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Evenflow

Is Mille Lacs in trouble?

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Evenflow

Bare with me here, I know it's my first post, but I think it's going to be a long one.
I fished Mille Lacs this past weekend. I usually fish the lake 2 or 3 times a winter, and I usually stay in a friend's house. I've never fished it in the summer. It was the second time I've fished the big lake this winter, and unlike the first time this winter when I got skunked, the fishing was quite good. (Unless you want to bring fish home)
There were 4 of us and we caught 1 fish under the slot 1 fish in the slot, and 18 fish over the slot, ranging from 19-25 inches. But what I noticed was that our 25" fish weighed right around 3.5 pounds (it was increadably skinny). At first I assumed it was a male, but by the end of the weekend it was clear that either we caught 95% males or the fish were VERY skinny. The other thing I noticed was that we caught a lot of big fish, and only one walleye under the slot and NO perch at all. So I asked my friend I was staying with about all of these factors and he said there was a problem with how Mille Lacs is being managed because there are too many large fish and not enough bait fish to support them. He believes that is why the fish are getting skinnier and frankly why fishing has been so great for most people in the past year.
He is worried that Mille Lacs may succomb to the same problem that Oahe has in ND.
He also claims the former DNR fisheries biologist for Mille Lacs believes that the way the lake is being managed, a result similiar to Oahe is inevitable.

I guess I would like to know what everyone here thinks. Obviously I'm not going to start telling everyone the sky is falling from two trips to Mille Lacs. But I spoke with alot of other people that had houses on the SW part of the lake and they all seemed to agree (to different degrees) with the idea that the fish pyramid in the lake may be out of whack and no one seems to be paying any attention.

Well, let me know what you think.

Evenflow

------------------
It's all just thoery till you hit the water.

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huskminn

Evenflow,

A couple of things.....Oahe is in South Dakota. Oahe's problems arose not so much from fisheries management, but from Corp of Engineers management. A large population of younger walleyes resulting from successful spawns, a smaller population of large walleyes resulting from fishing pressure and all the rainbow smelt in the lake flushed downriver by the Corp releasing record amounts of water throughout the summer months. Smelt go deep in summer and get sucked into the water intakes. When you leave the intakes wide open all summer, your smelt get sent down river.

Anyway.....I personally think that Mille Lacs will ultimately end up having trouble because it is not being managed biologically, it is being managed politically.

Politicians....be they court mandated or not...ALWAYS screw things up. There are ALWAYS unintended consequences when political decisions are made.

However, I don't see anything changing until the system collapses. It would be political suicide for any state politician to challenge the supreme court on this issue. The national and world media would be on it like flies on you know what. That is not a battle a politician wants on his/her hands.

I would hate to be in the DNR's shoes. They can't make a right decision when it comes to this issue. They can only ride the fence until the fence collapses.

Enjoy Mille Lacs while you can.

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Guest

Evenflow and Huskminn:
Apparently you both have some type of educational background to support your theories? Did you both attend college and graduate with a degree in Wildlife Management, or was it Wildlife Biology? Seriously, what are you guys talking about? I don't think either of you know, and you certainly don't know more then the State's DNR Biologists so just appreciate the outstanding fishing and don't give us your nonsense. Maybe head up to Leech Lake where you can catch all the 14" fish you want.

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Evenflow

Actually it is wildlife biology, and that's probably why I'm interested in this so much, but that's not the point...
I was just wondering if anyone else had experienced a lack of smaller fish in recent years, either perch or small walleyes. Or if anyone had noticed skinny larger walleyes. Like I said before, this was the first I had heard anyone mention anything about Mille Lacs being in trouble, besides the whole political side of it, and all I had heard about was about the great fishing recently. I was just wondering if some of the very experienced anglers here beleived any of the same theories.

------------------
It's all just thoery till you hit the water.

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huskminn

MF1:

Nope. No degree in Fisheries and/or Wildlife Management. No degree in Natural Resource Management. I've got a degree in Int'l Relations with emphasis in the Political Economy and Diplomacy/Negotiating....but, something tells me you really don't care about that. You shouldn't.....it isn't worth much.

What type of educational background do I have to support my theories, you ask? No real empirical evidence in my files, just a common sense approach to the issue. Since the beginning, I have followed this issue in the media. When I've had opportunity, I've spoken with people who are issue stakeholders. I've watched all the participants during the debates...there is a lot of fine positioning that goes on.

And, after all that uneducated, unsupervised and empirically unsupported research, I offered MY OPINION on the topic that Evenflow introduced.

Yes, DNR biologists know more about managing the Mille Lacs fishery than I do. I would really have some problems with them if they didn't.

My opinion may very well be nonsense, although you haven't really invalidated anything I've said. I still believe that politics plays the largest role in management of Mille Lacs. Think about it. The lake has these controlling entities: the federal gov't, the state gov't and a number of tribal governments. That's a lot of government involved in a relatively small issue. Politics is present in the courts, more present in the DNR and runs rampant in tribal gov't.

As this issue heats up and the lake becomes even less desirable to sport anglers, we will see state representatives and perhaps even a governor step into the ring. Up to this point, we haven't heard much from these in-state politicians. The situation, in their mind, is not yet desparate enough for them to lay their hides on the line in support of their constituents (Mille Lacs area stakeholders and, less so, sport anglers).

I am sure that the DNR would love to manage the lake based on a biological plan. They can't, however. Their primary goal is to not exceed the court mandated limits. They reduced the slot to 16"-18" last year solely because fish of that size were most scarce to begin with. Any other numbers and the limits would have been exceeded. Secondarily, they manage the health of the fishery. They are in a hard spot and I would never want to have to make those kind of decisions.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't particularly like politicians. I feel pretty strongly that a politician inherently has a difficult time doing the "right" thing. Instead, they do things just half-right, or half-wrong, whichever you prefer. That alienates the fringes, but pleases most people. While it is a politically more viable path, it is rarely the one that leads to resolution or correction of the problem. And, that opens the whole mess up for slow decay. I believe that Mille Lacs has begun to slowly decay.

Historically, the gov't (any one of them) is slow to make the "right" decisions when faced with the consequential reality of their "half-right" policies. These are the unintended consequences that I previously mentioned.

There may be hints of a predator/prey imbalance in Mille Lacs right now. The fish have been hungry for a year and everyone has noticed that. Could there be too many predator fish in the system? Not enough prey? Could the system collapse from this potential imbalance? I don't have a clue.

All ecosystems managed by humans face crisis at some point in time. No matter what crisis Mille Lacs faces in coming years, the politicians won't be able to act quickly enough to make any difference. We have a political management strategy now. It will take years to switch to a biological management strategy...those may be hard years for all the stakeholders.

I love Mille Lacs. Love to fish it, love to catch its fish and I love to eat a meal of walleye or perch from its waters. I have tremendous respect for the lake. What an amazing place for fish to live. I absolutely hate how it's being managed, or should I say "mis-managed".

If that's nonsense to you, MF1, then we probably don't have much more to discuss...unless you want to tell me about all the 14" walleyes in Leech. I don't know a thing about that! smile.gif

[This message has been edited by huskminn (edited 01-29-2002).]

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james_walleye

Isn't a population of bigger walleyes a sign of a very healthy body of water? I mean those are your spawners. You arent going to have good reproduction without those spawners. You start taking those spawners out of the picture then i would say you would be heading for trouble. I've also been hearing the same thing about people catching those 10-14" fish...so i don't see anything to be worried about.

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mouse

I know this subject can really get the oil boiling, but I have to agree with a lot of what huskminn has said. The political debate can go on forever. I to love to fish Mille Lacs allthough it's only once or twice a year so I'm certainly no expert. However I do believe I've witnessed a signifant change toward a bipolar distribution in size and year class(ie. many small fish, many large fish and significantly fewer slot fish). I'm wondering what year class(es) are the next generation of large fish going to come from when the existing large fish reach there maximum life span? Are we overharvesting those fish in the slot? Only time will tell.

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Pauly B

huskminn, way to go. As a 19 year old angler, I am concerned about the walleye population on Lake Mille Lacs. I have eight buddies that also fish on lake mille lacs. Over the past two weekends all nine of us have caught over eight hundred walleyes. Believe me this is no fish story like some of the people tell on this site. Such as 14' perch. Anyway I was talking to my friends and they thought that at the very outside, we have caught 40 walleyes under 14 inches. If thats not a problem then I don't know what is. I think some people just don't care, all they want is their fish and they are happy. For the future generations that are coming up in the ranks right now, we will be left with crap. Thats about it. If some people wanna talk polotics, then they can talk to me. I have six years of experience in the DNR world working with my uncle. Im hear to talk but the only one that knows anything about this topic is huskminn. Check ya later.

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Guest

Politics aside, I wouldn't say that Mille Lacs is in trouble, however I have read some information in the past few months regarding this subject. Predator populations are directly linked to the population of prey, while a large population of predators is not likely to influence the forage base to an excessive degree, a collapse of the forage base due to poor spawning conditions, or other imbalance in the food chain may have an influence on the walleye population, these are natural cyclical rythms that occur over time, regardless of human intervention. So a one time or even a several seasons of observation does not tell the whole story. The DNR fisheries biologists are and will be keeping a close watch on these relationships in the upcoming years. And then the human management issue comes into play again...

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workingfisherman

test

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Guest

Then when the bait fish pop is high again everyone will be saying the indians netted all the fish. Mille Lacs got the name "Dead Sea because of low bait fish levels. Like coldone said, its all in the cycles...

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MILLE LACS AREA GUIDE SERVICE
651-271-5459 http://fishingminnesota.com/millelacsguide/

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Scupper

10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish. I've heard that for years and believe it, although due to mapping, electronics, equipment and all the information available, I feel the percentage margin is narrowing.
Not by much though.
I say that because on the weekends when I look toward any reef or flat I see a mass of people.
I know some of these people are getting fish but most are watching bobbers. Move away from the crowds!
There is alot of untroubled water on Mille Lacs that holds lots of healthy fish.
When you look out there and see one or two guys way out there all by themselves and you think to yourself, gee I wonder if there getting anything, they probably are...
Good Luck...

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Guest

Very good subject guys!
I made three very productive open water Mille Lacs trips this past year and noticed some of the things you mentioned, especially a few big skinny walleyes. One was 27" long and caught during some fall full moon trolling. It was very skinny, especially compared to the walleyes that length I have caught from other waters. I am not near as concerned about a lack of smaller fish like many of you mentioned. I found that fishing leeches under slip bobbers produced many walleyes under the slot during trips in may and september. I think that whatever has been done in the way of management the past 5-10 years has done wonders. I think the lake is amazing and caught plenty of slot fish and about every size imaginable between 8 and 27 inches.
good fishing

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bmg

speaking from experience, I have caught more small walleyes in the 9"-14" inch range this winter than I can remember in my lifetime. In recent years I have had trouble catching 1-2 slots, with the vast majority of others being over the slot. however this year I have caught an average of roughly 40 fish per weekend, which isn't much to brag about considering about 1/3+ are under the slot. I'm no expert, but I can only assume that all the 'throwbacks' over the past several years must have gotten it done in the spawning dept & we're starting to see some of the offspring. some of my buddies have reported fall outings of catching 50+ walleyes after dark but the vast majority being in the 10"-12" range. I am seeing some skinny fish this year (more than past years) but I'm also seeing numerous fat fish as well (as fat as I've ever seen). bottom line is that I think the fishery is healthy & I'm seeing results that indicate that the slot limit is working, not only in providing more big fish but also replenishing the lake w/ smaller fish as well. I think fisherman will be much happier this summer when they catch many more 'slots' to fill their livewell.

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Grabs

I agree, I see no reason to worry about it at this time. Last weekend we caught 14 fish, with only 3 being under the slot, 2 slot fish and the rest being over the slot and the biggest being 25.5". And every fish over the slot was a fat pig! With the exception of one 22", which was obviously a male. I would suspect you came across a lot of male fish, because I have not been catching many skinny fish. I think the slot is working and it is really going to produce some trophy fish in the years to come. We may need to start being able to keep a few fish in the 20-24" range though, because I see that population being the most active in terms of feeding and this population also seems to be the largest in the lake.

The one thing I have to stress here is that despite all of our individual findings we can not base the population of Mille Lacs on such a small sample size. Mille Lacs is huge and the walleye population is huge! A sample of even 100 fish is not going to be a good statisical sample to determine the population's size. So go forth and enjoy the great success we are experiencing on the big pond! Leave the fish management to the guys you are paid to worry about it. You and I know that if they screw it up along the line, they are really going to hear about.

Good luck out there!

[This message has been edited by Grabs (edited 01-29-2002).]

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Guest

Huskminn:

You can talk the political game all you want. In fact, the more you do talk the more inclined you are to reveal your political affiliation - I would guess liberal.

The reason I responded the way I did to yourself and evenflow is because I hate the fact that everywhere I go people tend to have short memories. You head up to Mille Lacs and catch a couple dinks, and a couple longer skinnier fish and all of a sudden the lake's in trouble.

How can you people forget how incredible the fishing was the past year? Don't get me wrong, you bring up some good points about governments being involved, but the fact remains that the supreme court ruling is final. You can't challenge their decision. I don't like the result anymore than you do. However, we have to live with it. With that being said the DNR has done an outstanding job of protecting the fishery, while at the same time trying to keep people happy. It will be impossible to keep everyone happy, but the great thing about it is the idiots that complain they're catching too many big fish, or not catching enough slot fish can simply choose to go somewhere else.

The DNR may be restricted to some degree how they manage the lake because they have a harvest quota to stay under. However, I guarantee you that they do this in the best means to both stay under the quota, and to keep the fishery healthy. The results so far have been outstanding! Some people will be unhappy, but NO MATTER what they do there will be some unhappy people!

The final point I'll make to argue your point is what you said about Mille Lacs will eventually be less desirable to sport anglers. I'm not sure if you know what a sport angler is, but sport anglers only care about catching fish. In fact, I would be willing to bet that most sport anglers are entirely catch and release. Sport anglers will always be abundant on Mille Lacs because there isn't another lake (with an exception to possibly Lake of the Woods) that out-produces Mille Lacs. Mille Lacs is the best walleye lake in the state, and sport anglers will always be present.

Huskminn, you make some very good points. I can respect some of what you've said. I just think some of your points are a little extreme, a little to the left if you will.

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Havin' Fun

Good point mf. I don't go to Mille Lacs to bring home a bunch of fish, but I will tell you I caught alot of fish in the slot....so they are there, you just need to find them. Infact we released more small fish 18" and down, than big!!!! But Mille Lacs has always been a trophy lake. And I thank the DNR for doing "what they can." And I for one will always go there for the big ones.

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Guest

Huskminn:

The reason I said your views were to the left was because I sensed negativity in your posts. In my experience it seems like that's a more liberal attitude. It's good to know I was wrong, and I apologize.

Let's talk about the local economy up there. I have a hard time feeling sorry for the resorts and other businesses up there that say they lost millions of dollars due to the slot limit alone. Many business are hurting, but the businesses that stay alive are the ones that can adapt. They don't sit around with the "poor me" attitude.

I was up in the area 10 or so times last summer and every time I went by the public accesses on the lake they were always crowded. Boats were still all over the lake when I was out.

Maybe the local business should change their business plan, or change the way they market themselves, or better yet learn how to target their customers. Nobody put a gun to the local business owner's heads and forced them to buy in. Some of their problems may of had something to do with the slot restrictions, but a lot of the problems are directly related to how those businesses run and market themselves. Think for a moment that most would argue last year was the best year of all time for fishing on Mille Lacs. That's a fact! And you're going to tell me that the majority of businesses failed! How can that be? I would say a good portion of the blame should be shouldered by the owners and how they run there business. (i.e., we've all heard about the service you receive at Lakeside - I wonder why they aren't doing well?)

I seriously doubt that the only reason people vacation in the area is solely based on catching slot fish. Maybe for some people, but not everyone.

Thanks for the good discussion Huskminn, and I'm glad to hear you're not a liberal.

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huskminn

MF1,

Hey, no need to apologize......like I said, I've been called worse things.

I don't have hard numbers, but this is what I have heard regarding last summer vis-a-vis Mille Lacs resorts. Weekend traffic was down a little, but not bad. Weekday customers were down significantly.

The lake seemed fairly busy the times I was there last year, but that was always on a weekend. I have to admit though, that there were fewer people than normal in the spots I like to fish. I would never base an argument on that fact, though.

There will always be a good number of anglers who visit Mille Lacs on weekends. They are mostly local or in-state anglers. The small slot last summer took a lot of the weekday business away from the resorts. People didn't want to spend a week's vacation, perhaps drive a long ways to do it, and not be able to have a fish fry one or two nights during their stay.

Frankly, I may not want to do that either. Any given weekend, I don't care that much about my keep rate. However, I probably wouldn't spend a week on a lake where I can keep only 1 in 9 fish (the numbers from my boat last year).

So, you're right. Businesses that are hurting need to adapt. Some of them have (did you see the article on McQuoid's in the paper?). Businesses that want to grow need to adapt even more.

However, as more resorts start to hurt, local politicians will start barking more. Then it will be state reps. Then the DNR will be getting it from all sides--perhaps there will be threats of holding back funding.....who knows. I've seen politics beat out biology before in this state (and others). This situation is ripe for that to happen. The lake will suffer for it.

