Protesters Blockade and Drive Dayton Off Lake Mille Lacs

Gov. Mark Dayton said this week that resorts were so booked up–in spite of his administration’s meddling in the Lake Mille Lacs fishery–that he couldn’t get a reservation.

“I tried to get a hotel, motel reservation for tomorrow night, and they were booked. So, that’s a good sign,” the governor said Thursday.

The reason the lack of booking pleased him is because he was trying to get a weekend room in the Lake Mille Lacs area, which has been hard hit by a lack of iconic walleye fish in recent years. Walleye fishing was just shutdown for a three-week stretch on Thursdayand it’s been a season of catch-and-release for walleye anglers.

The Pioneer Press put a positive spin on the governor’s plight, playfully pointing out that Dayton didn’t “pull any strings” in order to get a room. There’s no indication Dayton’s story about no room at the resorts was a tall fish tale. But yesterday it became clear that the governor isn’t exactly welcome at some of the resorts and tourist-dependent businesses in the Land of Sky Blue Waters.

The governor showed up Saturday to promote bass fishing on the world’s best known walleye lake. He also hoped to patch up rocky relations with local businesses unhappy with what they view as Dayton’s mismanagement of the fishing resource.

But Dayton quickly found himself in some very choppy waters according to the Star Tribune’s account, blockaded by some 75 locals in boats protesting the DNR ban on walleyes.

Dayton was with a small group of people fishing for bass to promote the fishing that is still allowed at the lake after restrictions — including a ban on fishing walleye until July 28 — went into place Thursday. Dayton’s boat spent about 90 minutes on the water before heading back to land.

Passengers on roughly 25 boats displayed balloons and signs reading “REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION = TYRANNY” and “GOV. DAYTON STOP LAKE MILLE LACS POLITICS!Protesters

The grass roots resistance by resort and business owners blockading his bass fishing photo op was too much for Dayton, who abruptly cancelled his fishing trip and the meeting with local businesses. The governor who met with Black Lives Matters protesters and overlooked their blocking of I-94 on more than one occasion claimed he didn’t want to “reinforce that kind of destructive behavior.”

Dayton said he respects the protesters’ frustration, but he defended the ban as a way of preserving the struggling walleye population. He said he canceled Saturday’s meeting — which was going to include several Lake Mille Lacs-area business owners — because he didn’t want to “reinforce that kind of destructive behavior.” He said he would meet with them later.

Protesters included residents, business owners and resort customers, including one group of men who had planned a weekend of walleye fishing before they learned about the ban, said Linda Eno, owner of the Twin Pines Resort and one of the protest organizers.

Eno said the regulations will cost her resort about $40,000. She said the regulations were put in place for political reasons. For more than 20 years the state has managed the lake with Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe bands that net walleye but have been consistently under their quota.

Judging from Dayton’s humiliating retreat from Lake Mille Lacs, it’s no whopper to suggest the DFL still has a ways to go in reaching out to rural Minnesotans.