In a reversal of a previous decision, officials decided to allow live bait in Lake Mille Lacs 2016 Walleye Season.
Mille Lacs Lake, considered one of the top walleye fishing locations in Minnesota and the nation, will see anglers using live bait after all, now that the Department of Natural Resources has backtracked on their previous regulation announcement.
The 2016 season opens on Saturday, May 14, 2016. The change comes as a welcome reversal for anglers and the local fishing community who are also feeling the effects of the new catch-and-release requirements.
Minnesota DNR fisheries section chief, Don Pereira, stated in a news release that, “This year’s Mille Lacs regulation will not include a live bait restriction due to feedback from anglers and stakeholders. The DNR is hearing that anglers are accepting of the catch-and-release aspect of the walleye season, but members of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee heard clear concerns about the live bait restriction, as did the DNR.”
The change ultimately comes as a result of a DNR committee meeting held on April 6. The committee listened to many concerns from anglers and the Mille Lacs community on the proposed restrictions not to allow live bait, a ruling many felt would have a negative effect on the Mille Lacs fishing experience.
“Our discussion showed the DNR and the committee are determined to work together to protect the resource while still providing the best recreational opportunities on Mille Lacs for a wide range of users,” said Dean Hanson, operator of Agate Bay Resort in Isle and co-chair of the advisory committee.
The DNR hopes the live bait allowance will reduce hooking mortality in walleyes caught on the lake. Decreasing numbers and a young population are the primary contributors to the new restrictions for 2016. Bobber fishing with live bait has been a popular style for the lake for generations, particularly for young and less experienced anglers.
In hindsight, the advisory committee does seem to be a productive attempt to make the most of Minnesota’s hunting and fishing resources. “We focused on prolonging the walleye season as long as possible by whatever means were available,” Hanson said in the release. Pereira added that “The framework was established to communicate information from the public to the DNR, and that’s exactly what happened. The committee’s leadership and commitment were crucial to the DNR’s decision-making process.”