Skip to main content

With walleye numbers dwindling, tribe suspends netting on Lake Mille Lacs

  • Author:
  • Updated:

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said it will not use nets to catch walleye on Lake Mille Lacs over the next year to help fish numbers recover.

MPR reports the band announced the decision shortly before Gov. Mark Dayton held a town meeting in Isle, in which he addressed concerns about the declining walleye population and the impact on local businesses of the imminent angling shutdown.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe netting tradition dated back to 1837.

The news was met with a standing ovation when announced at the meeting by Dayton, who said he was confident other tribes would follow the Mille Lacs Band's lead and choose not to net walleye next year, according to KSTP's Joe Augustine.

"It's a huge sacrifice. But you have to remember people of Mille Lacs band, they care about the fish and the lake," Tribal Chair Melanie Benjamin told MPR. "We want to be part of the solution in the best possible way."

"[The] decision is to temporarily suspend netting on Mille Lacs Lake for one year, through the end of the 2016 spring season, until the health of the walleye can be evaluated," the band said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Catch limit nears, walleye ban imminent

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) set a 40,000-pound catch limit on walleye this fishing season on the popular lake, of which 11,600 pounds was earmarked for eight Indian tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin – including the Mille Lacs Band – under treaty rights established 178 years ago.

But the DNR is preparing to shut down walleye season on the lake as both the angling and American Indian communities creep toward their limits. It's happening in part because of "unprecedented" levels of fishing seen over Fourth of July weekend, prompting concerns over the effect on Mille Lacs businesses dependent on tourism during the summer season.

FOX 9 reports resort owners on the lake received notice from the DNR to prepare for the suspension of walleye fishing possibly as soon as this coming Monday.

Dayton meanwhile is attempting to convene a special session of the legislature this summer to discuss potential state aid for affected businesses.

Explanations, tensions over vanishing walleye

The number of walleye in the lake have reached historic lows, the DNR has said, with too many young walleye failing to survive to help replenish overall stocks.

DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira told FOX 9 changes in water clarity and warm temperatures have been affecting stocks for the past decade.

The Star Tribune reports that although state scientists say netting isn't causing walleye to vanish from the lake, the tight limits and prospect of a fishing ban has caused tensions to rise between businesses, anglers and the Ojibwe.

"I can tell the Mille Lacs boys are upset and the resort owners are upset," Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission spokeswoman Sue Erickson told the newspaper, adding: "Nobody will ever be able to convince some of these folks that [Indian band] netting isn’t the villain in this circumstance."

Next Up

Great Dane Rescue and Sanctuary

Emaciated Great Danes rescued after being found living in minivan

Great Dane Rescue of Minnesota and Wisconsin posted that two of the dogs are in "rough condition" and "barely hanging on."

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 10.28.52 AM

2 years since George Floyd's killing, Biden signs exec order on policing

The signing comes on the second anniversary of Floyd's murder by police in south Minneapolis.


Lutsen Mountains owner to buy Michigan ski resort

The Skinner family has operated alpine ski areas in the Midwest for 60 years.


Mayo Clinic, CDC address concerns over monkeypox in the US

The CDC does not currently think there is a significant threat to the general public.

police tape

Charges: Man killed brother, left body in homemade camper for 7 months

James Robert Hess, 48, faces second-degree murder charges for the death of his 52-year-old brother, William Harold Hess Jr.


Minnesota forecast: Hot, humid and severe storm chances

Bring Me The News meteorologist Sven Sundgaard says right now the best chance for storms looks like Sunday/Sunday night.

Thai Cultural Council of Minnesota

Minnesota's biggest Thai festival to be hosted in front of State Capitol

The Thai New Year, or Songkran, is one of the most celebrated holidays in Thailand.

police tape, crime scene

Man dies after being shot in the head in St. Cloud

Investigators believe the suspects fled the scene in a vehicle.


Uvalde school massacre: MN Democrats call for action, Republicans prayers

The tragedy in Texas has sparked different reactions from Minnesota's congressional delegation.

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 7.11.05 AM

St. Cloud man fires shot at police in hours-long standoff, surrenders

Shawn Lawrence Jacobs, 37, was arrested just before 4 p.m. Tuesday after he surrendered.

New baby zebra at the Como Zoo.

St. Paul's Como Zoo welcomes new baby zebra

The baby is yet to be named, and the zoo is planning an event for visitors to help with the decision.