Lawmakers still skeptical of Mille Lacs walleye session

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Posted 1:56 p.m.

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Many of the state lawmakers on a working group aimed at helping businesses around Lake Mille Lacs remain skeptical of a special session.

The group met again Wednesday to discuss how to react to the state’s decision to close walleye fishing season early on the lake.

Gov. Mark Dayton wants to call a special session to help businesses. But Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, pressed the DNR to reopen the lake to walleye fishing.

“I think that is a very good short-term solution because these resorts are experiencing immediate harm, and I don’t think we can help them fast enough,” he said.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said he would consider the request but said the prospects of extending the season are grim.

He said reopening the lake to walleye fishing doesn’t solve the problem and isn’t based on sound science.

“The ones that we take today are going to impact the production of walleyes again next year, so it becomes one of these long-term issues that feels good in the short-term but it doesn’t do much in the long-term,” Landwehr said.

Landwehr also said the tribal governments would have to sign off on reopening the lake because they have an agreement on the annual quota.

That’s unlikely to happen.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Jim Zorn with the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission said tribes don’t support reopening Mille Lacs to walleye fishing this year.

Lawmakers said they’d like to find a way to help businesses without the need for a special session. But several of Dayton’s commissioners say the Legislature needs to give them authority before they can spend money to help the resort owners.