ISLE, Minn. - Walleye fishing will be closed from July 7-to-27 on Mille Lacs Lake. The ban takes effect at 10:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 7.
The DNR says the move is aimed at preventing fish from dying after being caught and released.
The agency says they expect the closure to allow them to extend the season through Labor Day.
“Conserving the Mille Lacs walleye fishery is a top priority for DNR and the closure is happening when fish are most vulnerable to stress from warm water and high fishing pressure,” DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira said in a press release.
The sentiment is far different among some business owners on Mille Lacs.
Bill Lundeen owns Lundeen’s Tackle Castle.
He is skeptical the DNR’s efforts are making a difference in terms of fish population.
But he is sure the move will kill business.
“Will businesses close because of this? Yes. Yes they will,” Lundeen said. “Businesses are hot. They’re upset.”
In nearby Isle, Minnesota, a giant walleye statue adorns main street. Carvings and pictures of the fish are everywhere.
“This whole area was built on Walleye fishing,” Lundeen explains.
He says he once had seven employees at his bait shop. Now it’s just he and his wife.
He blames the DNR’s walleye management tactics for the drop in fishing business.
At McQuoid’s Inn, fishing tour boats leave each day.
A day before the shutdown the boat’s captain said anglers come to the area in search of walleye.
“We’re going to be a bit slower on the boats here,” he said.
Still he says he’s taken to fishing small mouth bass.
The Mille Lacs Area Tourism office is taking a sunnier attitude toward the shutdown.
They’ve been promoting the area’s other attributes like windsurfing, birding and world class bass fishing.
The lake was recently named the best in the nation for bass fishing.
Fishing for all other species, including bass remains open during the walleye closure.
But Lundeen and others still don’t buy the DNR’s explanation that the walleye regulations are necessary.
“When you see that many fish out there, it’s hard to understand why there’s a problem,” he said.
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