Protesters mad about walleye ban hound governor on Mille Lacs

ISLE, Minn. — Minnesota’s governor canceled a meeting with business owners at Lake Mille Lacs after protesters in boats encircled him on the central-Minnesota lake to protest a temporary ban on walleye fishing.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was with a group fishing for bass on Mille Lacs on Saturday when about 75 protesters encircled him.

Walleye fishing — even catch-and-release — is prohibited on the lake until late this month. The DNR says it is trying to protect walleyes from hooking mortality, the problem of fish dying after they’re released.

Dayton spokesman Sam Fettig said the governor was expecting the protest but decided not to go ahead with the meeting because the protesters were shouting, surrounded the boat and made it difficult to fish. Dayon said he didn’t want to “reinforce that kind of destructive behavior.”

Many anglers and resort owners say the walleye population is again strong on Mille Lacs, pointing out that it had been a banner year for catch-and-release of walleyes before the recent complete shutdown on Mille Lacs. (Walleye fishing on the lake closed late July 6 and will reopen the morning of July 28.)

While walleye fishing has been under siege on Mille Lacs in recent years, bass fishing – particularly for smallmouths – has boomed in recent years, culminating with the announcement June 29 that the fishery was named Bassmaster Magazine’s No. 1 bass-fishing lake in the country, up from No. 6 last year. Dayton said he was fishing Saturday to promote that fact and the lake’s bass-fishing opportunities.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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