On Mille Lacs these days, it's all about the bass

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Now that walleye season has ended early on Mille Lacs, the tourism industry is touting the bass fishing on the central Minnesota lake.

So is the Department of Natural Resources, which announced Tuesday it is loosening bass fishing restrictions on Mille Lacs. The move may help the lake land a lucrative national bass fishing tournament.

The DNR's change will allow anglers to sort bass shorter than 18 inches and keep the largest fish. The possession limit of six bass still applies, but anglers who catch a seventh may now keep it and release a smaller fish from their livewell.

Mille Lacs may be best known for its walleye, but the lake also has a strong reputation among those who fish for bass.

When Bassmaster magazine ranked the country's top 100 bass lakes, it put Mille Lacs at No. 10.

But MPR News reports at least one bass fishing guide worries about the impact of the change in regulations, which will take effect in a week or two.

Jim DaRosa tells MPR: "What I don't want to see happen is the smallmouth fishery becoming one of those has-beens. Or, 'You should have seen it 10 years ago,' just like people are saying with the walleye."

Special session?

Concern about the effect the abbreviated walleye season will have on Mille Lacs-area businesses is running high in the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton has discussed a possible special legislative session to approve economic aid to the region.

As Session Daily reports, a legislative working group put together to consider what to do about the record-low walleye numbers at Mille Lacs held its first hearing Tuesday.

Minnesota Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development Katie Clark Sieben described the situation in the Mille Lacs area as an economic disaster, KARE 11 reports.

MPR says Sieben told lawmakers that 112 tourism or hospitality-related businesses are located within 15 miles of Mille Lacs, and said the administration is ready to extend interest-free loans and other aid of up to $20 million.

But the Star Tribune reports some lawmakers raised doubts about whether a special session is needed. Sen. Carrie Ruud, a Republican from Breezy Point, tells the Brainerd Dispatch she did not hear much support for the idea of calling the full Legislature back to St. Paul.

The legislative working group is scheduled to meet again Wednesday.

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