Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Lake Mille Lacs has been known for decades as a Minnesota summer hotspot. But this year, businesses around the lake are saying it’s been one of their worst summers ever.
It’s gotten so bad that a popular restaurant with a 90-year history is shutting its doors. The Blue Goose Inn bar will stay open, but officials said the restaurant is closing and being replaced by a Burger King and Broadway Pizza.
The lake is historically known for its fishing. But this year, the DNR has new restrictions on what people can keep, and what you have to throw back. You can keep just two walleye, but only if they’re between 18 and 20 inches. Last year, it was 17 inches and under.
The owner of Gregory’s Resort says the changes are scaring away anglers, and says he’s lost about $60,000 thousand dollars in business.
“I don’t know what the future is for Mille Lacs, I really don’t,” said Greg Thomas, who has been in business for 23 years. “We’re down about 100 percent during the week and 70 percent on weekends. You go out there and catch fish but we can’t keep any. The slot has just killed us this year.”
Thomas is far from alone. Terry Thurmer owns Terry’s Harbor. He says he used to see 300 boats come through on a weekend. This past weekend, there were only 18.
“It’s the worst summer I’ve ever seen,” Thurmer said.
Thurmer said this year on average for every 10 fish an angler catches, you can only keep one.
“Never before have we had fishing this good and business this bad. We’ve had it from day one with the two inch slot and people aren’t coming here because of it,” he said.
Thurmer also said he blames tribal netting during the walleye spawn for the reason the walleyes are struggling on Lake Mille Lacs, but the DNR said there are other factors involved. They cut the walleye quota in half this year for the harvest.
For the Blue Goose Inn and other area businesses, it all comes down to fishing. Even bait shops have less as some business owners have gone from buying seven pounds of leaches per week to half that every two weeks.