(Dec 4, 2015) Isle, Minn. — Local homeowners, business owners and concerned anglers have joined forces in Minnesota to form a new non-profit organization: the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance. Recently electing a dedicated board of directors, the organization is starting work on its mission. This non-profit (pending official 501c3 status) is dedicated to rebuilding, preserving and maintaining Mille Lacs as a world-class trophy smallmouth bass fishery. The work includes educating fishermen, local businesses and visitors to the lake about the benefits of catch and release and advocating (with conservation officials) for sound bass-management practices. The organization has set forth a premise that a healthy, trophy smallmouth bass fishery contributes to the economic vitality of the Mille Lacs Lake area through added tourism dollars.

For example, B.A.S.S. recently announced its Angler of the Year tournament will travel to Mille Lacs in September of 2016. The economic impact will provide over $3.4 million to the region. This improves overall property values and maintains a robust community. Taking care of a precious natural resource is just the right thing to do.​

“We’ve done a lot of initial work to get organized,” said Jim DaRosa, serving as the first President of the new Alliance. “We have a board of directors in place consisting of local anglers and business owners. People are coming together to create a unified voice.” A website is now live at www.milleleacssmallmouthalliance.com with the honorary board members including: Al Lindner, Ron Lindner, Ron Schara, Mark Zona and James Lindner.

In addition to DaRosa, a smallmouth guide and tournament angler, the other officers include George Liddle, Ranger/Stratos Boats manufacturer’s representative and tournament bass angler, as Vice President, and Linda Dahlen, avid outdoorswoman and Chamber board member, as Secretary/Treasurer. The remaining board members include: Justin Baldwin with Hunters Point Resort, Scott Bonnema founder of Classic Bass, Jason Holmer with Bass Utopia, Terry McQuoid with McQuoid’s Inn and Resort, Janet Parker, professional bass angler, Tony Roach of Roach’s Guide Service , Mark Schutz of Schutz Guide Service and Brian Wood, avid bass and tournament angler. All board members own homes and/or businesses in the Mille Lacs area.

“There are very few smallmouth fisheries on the planet that offer catch rates and size classes like Mille Lacs Lake. It is truly a ‘must go’ or ‘bucket list’ destination for anglers across the country,” said board member Tony Roach, long time guide and host of the Tony Roach Outdoors television show. “It would be an absolute tragedy to see this resource vanish. The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance will be a great organization ensuring this world-class fishery is here for generations to come.”

Additional work is planned in the months ahead:

  • Free the Fighter flyers will be printed and distributed to area resorts that are catch and release “bass friendly.”
  • A BRONZEBACK BLOWOUT event will be the Alliance’s first fundraiser, slated for Saturday, April 23, 2016 at McQuoid’s Inn and Resort in Isle, Minnesota. Save the date.
  • During the Northwest Sportshow (March 30-April 3) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance will have an informational booth at the show educating anglers on catch and release and accepting membership applications.

The need for the organization came out of changing regulations on Mille Lacs over the last few years; the change in the creel limit of smallmouth bass created an urgent cry to minimize the harvest. “We need to focus on two main things: educate anglers about the importance of catch and release and to advocate with the DNR for Mille Lacs’ smallmouth regulations,” board member George Liddle said. Throughout the rest of the state, the bass season is limited to catch and release in the month of May and from mid-September through end of February. The current Mille Lacs regulations allow six per person in possession with one over 18 inches and the May and winter months allow a daily possession. “We want to have the same season as the rest of the state,” Liddle continued. “We’re already seeing signs of over harvest.”

“This is a very special fishery with national significance to bass anglers everywhere. It’s just incredible,” said DaRosa. “Mille Lacs needs to be protected. It may take several years [for the DNR’s work] to restore walleye to the levels they once were; we want to be proactive and make sure the smallmouth are healthy and sustainable while the walleye population is being restored.”  The Alliance is not about petty, divisive politics. World-class walleye and smallmouth bass fisheries can co-exist with proper management.

