Protecting the Mille Lacs Smallmouth…One Fish and One Project at a Time!

Without a doubt, Mille Lacs Lake is one of the premier smallmouth fisheries in the country. It has recently drawn attention from not only some of the largest bass fishing organizations, but also anglers nationwide who are traveling hundreds of miles just for a chance at the bronze treasures that hide below its surface. One group is working diligently to make sure this gem of the north stays exactly that, a gem.

The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA) is focused on working with the Minnesota DNR, local resorts, and anglers to ensure the protection of the smallmouth population. But that is not all they are up to, the MLSA has also played a large role in supporting youth fishing initiatives like the Student Angler Tournament Trail. By understanding that getting these young bass anglers involved in catch, record, release formats is a great way to teach the next generation of anglers how to compete while also ensuring the health of the fish and fishery.

One of the MLSA’s biggest victories was reducing the smallmouth bass limit on Mille Lacs while also imposing a slot to make sure big fish were protected. Brad Hawthorne cited that this was just the beginning and he hopes to one day potentially see even smaller limits or potentially no keeping of bass at all, much like the current walleye structure. He said although there was some initial pushback from local resorts who feared without the ability to keep any fish guests would stop coming, the qualms were quickly subdued when bass anglers from across the country began filling up rooms and cabins hoping for a chance at a trophy brown bass.

Brad, who also guides on Mille Lacs said he’s seeing more out of state boats and trailers than ever before, even telling us about a couple Oklahoma anglers he met at the ramp just recently who drove all the way up to Northern Minnesota just for the weekend because they had heard so many magical things about Mille Lacs and had to see it for themselves.

For those who are wondering how they can support the MLSA, memberships start at just $5 for youth and $20 for adults, with more options to join at

If you are looking at competing in an exciting bass tournament, be sure to check out the Bronzeback Big Bass Classic.  This event will be held on Saturday, August 22nd on Lake Mille Lacs and will allow anglers to fish the event out of any ramp on the lake and submit a smallmouth each hour for the hourly big bass awards.

More details and to register for the tournament are on the .  There will be an adult and youth division (16 years old and younger), with a $40 and $25 entry fee, respectively.  If the competing angler is not a member of the MLSA, their entry fee will include a complimentary yearlong membership to the MLSA.

You can also shop MLSA and “Free the Fighter” merchandise on the website and learn how you could qualify for a free life-sized print of your next Mille Lacs trophy smallmouth. While you’re on the website, be sure to check out the events and news page to see what the MLSA has coming up including tournaments, partnerships, and more.