After halting walleye season, DNR loosens rules on Mille Lacs bass

Angler trolled at sunset.
A long angler trolled for fish as the sun sets over Lake Mille Lacs on July 30, 2015.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

One day after the DNR closed walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, the agency announced new rules designed to bring more bass fishing tournaments to the area.

Although it is known for its walleye, Mille Lacs was recently ranked as one of the top 10 smallmouth bass-fishing lakes in the country.

The changes announced Tuesday will allow anglers to replace smaller fish with larger ones they catch. So if they catch a fish that's larger than one they already have, they can keep it and throw back the smaller fish.

The DNR's Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant, said the change could help lure national fishing tournaments next year.

"We hope it brings more economic activity to the Mille Lacs area, which we want to encourage in any way that we can," he said.

Bass fishing guide Jim DaRosa said the change may help lure more tournaments. But he said he's concerned that relaxed regulations on Mille Lacs that allow bass anglers to keep six fish could decimate the fishery.

"What I don't want to see happen is the smallmouth fishery becoming one of those has-beens," he said. "Or, 'You should have seen it 10 years ago,' just like people are saying with the walleye."

The rule change will take effect in the next week or two.

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