Garrison area residents expressed concern with news that state and tribal officials will slash the maximum walleye harvest from Mille Lacs Lake in half this year.
Linda Eno, owner of Twin Pines Resort, predicted her business would be 50 to 75 percent down as a result of the limited harvest.
“There are anglers that are so fed up with this that they won’t come back to Mille Lacs,” Eno said. “The process is flawed. It’s been flawed for 15 years.
“I’m disgusted after living with a process for 15 years that has been flawed and has affected the total economy of the lake, has affected my own personal livelihood and has affected Minnesota’s amazing natural resources.”
The Associated Press reported this week state and tribal officials have agreed to cut the maximum walleye harvest from Mille Lacs to 250,000 pounds compared to 500,000 pounds last year. The quota will be cut for both sport and tribal anglers. Regulations for the next fishing season are expected to be issued in April after proposals are presented to Mille Lacs stakeholders in late February.
Sue Foster, a Garrison City Council member, said she is not a serious angler and but acknowledged that natural resources experts should do whatever was necessary to protect the resource.
“If they’re trying to slash it (the walleye quota) I think the rules should be kind of across the board,” Foster said.
Dan Eigen — also known as Walleyedan — of Walleyedan’s Guide Service in Nisswa, said slashing the walleye harvest in half on Mille Lacs Lake won’t deeply affect his fishing guide business because he takes his customers out on many other lakes in the Brainerd area, not just Mille Lacs Lake. However, he said that there are people who enjoy fishing Mille Lacs Lake because of its size and anglers have a better chance of catching bigger walleyes on average.
“Mille Lacs Lake is the Minnesota crown jewel for walleyes,” said Eigen. “So with that said, the new quotas are really sad.”
Eigen said he feels for the business owners on Mille Lacs Lake.
“The fishing industry is the rise and the fall of these businesses around the big lake,” said Eigen. “When you have a restricted slot limit, people have to take less and this could keep a lot of people from going there. But there are people who are fine with catch and release, and don’t forget, there are other species in the big lake.”
Eigen said he has faith that the DNR is “doing the best they can with the resources they have and things will come around. They have to take a lot of heat from people, but when you have this many lakes in this area it is hard to regulate all things, all the time. There will be many questions about the new regulations.”
Eigen said 75 percent of his customers are happy just to catch fish, not necessarily for a meal.
Professional Angler Richie Boggs, who has been a fishing guide for more than 25 years and on the professional tournament circuit for the last 10 years, said Mille Lacs Lake is one of the best fishing lakes in the world.
“I’ve made a lot of memories for people on that lake,” said Boggs. “I’m not sure how the 2012 season overall went, but I had the best fishing of my life last year on Mille Lacs.
“Usually our customers will go anywhere we say we will go and I range from Leech Lake to Mille Lacs. People like to go there (the bigger lakes) for the trophy fish.”
Boggs said the DNR staff are the experts on regulating the fishing industry and he will go with whatever they decide.
“I’m staying positive about the new walleye quotas,” said Boggs. “It doesn’t scare me, the DNR will figure it out.”
Boggs said that people need to remember that fishing is not always about eating the fish.
“There is still catch and release,” he said. “That is what we do anyway.”