Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance responds to new regulations in Minnesota

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance offers its formal response to the Department of Natural Resources’ new fishing regulations for the 2016 season on Mille Lacs. “These new regulations only reinforce the reason we founded this non-profit organization,” said Jim DaRosa, the first President of the new 501(c)3 Alliance. “More than ever, we need to work together for the best possible outcome of this trophy fishery.” DaRosa went on to say the organization understood some changes in this year’s regulations, but remained deeply disappointed the DNR failed to adopt other recommendations.

The Alliance brought in ten pages of petition signatures, and in agreement with the Mille Lacs Advisory Committee to the DNR and the Minnesota Bass Nation, asked for a catch and release season on smallmouth bass in the spring and fall—as it is in the rest of Minnesota. “The two week spring season from May 14 to May 27 was adopted”. “But we didn’t get the fall catch and release season, and I can’t see any scientific reason or any data to support that decision,” MLSA Board member Scott Bonnema asked. “I wish someone could explain why that’s a good idea.” The smallmouth bass move out into the deeper water in the fall and are often easier to target; it’s not a time for harvest of mature, trophy fish. The harvest season is open from May 28, 2016 through February 26, 2017—something the MLSA feels is too long of a harvest window.

While somewhat of a compromise from last year’s regulations, this year’s creel limit still fell short of the Mille Lacs Advisory Committee and the MLSA’s recommendation.“We strongly recommended a three bag limit of 15” or under, with one allowable over 21”; and they never said our recommendation was not in line with their view in our stakeholder meetings,” DaRosa continued. The DNR announced a four fish limit of 17” and under with one over 21”.

Those two inches might not seem like a big difference, but smallmouth bass grow slowly on Mille Lacs. Research shows it takes three- to five-years for these bass to grow from 15” to 18”. Keeping the harvest 15” or less protects the world-class, trophy resource for years to come. “What kind of damage will be done that could be irreversible—or would take years to change course?” MLSA Vice President George Liddle, Jr. asked.

“So many of us came together with good input from the local stakeholders,” DaRosa said.. “We offered good suggestions and provided it in a timely fashion prior to all the decisions. Who decided this direction and with what data?” DaRosa asked.

The new regulations are not entirely what we had hoped for. Yes better than last year, but we feel strongly that this world class trophy fishery needs to be protected and managed with sound scientific principals and data.

A trophy world class fishery can make cash registers ring thru added tourism dollars. For example the BASS Angler of the Year tournament scheduled for this September is estimated to bring 3.4 million dollars ib new money to the Mille Lacs. Area.

Our work of the MLSA has only begun. Our planned educational initiatives must continue to change the fishing culture of the lake. A good day on the water is not necessarily measured by how many fillets one puts in the freezer, but rather enjoying the fishing experience and respecting what nature has provided.

This just reaffirms how important the MLSA is for preserving and maintaining the world-class trophy smallmouth bass resource in Mille Lacs. Some progress is a reason to celebrate, but there is still a lot of work ahead.



Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is not a sponsor of Illinois Outdoors.

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