DNR says plenty of smallmouth bass in Mille Lacs, but anglers protest looser rules

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The Minnesota Department of Natural resources has called for lighter restrictions on fishing smallmouth bass in Lake Mille Lacs, and some are worried the smallies will diminish as a result.

The Pioneer Press reports from the lake itself, and offers a primer on the latest dust-up between fishermen and the state, with the anglers playing the conservationist role this time.

"Since 2000, smallmouths on the big pond were managed to grow a robust population," the paper reports. "All fish shorter than 21 inches were released; one 21 inches or longer -- a true wall-mounter -- could be kept."

Today, the PiPress says, smallies are more plentiful and larger than ever, according to DNR survey data. But the DNR claims the population surge isn't due to the restrictions, but other factors such as three decades of improving water clarity has meant the lake's main predator, the walleye, has ceded shallow rock humps, now often sunlit, to the smallmouth.

Now an angler can keep six fish less than 17 inches long, or five less than 17 inches and one longer than 20 inches, reports the St. Paul paper.

Some rod-and-reelers are skeptical, and want the other regulations back. Twenty inches might be a wall-mounter in many waters but not, the paper reports, on Mille Lacs, where state-record fish likely lurk. They've started a website --SaveMilleLacsSmallies.com -- with a petition to repeal the new regulations.

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