Low walleye numbers end season

by Jared Rogers-Martin

One fish, two fish. Red fish … no fish. The fishermen and resort owners around Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake have met the limit for the number of walleye that can be caught this season.
With the early closing of the walleye season, resort owners are raising arms and touting lines to Gov. Mark Dayton’s office for a bailout that would help ease their assumed financial hit. Such a bailout would shift the conversation about the walleye’s ecosystem toward saving the econo-system of people’s wallets.
Let’s not forget that these fishing resorts can still stay open despite the premature closure to the walleye season. Walleye might be the most popular fish in the sport, but I assure you there are other fish in the … Mille Lacs Lake. Despite the concern over walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass numbers are still right where they should be. 
Local business owners are overhyping their crippling fears about an early end to the walleye season. The problem here is not about jobs and profits in the Mille Lacs region — it is about Minnesota’s ability to adequately promote fish conservation efforts.
Walleye levels in Mille Lacs are at a 30-year low. This is not an isolated incident that can be fixed with a one-time closure and bailout. The lake resorts crying about the lack of fish, a limited resource, are simply griping about a shortage that’s natural to their industry. Bailing them out for such a reason only sets a precedent for extending financial aid to industries that succumb to natural supply and demand fluctuations. 
Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources need to implement a plan to preserve the lake’s remaining fish with shorter, more restricted seasons in the future, instead of pitching a lifeline to save the resort owners at Mille Lacs Lake.