Dayton floats special session for Mille Lacs resorts

The dock at the Shah Bush Kung boat landing
Dan Kraker | MPR News file

The possibility of a shortened season on Minnesota's premier walleye fishing lake may lead to a special session of the state Legislature.

A statement from Gov. Mark Dayton's office said the governor talked with top legislative leaders Tuesday about a special session in August to provide disaster relief to Mille Lacs resorts if the walleye season closes.

Surveys in July on estimated walleye harvests showed the lake was within 3,000 pounds of reaching the annual limit set by the state. That was a dramatic change from June 30, when surveys estimated 15,300 pounds remained.

Dayton spoke with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt this evening about the possibility of a special session. The statement from Dayton's deputy chief of staff Linden Zakula said they "expressed initial receptivity and readily agreed that, in the event of a walleye fishing closing, the serious consequences would warrant a special session to provide financial assistance."

Zakula said Dayton and his staff have been working to design a financial aid package "which could consist of zero interest loans, property tax abatements, and additional tourism advertising and promotion funds."

In a statement, Daudt, a Republican from Crown, said the "threat of a shorter walleye season on Mille Lacs is very concerning. I suggested to the governor earlier today that we put together a working group of commissioners, committee chairs and policy experts to meet in the next few days. Together we will examine the problem and determine the best solution."

Dayton will meet with members of the Mille Lacs tourism board Wednesday. He plans to travel to Mille Lacs Friday for a public meeting, details of which have not been set.

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