Negative perception is probably the biggest nemesis that the Mille lacs area battles.
The media (local paper excluded) will almost always look for the negative slant to the story.
For the last several years, every story I’ve seen on Mille Lacs Walleye fishing usually uses the headline “Crisis.”
Even when they were reporting that the fishing was so fantastic that the quota was being met early, same headline: “Crisis.”
In the past, Mille Lacs was known as the “home of the quarter pounder,” and the general public believed that all there was in the lake were 1/4 pound walleyes. Of course, we know now that a couple of good year classes can increase the amount of 1/4 pound walleyes but only for a short time. Yet the label stuck for many years. The next and most often used was the “Dead Sea,” which of course came from some slim years of harvest, and that of course meant there were no fish left. For decades when the fishing was slow, the label would resurface. Now if you hear the label it is usually followed by a “yeah, right” and some laughter. Mille Lacs is an absolutely incredible world class fishery, period. Some of us do not agree with management actions but have no doubt, for the time being, that this lake is one of the best in the nation for numerous species.
Mille Lacs is a seasonal area that relies on tourists and cabin owners to be in the area; no matter the activities that the tourist chooses, they are the main reason most of us exist here.
These are the people that are most affected by the negative perception that seems to hang over all of us like a storm.
As of late, there are a number of matters with the City of Isle and the County that will and are bringing a wave of negative perception. I encourage all of you to speak up about your concerns and do some research on your own as well.
I applaud this publication for putting the Reservation situation and the State’s about-face on its front page.
There are many questions floating around, and everyone needs to know the facts. I trust both sides will be heard from and present reasonable answers to reasonable questions.
In the meantime, life will go on, and we will enter into our next summer season. The tourists and cabin owners will be back, the anglers will be smashing fish on the water and we locals will be working to accommodate all of them.
Some of them come up for the first time and realize the perception they had was completely wrong. I don’t think Mille Lacs will ever completely shed all the negative perception, so maybe we should just stay out of the news. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Guest columnist Steve Johnson is a local businessman and member of the Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee, Eastside Township Board Chair, Mille Lacs County Planning Commission, Mille Lacs Tourism Treasurer.