MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lake Mille Lacs has a reputation of being a premiere walleye fishing destination. But many who live along the lake say it should be known for much more.

“Mille Lacs at the time when I was growing up was known more as the fishing lake, but that’s evolved over the years,” Mille Lacs Island Resort General Manager Jodi Kanera said. “If you come into my resort you’ll see a lot of pontoons. Ninety percent of my people are families that are looking for recreation. You know, 50 percent may not even fish.”

Mille Lacs Island Resort is 56 acres of land on the sound end of the lake on Wahkon Bay.

“There’s paddle boats at people’s sites, there’s kayaks,” Kanera said.

She says her residents are focusing on all Lake Mille Lacs has to offer.

“There’s plenty to do up here, you’ve just got to expand your horizons,” fisherman John Haspell said.

Haspell says people have to think outside the box to have fun. His concern is about the businesses suffering because of the ban.

“When we come up here on weekends, usually the towns — Wahkon and Isle — are pretty full, but this weekend it was pretty dead,” Haspell said.

We also noticed a number of cabins and some houses for sale. While some are looking to move, locals hope others rediscover what the area has to offer.

“There’s plenty of stuff to do up here,” resident Kyle Rizner said. “The Soo Line [trail] hooks up and you can get all the way to, like, forever. You can get all the way to Duluth from here.”

Trails, boating or just watching nature — locals want people to know Lake Mille Lacs is still vibrant and ready for guests.

The Mille Lac Area Tourism Council released a statement saying it is disheartened that the conversations about aid to the area have abruptly come to an end.

Gov. Mark Dayton had hoped to have a special session to pass an aid package next week.

Reg Chapman