Help Us Save The Mille Lacs Lake Smallmouth Bass

533337_3981869231318_959762914_nIn 2012, anglers were only allowed to keep one smallmouth bass on Mille Lacs Lake.  In order to keep one fish, it had to be a true trophy over 21inches. The new 2013 (MN-­‐DNR) regulations allow anglers a harvest possession limit of 6 smallmouth bass per day on the “big pond”. Fish 17 to 20 inches are to be released immediately, but fish 0 to 16.99 inches or one over 20 inches can be harvested.

Mille Lacs Lake has become a World Class Bass Fishery in recent years.  Anglers travel from around the world to catch a trophy “Bronze Back”.  The increase in popularity has benefited the local and state economy. We fear the new regulations will send “Trophy” Smallmouth to the frying pan or the taxidermist, and destroy the small fish population. The harvesting could prove fatal for smallmouth reproduction and turn a “World Class Fishery” into a barren sea.

We maintain smallmouth bass are particularly susceptible to overharvesting because of several unique factors on Mille Lacs. Smallmouth are typically found in schools that live in small areas on ridges, humps or other lake structures.  Mille Lacs Lake offers non-­‐boat owners the opportunity to participate in fishing launches.  Launches generally take 20 to 25 people on large fishing boats out to the ridges and humps and use live bait to catch Smallmouth or other fish species for entertainment purposes.  Until 2013, the Smallmouth had to be released; allowing the fish to grow, reproduce and be caught again.

One can calculate how quickly the smallmouth population could be destroyed.  Consider there are an estimated 20+ launch services on the lake. (20 launches multiplied by 20 people per launch, multiplied by 6 fish per person equals the potential harvesting of 2,400 smallmouth per day!) Furthermore, when you consider each launch could potentially take up to 3 trips a day, the result could be a 7,200 daily smallmouth harvest! That could be devastating.  These numbers only take into consideration potential launch harvests, and do not include guided outings and independent anglers.

George Liddle, of Ranger Boasts and co-­‐host of North American Fisherman, said “I began fishing Mille Lacs over 15 years ago and loved it so much I bought a house on the lake because of the excellent fishing.”  Over the last 15 years Liddle reports an increase in populations but also adds “the fish schools are extremely concentrated and the lake is still very fragile anglers cannot just go anywhere and catch Smallmouth.  The DNR is projecting there is an over-­‐population of smallmouth, we disagree.”

Professional Bass Angler Janet Parker adds; “Minnesota has a fishing season that is intended to protect bass.  Because of this year’s extended cold weather, smallmouth will be shallow and extremely easy to catch just after the fishing season opens.  The new regulations could allow a smallmouth slaughter.”