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Our Opinion: New direction needed on Mille Lacs

Talk about dock flopping. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday announced walleye fishing would be closed on Mille Lacs Lake after Labor Day. The decision came just two weeks after Gov. Mark Dayton said walleye fishing on the ...

Talk about dock flopping.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday announced walleye fishing would be closed on Mille Lacs Lake after Labor Day.

The decision came just two weeks after Gov. Mark Dayton said walleye fishing on the lake would remain open despite anglers exceeding the walleye quota agreed upon with local American Indian tribes.

In making the Aug. 9 decision to keep walleye fishing open, Dayton said closing the fishery would devastate Mille Lacs Lake area businesses and communities.

"The state's fisheries experts have assured me that continuing catch-and-release on Mille Lacs will not negatively impact the health of the walleye fishery," Dayton said.

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On Thursday, Dayton opted to close the season following tribal concerns-and a potential lawsuit-and considering the decreased impact on Mille Lacs businesses after Labor Day.

Those decisions are the latest in what has been a two-year whirlwind for Mille Lacs Lake. Last year the state closed fishing in August, then re-opened it for ice fishing. This spring, the state restricted walleye fishing to catch-and-release only and banned the use of live bait to catch the fish. Then, under pressure, the state allowed the use of live bait.

It's enough to leave one's head spinning.

We think it's time for all interested parties-the DNR, American Indian tribes, anglers, area business owners and communities-to take a step back and reassess where Mille Lacs Lake is at and what will be needed to return the lake to a sustainable walleye fishery.

To accomplish that, perhaps the state and tribal government need to consider closing walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake in 2017. It's a controversial idea, but what hasn't been controversial lately about walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake?

However, closing the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs should only happen with the caveat that state find financial help for the businesses and communities that would be negatively impacted by such a decision, as the Legislature has previously considered.

Obviously no one has come up with a palatable answer for what ails Mille Lacs Lake. But resurrecting a fishery is not impossible. Red Lake and Leech Lake are prime examples of lakes where walleye fishing recovered.

What we do know is that short-term fixes are not the answer. We'd suggest closing walleye fishing for a year and coming up with a solid solution that most of the interested parties can agree upon.

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