Isle, Minn. — The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance offers its formal response to the Minnesota 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 of the changes in this year's regulations, but remained 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 added. "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 allowed over 21".
Those two inches might not seem like a big difference, but smallmouth bass grow slowly on Mille Lacs. Research indicates a 17" fish can be seven- to eight-years old, is in its prime of life, and is the foundation of this trophy smallmouth population. "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 reasonable suggestions and provided it in a timely fashion prior to all the decisions. Who decided this direction and with what data?" DaRosa asked.
The DNR announced they would be collecting walleye data from permitted launches this summer. "We would hope the data collection would include smallmouth bass and not only on walleye. It would be a tremendous opportunity to learn more and discuss the findings together," DaRosa said.
Support for the MLSA exists through many area businesses. They know a trophy, world-class fishery can make cash registers ring through healthy tourism dollars. A good example is the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year tournament, scheduled this September, estimated to bring $3.4 million dollars in economic impact.
This just reaffirms how important the MLSA is for preserving and maintaining the world-class trophy smallmouth bass resource in Mille Lacs. Some progress and partnership is a reason to celebrate, but there is still a lot of work ahead.
Additional items for the MLSA includes:
Tickets for a BRONZEBACK BLOWOUT event, the Alliance's first (and only) fundraiser on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at McQuoid's Inn and Resort in Isle, Minnesota. This fundraiser is important for the future work of the MLSA.
Facilitate discussion of the issues and the mission of the MLSA at the Northwest Sportshow (March 30-April 3) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The MLSA will host an informational booth at the show educating anglers on catch and release and accepting membership applications.
Initiatives planned for summer-fall print, radio and social media to educate anglers on catch and release techniques and the economic importance of maintaining a world-class trophy smallmouth bass fishery.
The MLSA website is www.milleleacssmallmouthalliance.com
for more information, which includes a link for ticket sales for the Bronzeback Blowout fundraiser. Tickets are $30 per person and open to the public.
Jim DaRosa at (320) 630-4792 or