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Mille Lacs guides pleased with legislation

Mille Lacs Lake fishing guides contacted Thursday expressed satisfaction that legislation restoring Minnesota’s authority to permit and inspect vessels on that lake is on its way to the White House for a likely signature.

A modified version of the Mille Lacs Freedom to Fish Act, authored by Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., was passed by the Senate Wednesday under the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012.

Many Mille Lacs guides had protested the requirement to acquire a federal “six-pack” boating license that could cost as much as $2,000 in fees, training and travel costs.

“It wasn’t just the money,” Mille Lacs guide Tony Roach said Thursday. “Some of the requirements of the Coast Guard license were really irrelevant when pertaining to a body of water like Mille Lacs.”

He said he was all for requirements such as CPR and first aid training but many of the other requirements were for larger bodies of water and navigation channels.

“It obviously got my attention when they said it was going to shut us down because we didn’t have it,” Roach said.

Bob Carlson, a Mille Lacs fishing guide and employee at the Red Door Resort on the same lake, said the Coast Guard requirements were overkill for small-time guides on Mille Lacs. He said the Coast Guard regulations were intended for bodies of water such as Lake Superior and large rivers where guides were negotiating traffic with barges and bigger ships.

“The testing process was extensive and quite expensive,” Carlson said. “In excess of $2,000 to get a “six-pack (license).”

He said common sense prevailed.

“I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”

Cravaack said, in a statement, that with all the gridlock in Washington people shouldn’t lose sight of the bipartisan reforms that can be accomplished.

“This new Coast Guard regulation, being funded at taxpayer expense, would take a toll on the Mille Lacs resort-based economy and make fishing more expensive,” he said. “Ultimately, Mille Lacs belongs to Minnesotans.”

The Mille Lacs Freedom to Fish Act was passed by the House on Aug. 1, and was subsequently introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Al Franken, D-Minn., in the Senate.

“Lake Mille Lacs is a critical part of the region’s economy and way of life,” Klobuchar said. “This common-sense, bipartisan reform will cut red tape for Minnesota boaters and fishermen and help ensure the area remains a thriving destination for tourists and sportsmen.”

“Fishing and boating create jobs and support communities all around Lake Mille Lacs, and it’s important that we don’t let red tape threaten local businesses,” said Sen. Franken. “This legislation will free fishing guides on Mille Lacs from an unnecessary regulatory burden, saving them time and money and protecting the health of this industry.”

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860