Gov. Mark Dayton canceled a meeting with business owners around Lake Mille Lacs Saturday after about 75 protesters in boats encircled him on the lake to protest a temporary ban on walleye fishing.
Dayton was with a small group of people fishing for bass to promote the fishing that is still allowed at the lake after restrictions — including a ban on fishing walleye until July 28 — went into place Thursday. Dayton’s boat spent about 90 minutes on the water before heading back to land.
Passengers on roughly 25 boats displayed balloons and signs reading “REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION = TYRANNY” and “GOV. DAYTON STOP LAKE MILLE LACS POLITICS!”
Dayton said he respects the protesters’ frustration, but he defended the ban as a way of preserving the struggling walleye population. He said he canceled Saturday’s meeting — which was going to include several Lake Mille Lacs-area business owners — because he didn’t want to “reinforce that kind of destructive behavior.” He said he would meet with them later.
Protesters included residents, business owners and resort customers, including one group of men who had planned a weekend of walleye fishing before they learned about the ban, said Linda Eno, owner of the Twin Pines Resort and one of the protest organizers.
Eno said the regulations will cost her resort about $40,000. She said the regulations were put in place for political reasons. For more than 20 years the state has managed the lake with Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe bands that net walleye but have been consistently under their quota.
“They want us to keep our mouths shut as an economy and as a tourism association,” she said. “Just keep your mouths shut, and be positive, and regroup, and start promoting bass.”
She stressed that her three launches still go out on the lake a few times a day for northern pike and bass fishing.
Dayton said the notion that the Department of Natural Resources has malicious intent toward anglers is “completely untrue.” He hopes the limits will improve fishing next year, and a ban won’t be necessary, he said.
Eno disputed Dayton’s complaint that the protest ruined his opportunity to fish. “No one was close enough that they couldn’t fish,” she said. “He didn’t even give us a chance.”