Dayton faced with protesters on Lake Mille Lacs following Walleye ban

Governor Mark Dayton faced protesters on Lake Mille Lacs on Saturday after a temporary ban on Walleye fishing. After getting off the lake, the governor canceled a meeting with business owners in the area.

Boats full of protesters circled the governor’s boat as he tried to draw attention to the nationally recognized bass fishing in Lake Mille Lacs.

Protesters oppose the current three week ban on walleye fishing. The ban will be in effect until July 27, in an attempt to preserve the breed’s population.

“We couldn’t catch a fish because we had these boats circling around us,” Governor Dayton told Fox 9. “I’m here to emphasize the positive. I’m here to talk about the positive fishing in Mille Lacs.”

Signs of the increasingly popular bass fishing were not hard to find on the lake. Bass boats and fishermen not part of the protest were scattered across most of the lake.

But, for the walleye industry, recent bans and limitations have hurt business.

Resort owner Greg Thomas said his profits have dropped by 75 percent in recent years.

“This bass fishing is all about people with their beautiful ranger boats,” said Thomas. “They come up and they put nothing in our economy.”

While he supports conservation, he worries current plans stop short of a solution.

“If I could talk to Dayton today, I would say ‘let people harvest fish, there are plenty of fish in this lake,’” said Thomas.

Even catch and release fishing is currently prohibited on the lake, due to recent problems of fish dying after they’re released. This issue, called hooking mortality, is something the DNR is trying to tackle head-on with this ban.