Small gain in smallmouth bass regulations on Mille Lacs identifies additional work ahead for Alliance
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published February 6, 2017
Small Gain in Smallmouth Bass Regulations on Mille Lacs Identifies Additional Work Ahead for Alliance
(Feb. 6, 2017) Isle, Minn. - The Minnesota DNR issued 2017 smallmouth bass season regulations recently and the announcement continues to show the impetus behind the forming of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA) and continued need for future work. One small gain in the harvest limit is not much to get excited about, though it is a step in the right direction. Other important issues voiced by the MLSA-presented to the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Council (area stakeholders group)-did not gain traction. However, the MLSA celebrates another victory of sorts, and that is the return of the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Championship to Mille Lacs in September of 2017. This news highlights the world-class quality of the fishery on Mille Lacs. The small gain on regulations continues to showcase the need for an organization like MLSA to voice the concern for the long-term viability of the fishery.
"We will commit to assisting the DNR in gathering scientific information so that future seasons' decisions can be made on science and sustainability," Jim DaRosa, President of MLSA said. "We need to nix the 'over' harvest of the biggest and oldest fish in this fishery or it will take decades to get it back to its current world-class status."
Local area businesses want the added tourism for resorts and restaurants from the big tournaments and the limelight those put on the fishery, but they want to be smart and keep the lake healthy for generations to enjoy. MLSA gathered more than 400 signatures to a petition calling for stricter regulations. "We did succeed in reducing the total harvest to three fish, rather than four," continued DaRosa. "That's a 25% gain and the year prior it was reduced from six to four, so we have two years of progress in the right direction. That's something to celebrate even if it isn't everything we wanted."
What didn't the MLSA get? The 2017 regulations allow one of the three harvest fish to fall in the "over 21-inches" category, and the MLSA would prefer to protect the largest and oldest bass. "I feel like what we got was a step in the right direction, but we won't know the full impact until we see the increased traffic after the AOY Championship which showcased the fishery to a wider group of anglers," added George Liddle, tournament bass angler and now a full-time guide on Mille Lacs. The MLSA advocated for a two-fish limit (with no overs) and a closed or catch-and-release spring and fall season.
While the season is closed in the spring as the MLSA hoped (opens alongside the walleye opener in May for catch-and-release and harvest opens May 27) it will remain open in the fall, a time the big fish are incredibly vulnerable to harvest. Full regulations listed from DNR here. "The fishing is so spectacular in the fall, we really wish it could be catch-and-release at that time," DaRosa continued, noting the organization was happy to see Bassmaster announce its return in 2017. "It [AOY Championship] is good for business-for tourism and economic impact as well as future publicity-to have the best anglers fishing here and bragging it up to the world. We need to encourage voluntary catch-and-release."
While the MLSA celebrates the small successes, its members expect even more hard work and attention in the months and years ahead. To that end (and assuming membership continues to financially support it through membership and fundraising) the MLSA will continue its marketing campaign to educate anglers about catch and release (encouraging "free the fighter" and the best methods in doing so) along with highlighting the world-class status of the fishery and embracing the economic impact of a healthy bass fishery for an area traditionally focused on walleye fishing.