutional amendment, and that means using good science to set the fishing limits.”
Kaardal said his group doesn’t plan to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, and will instead work to get the Legislature to pass a law requiring the DNR to consider, in writing, the constitutional amendment when it makes rules and regulations. Such a bill already has been introduced in the House.
“The hunting and fishing amendment is worthless without a state statute directing the DNR to apply it,” Kaardal said. “We think this is a huge issue.”
Meanwhile, the DNR is expected to set the 2015 Mille Lacs fishing regulations in March.