MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The DNR has a plan to get Lake Mille Lacs back on track.
They’ve created a panel of national experts to look at management practices in hopes of increasing the lake’s walleye numbers.
“I’ve been here going on 25 years now, and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Terry Thurmer.
Thurmer is the owner of Terry’s Boat Harbor on Lake Mille Lacs, and as walleye numbers have dropped, so has business.
“You’re getting the same story everywhere,” he said. “Nobody’s coming up here.”
That is why the DNR recently created a panel of national experts to look into the problem.
“We might have had a one-third drop in productivity for walleye production,” said DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira.
He thinks the decline in Mille Lacs walleyes could be attributed to everything from water quality, to invasive species, to a growing number of walleye predators in the lake.
And he’s hoping the new panel can reel in the problem before it’s too late.
“From their first year through to their next fall, their second fall in the lake, we are not seeing them survive at the rate they used to,” Pereira said.
He added taht it won’t take long to figure out the walleye problem on Lake Mille Lacs, but it will take longer to figure out how to fix it.
One thing Pereira doesn’t think is responsible for the walleye drop is tribal netting.
But Thurmer disagrees.
Thurmer also believes the current slot has created a lake full of bigger fish, and re-stocking Mille Lacs is the only way to bring it back.
“If they are calling in these experts and if they can fix the problem, they should have done this 10 years ago,” Thurmer said.
Pereira said the lake hasn’t produced a strong walleye class in six years.
He said while fishing remains excellent on Mille Lacs for a lot of fish species, it could be years before the smaller walleye population returns to full strength.