MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tourists are finding their way back to a popular Minnesota lake despite another season of catch and release restrictions on walleye.
For the second year in a row, anglers cannot keep any walleye from Lake Mille Lacs. The DNR restrictions have had a real impact on the businesses in the area who rely on tourism.
This year, a new season brings renewed optimism. The Memorial Day weekend also marked the bass fishing opener and tourists are quickly learning that the lake also has a reputation as a good bass fishing lake.
“It’s nice to see more bass fishermen coming, that’s always great, too,” said Tina Chapman, owner of Chapman’s Mille Lacs Resort and Guide Service.
For the first time in three years, resort owner Tina Chapman senses more optimism amongst the resort community leading into the busy season.
A push to promote bass fishing is catching on, signaling a change after walleye restrictions kept customers away.
“We’ve been fishing for bass for years. It’s just that we have the big tournament, and what not, so it’s becoming more known, which is great,” Chapman said.
Last fall, Mille Lacs played host to one of bass fishing’s biggest tournaments known as the Bassmaster Tournament. The event brought people in from around the country and word of its success has spread.
Chapman said she’s getting new customers from out of state who are staying longer than a typical booking. It’s helping to fill the space left vacant by walleye fisherman who are staying away from the lake during the restrictions.
“We’re looking to attract those visitors and they’re looking for us too. They don’t have some of those opportunities,” Chapman said while speaking of some of her out of state tourists.
After four decades of fishing on Mille Lacs, Tim Anderson, who owns a home in the area, has also noticed the shift on the water.
“You see the bass boats, the bigger bass boats, you know, the guys that are doing that, so you just know that that’s what they’re after,” said Tim Anderson.
This weekend, he and his friends welcomed the quiet waters of a cold bass fishing opener knowing it’s only temporary.
“I think it’s a good thing that people are still coming up for the, you know, all the businesses and stuff, to keeps everything going, it’s a real good thing for them,” Anderson said.
And make no mistake, anglers are still catching walleye in the lake. Tim and his friends pulled in a 3 pound while fishing from a dock.
“The walleye fishing is really good,” Anderson said.
The Bassmaster Tournament will be held on Mille Lacs for a second year in September upping the lakes notoriety on the bass fishing circuit.