2016 Mille Lacs Regulations Deliver Mixed Results to Smallmouth Alliance

Following the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announcement of the Mille Lacs fishing regulations for the 2016 fishing season, numerous groups and individuals reactions began to come out.  We at Classic Bass fully support the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance, as we know just how valuable and special this fishery is.

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is a non-profit group that is dedicated to the rebuilding, preserving and maintaining the big lake’s world-class trophy bronzeback population, and encourages all concerned bass anglers to join the fight.

The day following the DNR’s 2016 regulation release, the Alliance issued their official statement and to get more feedback on this situation we spoke with their President, Jim DaRosa.  “We made some strides forward, but didn’t get everything we had hoped for following our February 24th presentation to the DNR, which we felt was compromising to both our goals and the Mille Lacs area needs.”

The meeting Jim referred to is when the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance presented their 2016 rules suggestions, which included:

Have a spring and fall catch and release season that matches the rest of the state when it comes to smallmouth

Change the daily creel limit to three bass under 15 inches, one over 21 inches

Continue to allow and issue special tournament permits

Support from the local stakeholders on Mille Lacs was received by the Alliance prior to this meeting; this was down by acquiring ten pages of signatures on a petition that supported the regulations that the Alliance was going to present.  “We only had three businesses say no, and I think one of them was actually a yes, so the support was there from the key stakeholders of the lake,” stated DaRosa.

“Our rule suggestions accomplished our goal of protecting the trophy bass in the lake, while still allowing anglers to harvest some fish, which we know the fishery is capable of handling as there is population boom of those smaller bass in the lake,” stated DaRosa.


At this meeting it was noted by the DNR to the public that the smallmouths have no and have had no effect on Mille Lacs walleye populations, this was at one time a rumored theory of why the walleye populations on the famed Minnesota walleye fishery were dwindling.

Studies have shown that it takes 4-6 years for a smallmouth bass to reach the 15 inch mark and 8-9 years to hit that key 17-18 inch level.  DaRosa feels that those 17 inch bass are the crucial building blocks to creating those trophy bass.   The 2016 regulations include a daily creel limit of four bass under 17 inches and one over 21.  “So yes, we’ve made ground by reducing the number of bass being harvested, but we were really hopping to protect those vital 17 inch fish,” said Jim.  “This just shows that our work as a committee has just begun!”

As many bass anglers in Minnesota experienced firsthand or saw via photos, the fall fishing that Mille Lacs offered in 2015 was incredible.  The number of 5-7 lb smallmouth that were caught and released by catch and released minded bass fisherman was astonishing.  This is why the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is frustrated that the DNR didn’t adopt the fall catch and release season that the rest of MN has in place for smallmouth.  “If it is good enough for the rest of Minnesota, why is not good enough for Mille Lacs?  What was this decision based on?  These are questions that DaRosa has for the DNR.”

As previously stated, protecting the lake’s smallmouth population benefits more than bass anglers who enjoy the tug of a trophy fish on the line, it mean’s revenue for the local economy.  The 2016 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship which will be held in September is already predicted to bring in $3.5 million to the local economy and this is just the direct economic impact.

“We want and foresee Mille Lacs becoming the Lake Fork, Falcon or Guntersville destination of the north,” stated Jim.  “The trickle down economic effects and benefits that the Lake and businesses will receive from the exposure of the nationally televised event will continue for many years to come, pending the fishery is protected.”

The Smallmouth Bass of Lake Mille Lacs off an opportunity for the local economy that must be recognized
The Smallmouth Bass of Lake Mille Lacs offer an opportunity for the local economy that must be recognized

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance has several major education campaigns planned for this season, including print advertising, flyers and the possibility of billboards also exist, but to be able to do all of this takes funding.  To acquire a large chunk of this funding the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance is holding a spring fundraiser, the first annual ‘Bronzeback Blow Out’ is set for Saturday, April 23, at McQuoids Inn and Resort in Isle.

“We have national figures Kim Stricker and Steve Pennaz attending, some big names in the Minnesota fishing circle are also planning on attending,” says DaRosa. “We are acquiring some great silent and live auctions, but the door is still open, so if you have something to donate, such as tackle, guide trips or other items, please let us know.”

If you have any questions on the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance, would like to discuss the Mille Lacs regulations, or become a member, the Alliance will have a booth at the Northwest Sportshow at the Minneapolis Convention Center March 30-April 3.

To read the complete Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance reaction to the Department of Natural Resources regulations,  link to:  https://mlsablogblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/responding-to-new-dnr-regulations

For more details on the Bronzeback Blow Out or to become a Member of Smallmouth Alliance you can visit their website.  Link to: Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance