DNR says ice fishing season on Mille Lacs not guaranteed, despite Dayton's pledge

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The head of Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources has put the brakes on Governor Mark Dayton's assertion that there will be ice fishing on Mille Lacs this winter.

The lake has been the source of much controversy after the stricter than usual walleye catch limit was reached part-way through the summer, with lakeside businesses taking a significant hit as a result.

Gov. Dayton looked to reassure Mille Lacs locals on Thursday that the popular lake will still be able to host walleye ice fishing this winter, saying he would "insist" on it.

But DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr told MPR that Dayton's assertion in no way guarantees ice fishing will be permitted, saying it will depend on research biologists will conduct over the next three weeks to determine the population size of spawning adult walleye, as well as their size and distribution.

"We're going to wait until we get the data to make any decisions," he said. "There's no proposals we're going to be putting out there before we really get a chance to sit down with the data ... and come up with what's biologically justifiable."

The harvest quota that was reached during the open water season is actually meant to run through Dec. 31, and according to the Associated Press, re-opening the lake to walleye fishing this winter would require a new limit be set sooner than usual.

This year's limit was set at 28,600 pounds as walleye population in the lake fell to record low levels, with DNR officials saying a lower quota was required to ensure a health population in the future.

Recommendations on whether the season can go ahead are expected to be made in about a month's time.

The DNR announced Thursday that it is now accepting applications for people who want to serve on the newly-formed Mille Lacs Advisory Committee.

Set up in response to the troubles seen on the lake this summer, the committee will advise the DNR on fisheries management programs, as well as providing a voice for local business and tourism interests.

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