The work of establishing a non-profit business, electing a board of directors, applying for 501(c)3 status, creating a logo and building a website are all initial steps in the right direction. “We discovered there are other smallmouth alliances across the country that share similar goals,” DaRosa said. “They have been a great source of knowledge and provided us with direction. We are thankful to the Wisconsin and Missouri Smallmouth Alliance organizations in particular.”

Mille Lacs has been consistently included in the top ten of smallmouth bass fisheries across the country. In this article by Wired2Fish, Mille Lacs ranked number four overall: www.scout.com/outdoors/wired2fish/story/1573452-2015-top-15-smallmouth-bass-lakes.

Check out www.millelacssmallmouthalliance.com or email Jim DaRosa, president at info@millelacssmallmouthalliance.com. MLSA is pending final approval from the IRS for its 501c3 non-profit status. The organization was founded in October of 2015 in the State of Minnesota.

Logo courtesy of Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance

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  • MN Steward

    The trouble with Mille Lacs is the trophy everything…. There won’t be a world class walleye fishery there again with the protection of all the Giants. It’s BS to say the muskies, northerns, and smallies aren’t eating the walleyes. “They prefer soft finned minnows instead”…. I’ve heard it a thousand times. Of course that is true. But, guess what? If there isn’t enough soft finned minnows for all these “trophies” they will eat whatever they can. A fish needs to eat 1/5 of its body weight per day in order to stay the same size! They need at least 1/4 in order to grow at a respectable rate. We know fish on Mille Lacs grow at an excelerated rate so we know they are eating. If they eat perch so readily, why wouldn’t they eat walleyes too? In the heydays of Mille Lacs we would see schools of minnows the size of city block! You do not see anything even remotely close to that anymore and you haven’t for over a decade. I know the Mille Lacs “pros” will argue they do see big schools of bait sometimes… Of course you do that’s what they do. If they are in there at all you will see that. But not close to what it should be or was. A good place now to fish walleyes ALL year is in the shallow rocks. Use a crayfish pattern. Bring a lot of jigs, you should lose a bunch if you’re doing it right. There are numbers of big walleyes that are starving, shrinking (yes a fish can shrink for awhile, but then organ failure kills them) and turning over rocks to get after the crayfish. BECAUSE THEY ARE STARVING AND CANT FIND ENOUGH MINNOWS! There are also pros that claim the regs have brought about the ten to twelve pounders. That there weren’t fish over eight pounds before…. Sorry to argue and shine the light on the fact that these pros were just not finding the big ones. They have to protect their “pro” status I guess. ALL of my 56 years we have been able to catch the giants. I have personally witnessed my uncle fill two golden stringers (all over ten pounds) back in the late 1960s (limit was six). There has always been “trophies” in Mille Lacs. What there was not was a huge smallmouth population of giants, but there were some. Their was not the monster muskies and northerns either. You would sometimes see some big ones but not like now. We have said for twenty years that the next world record Muskie is going to come out of Mille Lacs, and it has just recently. I have seen two 70 inchers sunning in the shallow (2 FOW) sand in the spring. You cannot blame fishing either because the actual numbers are little more than they were 30 years ago and with the reduced limits and slots that were imposed a ton of fish are not kept. Meaning they are dying and not by being eaten by people. They are either starving to death, which we have seen evidence of with the thousands of big walleyes that washed up on Garrison shores. After studying the fish they found no conclusive evidence as to why they died because they had no contents in their bellies to test. WTF! Thousands of giant walleyes dead, all at the same time. Millions spent on finding out why. Nothing in their stomachs. DDDUUUHHHHHH! If this alliance is for the right reasons they will lobby to legislate a legitimate fisheries science back to the lake and stop worrying about the short term impact on their “profession” which is really a gift to them because they are doing it on a lake that will pave your way if you just show up everyday and fish. I’m afraid though this alliance will just be to protect the fishing pros and not the fisheries.

    • Big meat

      Well said.