MILLE LACS LAWSUIT: Residents sue DNR over walleye harvest cuts - KMSP-TV

MILLE LACS LAWSUIT: Residents sue DNR over walleye harvest cuts

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The controversy over the severe cuts to the walleye harvest at Mille Lacs Lake is heading to the courtroom now that a group of residents is suing the Department of Natural Resources for mismanagement.

On Thursday, attorney Erick Kaardal said the DNR did not consider a state constitutional amendment on the fishing and hunting heritage in Minnesota when it set the walleye management plan for Lake Mille Lacs.

FOX 9 ARCHIVE: DNR reduces slot size, limit for walleye

Kaardal explained that the residents he represents believe non-tribal Minnesotans are being treated unfairly, especially business owners that rely on walleye anglers.

Currently, anglers are only allowed to take two walleye measuring between 18-20 inches, which means the large fish the lake is famous for must be released if caught. In an attempt to encourage other sport fishing at the lake, the DNR expanded the slot size and limits for small mouth bass.

The reductions came after the DNR halved the walleye harvest quota in 2013 after the population dipped to its lowest number in 40 years in 2012.

The Mille Lacs-area residents behind the lawsuit argue that allowing Ojibwe bands to spear and net walleye while they spawn has decimated the population; however, the agency has previously stated that fishing during the spawning season has a negligible impact.

"Fishery scientists have known for a long time now that it doesn't matter what time of year you kill a fish," Don Pereia, with the DNR, told Fox 9 News. "It depends on how many fish you are taking."

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said agency officials can't comment on the lawsuit, but he did say that biologists are continuing to search for the cause of the population decline.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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