I suppose we could talk about this issue forever. All I want is for the lake to be managed under a plan based on biology. The current situation doesn't allow that to happen. I believe someday, though, that's going to really hurt all of us, but mostly the lake.

Grabs mentioned a scenario yesterday in this thread. Something about the potential need to keep 20"-24" fish due to a population imbalance. If that were the case (that's a big if!), we may not be able to do it because of how much those individual fish weigh. We could reach our court-mandated limit before we had taken as many fish as needed to restore balance. That's where the politics really hurts the DNR's ability to do what is right for the lake.

If fishing is as good this year as last, you know they will restrict the slot again. It will be interesting to see what happens after that.

I've enjoyed the discussion, as well.

[This message has been edited by huskminn (edited 01-30-2002).]

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Guest

I'm seeing nothing to prove the lake's future is in danger. It seems every year the fishing gets better and better. We hav'nt iced any hawgs yet this winter, 1 30" that was really skinny, but we have had alot of 27,28" fish that were fat as footballs. It's been a great winter, hell every weekend seems to get better. Seems there are alot of small under the slot fish, but probably almost as many over too. I dunno, i just am not seeing anything wrong.

JUST MY $.O2

AND REMEMBER TO: CROSS THEIR EYES

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huskminn

MF1,

I've been called a lot of things, but I've never been called a Liberal! wink.gif

For the sake of my post, sport anglers = non-tribal anglers. I make this distinction mostly because sport anglers support the Mille Lacs area economy. When the sport anglers leave, the local ecomony is hurt. We saw this last summer when the slot was reduced to 16"-18".

Yup, the supreme court ruling is final. Yup, we all have to deal with it. I also agree that the DNR has done an outstanding job of protecting the fishery. We disagree on how that was done and probably also why that was done. As I mentioned before, their plan has worked so far. They have been lucky. But, they don't have enough wiggle room to change the plan if things begin to go biologically awry.

You and I have a lot more in common than you think. I just have a less optimistic outlook on where Mille Lacs will be in 5 years or 10 years. That's why I ended my first post in this thread with, "Enjoy Mille Lacs while you can."

Some of my points may be extreme, MF1, but I'm still looking for the left-of-center ones. smile.gif

Hope to see you on the water sometime.

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Dave

What huskminn said has me thinkin'. What IS going to happen to all these large walleye in the lake? I know some people keep 'em but MANY do not.

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Guest

They will simply die of old age and become fodder for bottom feeders. Recycled into the food chain is the best way to look at it I guess.

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JK

I have noticed A decline in the amount of perch I have catch out of mille lacs these days. However,the walleye bite is truly astounding. Many posts refer to large walleye catches and state that the fishery must be healthy. I will not deny we have healthy walleyes, but they are unusually hungry lately aren't they? Was there a story of a large amount of perch washing ashore this spring? Does anyone have any details on that? I'm not saying the sky is falling, but it's something I've noticed and wondered about.

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metrojoe

Us weekend anglers will keep going either out of loyalty, convenience, stubbornness, or just plain habit and our weekly visits pay the electric bill, but thats probably about it. It's nothing for a big business, either local or out of state, to spend an extra few hundred dollars to hold their business meetings/vacations elsewhere. Or the family thats looking for a good fishing vacation. These people may only get one week every year to fish for walleyes and they want to bring some home. What has been the common theme in everyone's Mille Lacs Report?.
I surely wouldn't pay that kind of money to throw most of them back.

"just thinking out loud"

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      I was fishing 18-25 fow.  I cruised several humps that topped out around 17-20 fow and found fish on about 1/2 of them.  I only fished spots I marked good numbers of fish on them.   By horizontal I mean either making long cast and snapping the jigging rap back sharply or trolling 1- 1.2 mph and having enough line out that there would be a little slack before my next snap of the rod at that speed/depth.  You don't feel the hit.  The fish is just there on the next snap that then turns into a hook set.   I've also fished them vertically but many times the more horizontal presentation works better.  At least for me.   I caught fish on both 7&9 sizes.  But the 7s are easier on my arm with repetitive snapping of the rod.  These fish heavy and I've fished them like this in more than 30 feet of water. Metallic perch was the best color for me this weekend followed by rainbow trout or chartreuse.   Even caught several pike and crappies doing this type of fishing.  Moonshine shiver minnows work well too.  They get the nod when there is most on the bottom.  They fish cleaner that the jigging raps. 
    • delcecchi
      when was the most recent time it started normally?   You did start mixing oil in gas when you disconnected the injection system, right?