"The original Mille Lacs on-line fishing report"
Courtesy of Lundeen's Tackle Castle and Guide Service www.lundeens.com Last updated 3-9-14
On 3-6-14 the Mille Lacs Input Group, some local residents and the MN. DNR Aitkin Fisheries folks sat down to discuss the state of Mille Lacs lake, the population of the various gamefish species and the "options" for regulating the 2014 open-water season. After a technical presentation describing the DNR's 2013 survey results, the group was asked to rate their tolerance to several scenarios including slot restrictions, changes in fishing "hours" like a season-long night ban, live bait restrictions (including no live bait, no leeches and crawlers, no leeches), circle hooks and of course the ever-looming DNR threat of "CATCH-AND-RELEASE-ONLY". 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. The tough bite since around mid-July was explained away by the abundance of forage. While the abundance of smallmouth and northern pike and the likelihood that anglers will enjoy relaxed regulations on those species was recognized, some in the room felt like it was "offered" as a concession for the walleye disaster. NEWSFLASH - YOU EITHER HAVE THE ABUNDANCE OF THESE SPECIES TO RELAX THE REGULATIONS OR YOU DO NOT - THIS IS NOT A CONCESSION BY THE DNR TO OFFSET THE LITANY OF WALLEYE REGULATIONS THAT MILLE LACS ANGLERS ENDURE. The "Blue Ribbon Panel" was justified by State Fisheries Chief Don Pereira, stating that the team of (Aitkin Fisheries) biologists was "the best" in the State and welcomed the "peer review" by the Blue Ribbon Panel. There was the usual passionate "economic impact appeal" which is real to most folks in the room. 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. Was the evening a total loss? Not at all - we got to play with these cool little "clickers" that they gave the Input Group members for voting, so that we could vote in secret and not be influenced or bullied by our other voting members. I think we also got to see that all the data in the world doesn't allow our Fisheries experts to make the statement that "This is what's causing the Mille Lacs walleye population to suffer and THIS is what we're going to do to fix it". Variables (excuses) like weather, water clarity, invasive species and other factors they can't neatly explain away leave us with that annoying "x-factor" - kind of like the weatherman... how is it that someone can't put a point on something and yet they get to keep doing it over and over without the fear of ever being replaced?
The takeaway sounded like the 18-20 inch harvest slot/2 walleye limit could stay in place, as long as anglers don't approach the 42,900 pound quota. Some of the other restricting options may also still be on the table at the beginning or even during the season. Smallmouth could go back to Statewide regs, Northern could go back to Statewide regs AND a possibility of darkhouse spearing beginning as early as December of 2014. In each case ALL regulations are "experimental" and will be reviewed at the end of the season.
Here a link to the DNR's take. The video is like the presentation we saw at the meeting.
...The houses have been removed from Mille Lacs and some resorts have already abandoned their roads. Be sure to call your resort directly to see if they will maintain a road from this point on. Travel without a road is best with a snowmobile.
The perch and tullibee bite was tough this week - maybe the warmer weather on the horizon will spark something.
The 2014 angling licenses are on sale now. They don't become valid until March 1st. All the prices we've seen so far have remained the same/similar.
... Doc Bruce Samson, one of my long-time friends and mentors is holding a walleye school on Mille Lacs this coming May 15-18. You'll not only receive tips on techniques and presentation, you'll also get the inside scoop on the latest in fishing electronics! This is classroom AND on-the-water time with one of the top Mille Lacs anglers of all time. Here's a link to the details.
In their October 9th fall assessment (link to the report), the Minnesota DNR describes the overall forage on Mille Lacs as "abundant" . This is a shift from earlier when the predator/prey relationship was "predator-rich". While the apparent success of this year's hatch is good news to everyone who is invested in the future of the Mille Lacs fishery, those of us who have spent any amount of time on the water since early August can attest to one thing - the bite got a little tougher. Some days a LOT tougher. This isn't to say that that's always a bad thing - if the fish aren't well-fed, the fishery won't thrive. If you've seen these fish in the past few weeks, I'm sure you were impressed with the overall condition of the walleye - in a word, FAT! Our advice is to keep your expectations realistic and enjoy what may be the last few weekends of open water angling before the white stuff comes.