ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Business owners on Mille Lacs Lake have mixed feelings about new state rules prohibiting late-night walleye fishing expeditions.
Terry Thurmer, who owns Terry's Boat Harbor, a marina and launch service, said night trips made up roughly 70 percent of his business over the last 25 years. Those trips are popular with anglers who drive two hours north from the Twin Cities area to fish the big lake after work.
This year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources extended the regular four-week early season night fishing ban through the full season, requiring fishermen to get off the lake by 10 p.m.
“This is terrible,” Thurmer told Minnesota Public Radio News.
Mille Lacs Lake has been called the crown jewel of the state's large-lake walleye fishery. But right now, the walleye population is at a 40-year low, and this year's walleye kill limit is about 60,000 pounds.
DNR fisheries supervisor Rick Bruesewitz, who manages Mille Lacs, said the night ban clips off the most productive part of the fishing day and keeps more fish in the lake.
“Even if we take the same amount of effort and move it to before the night closure, you end up catching fewer fish,” he said.
Tribal members from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are allowed to net fish from the lake, but Bruesewitz said the practice isn't responsible for declining walleye numbers. Researchers are considering climate change and competition from other species.
Terry McQuoid, who runs launch cruises from McQuoid's Inn, said a night ban will keep the fish population healthy.
“It's just slowing the catch,” he said.
He's a 40-year fishing veteran of the lake and avoids night fishing.
“It makes it too easy fishing at night,” McQuoid said.
By next season, DNR researchers say they will have a better sense of how the night ban affects walleye numbers and whether the ban will be extended.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, www.mprnews.org