Bass rule change could help offset loss of walleyes at Mille Lacs
The transition has seemingly been in the works for several years: Premier walleye-fishing destination to bass-tournament-worthy fishery. Events of this week have gone a long way toward that end. At 10 p.m. Monday, walleye fishing on Mille Lacs La...
The transition has seemingly been in the works for several years: Premier walleye-fishing destination to bass-tournament-worthy fishery.
Events of this week have gone a long way toward that end.
At 10 p.m. Monday, walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake closed and won't reopen until Nov. 30 as walleye fishing looks to finally rebound on the lake about two hours north of the Twin Cities.
And Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced a change in fishing regulations for Mille Lacs that it says will help attract more national bass tournaments to the area.
As has been the case across the country, bass numbers have been on the upswing in Mille Lacs in recent years. Along those lines, for the 2014 Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener in the Brainerd lakes area, the DNR decided to include bass in the opener mix - for Mille Lacs only - several weeks before the usual bass opener, likely in an effort to help offset what even than was expected to be a poor walleye showing at the lake.
Also in recent years, well-known walleye anglers such as Gary Roach - "Mr. Walleye" - have instead targeted bass on the burgeoning bass fishery, ranked as the 10th-best bass lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine. It's regarded primarily as a world-class smallmouth bass fishery, but also offers abundant largemouth numbers.
According to the DNR, national bass tournaments could draw thousands of anglers to the region, benefiting area resorts and businesses that have been impacted by the walleye-fishing closure. The rule change, announced by DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, will allow anglers to sort bass that are shorter than 18 inches, and keep the largest fish - a rule change that is essential in securing national bass tournaments, the DNR said.
"This is one of the ways the DNR is actively responding to the economic needs of the Mille Lacs Lake area," Landwehr said. "The change has potential economic benefits and will not hurt bass populations."
Anglers on other lakes in Minnesota already can sort bass that they catch. But currently, anglers on Mille Lacs aren't allowed to sort fish they have kept by releasing a smaller fish from a livewell and replacing it with a larger fish. The rule change will allow anglers to sort smallmouth and largemouth bass before reaching their possession limit of six fish. The no-cull rule will remain in effect for all other fish species on Mille Lacs.
A difference of only a few ounces often determines the winner of a bass tournament - having the ability to cull allows tournament anglers to keep the biggest fish that weigh the most.
The new rule is expected to go into effect later this month.
"Fishing is a major draw for out-of-state visitors, generating $2.8 billion in retail sales and 43,000 Minnesota jobs," said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. "Eliminating one of the hurdles to attracting more national bass fishing tournaments gives the Mille Lacs area another tool to draw national attention and help improve its economy."