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There will be a boat rally on Mille Lacs for people who want to fish walleye again

They say the decision to ban walleye fishing isn't environmental anymore. It's political.

This weekend, Gov. Mark Dayton will head to Mille Lacs to make a point that it's still an excellent fishing lake, even though you can't catch or keep walleye. He'll be greeted by some protesters, though.

Dayton is planning to do a lot of bass fishing Saturday. After all, the lake was named the best bass fishery in the U.S. last month by Bassmaster Magazine.

So he's invited a bunch of bass fishing enthusiasts to throw out a line with him.

But not everyone is so happy about the bass fishing. They want to fish walleye. However, this summer has been catch-and-release only – and as of Friday, catch-and-release isn't even allowed for the next three weeks.

That's why fishermen and women have planned a boat rally to "circle the wagon in protest."

What they're protesting

They argue the decision to ban walleye fishing isn't environmental anymore. It's political.

Protesters reference a quote from a DNR spokesperson to the Star Tribune last summer when Dayton quickly called an end to the catch-and-release season.

The paper said Dayton and the DNR commissioner realized Ojibwe band leaders weren't happy about keeping the season open.

“Even though our data showed that the estimated overreach [by anglers] does not pose a threat to the walleye population," the spokesperson told the paper. "This action recognizes that continued fishing would have hurt our relationship with the bands.”

The group says the limits have had a profound impact on the area's economy too.

"How do you have an economy based on fishing and justify shutting the fishing down?" the Facebook event says.

The page also claims more than 50 small business have vanished over the years because of this.

Why the fishing is limited

The catch-and-release rules are in place to help the Mille Lacs walleye population, which the DNR is trying to build back up after years of decline.

And the catch-and-release season is on a 21-day halt because walleye still die during it. Especially when the weather is warmer.

“The plan is for this closure to coincide with the hottest part of the summer when released fish are vulnerable to stress,” Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief, said in a news release.

You can still fish bass, muskie and northern pike, though.

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