|"The Bait Shop"|
The "new" (2015) fish and game licenses are now on sale. They are due March 1st.
I attended the Fisheries Input Group meeting with the Aitkin Fisheries people and other members of the Minnesota DNR on Thursday, 2-26. I wanted to have the opportunity to report on any kind of a "plan" that may come up at the meeting regarding the 2015 open water season. I've been to nearly all of these gatherings before and have written in the Weekend Outlook about most of them. It's an exercise in frustration, but here goes. The meeting was "moderated" by a member of our illustrious DNR's Enforcement Division (in full uniform - polished, armed and tazer-ready). Interesting choice of moderators. I get the whole uniform thing - I grew up in a law enforcement family and understand that there is no "uniform-lite option". Was this the best choice of moderators? Was it an attempt to quell the group? Intimidation, maybe? There were plenty of other uniformed officers there too. Was he particularly skilled in moderating meetings? Most effective moderators are "topic-neutral" and have strong time-management skills. Did he draw the short straw? Whatever drove their choice, it seemed odd. The meeting was designed to be another "presentation-style" gathering with little opportunity for group input (even though we're called the "Input Group"). As things started to erode, there was little choice but to hear from the group. Once again, just like in nearly all of these gatherings we were charged with selecting/choosing/voting on a series of bad choices - bad for anglers, bad for business, bad for the overall Mille Lacs community. Much of the same stuff was on the table from last year - night ban, leech ban, live bait ban, catch-and-release only, SEASON CLOSURE... all the stuff that makes you proud to part of the Mille Lacs community. Just like last year, you can imagine the response to ANY changes - people resist change. ALWAYS. To have people rate their tolerance to some of these options was akin to asking the group, " We're gonna bury you - now would you like to be shot, stabbed or hung?" The reception was luke-warm at best. AGAIN. The "Blue Ribbon Panel" was praised by State Fisheries Chief Don Pereira, stating that the Blue Ribbon Panel agreed largely with the Aitkin Fisheries biologists and their data. Kinda figured that one was coming. There was the annual passionate "economic impact appeal" which is real to most folks in the room. Like I wrote last year, "The problem lies with lobbying a group of scientists regarding economic issues - the answer doesn't fit neatly into their data. It's like bringing your favorite baitcaster to a quilting seminar - the two just don't go together. Thus it is with these two groups - the DNR panel doesn't have an equation for how the struggling Mille Lacs economy factors into the off-shore netting assessments. Nor do they seem to give a #$%^ at times. It's not in their "wheelhouse" to bring economic fallout into their laboratory." The whole thing smells like last year all over again - but wait! Unlike 2014 where the harvest was reduced to 60,000 pounds (shared), the new number smells like 40,000 pounds (shared). Something like 28,600 for the State and the remainder to Tribal participants. Even though State anglers only harvested +/- 26,000 pounds of the available 42, 900 pounds, "we" will receive no credit for the unused poundage toward next season's quota. Again. This means that if the DNR were to leave the Mille Lacs regs the same as last year (2 walleye between 18-20), anglers would have a 70+ percent probability of exceeding the 28,600 pound quota. They (DNR) will never go for those odds. In reality I would expect to see something even more restrictive than last year's walleye regulation. Again.
The "trailer sticker" that we were all supposed to have this spring has been put "on hold".
If you didn't read this last fall, it deserves your attention this week. Here a link to the DNR'S Hooked on Mille Lacs fall newsletter. You can check out some of the results of the 2014 fall netting survey. Of particular interest is the summary: "There is nothing in this data that suggests tribal fishing is affecting reproduction". If you're left with a shred of doubt after this compelling analysis, PLEASE contact the Aitkin Fisheries Office of the Minnesota DNR.