Gov. Mark Dayton acknowledged at a news conference today the tough times for the Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishing industry with the end of the season today due to severe population decline.
"I also believe this is the beginning of a brighter future for walleye fishing on Mille Lacs, which has been the tradition of the lake and the reputation of the lake and which will return again," Dayton said.
Dayton said he will talk to legislative leaders today. A working group of administration officials, legislators and those affected by the halt of walleye fishing will begin meeting to discuss a plan, and Dayton said he wants legislators to return to a special session the week after next to approve an aid package.
The package could include zero interest loans or programs to refinance existing loans, property tax abatement and more marketing for Lake Mille Lacs. Dayton said grants of cash to the 100 or so tourism related businesses are unlikely.
Dayton said again he has confidence in his commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, Tom Landwehr, but that he expects changes at the local DNR office. "A lot of people in DNR need a course in customer, constituent relations," Dayton said.
Landwehr said they are already forming a plan to improve relations with people in the region and specifically the sport fishing community, which is a $2.4 billion industry statewide, he said.
Landwehr also said the next few years should help restore the walleye population because 2013 was an excellent spawning year on the lake.