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Mille Lacs Lake

Mille Lacs Lake

Photo: Mille Lacs Lake, located in Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN. Photographed by user:Dougtone (own work), 2011, [cc-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed September, 2021.

It is located in the counties of Mille Lacs, Aitkin, and Crow Wing.

This 132,516 acre-lake [1] covers 207 square miles and is Minnesota's second-largest inland lake. Located just an 1½ to 2 hours from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, Mille Lacs provides a quick opening for a fun weekend getaway.

Mille Lacs Lake is best known for its phenomenal walleye catch rates but also offers several other trophy fishing opportunities. During the winter, venture out on the lake for a fast-paced walleye bite, catch a few tullibee or fish for some trophy northern pike. During the summer, you may hook into a trophy smallmouth bass, muskellunge or northern pike.

Mille Lacs Lake and its surrounding communities offer visitors fish and a whole lot more.

The Mille Lacs Lake [2] area is rich in natural resources, with a long history of different communities using these resources for socially, culturally and economically important reasons. The lake has undergone a variety of human and ecological changes since Euro-American settlement. Knowledge of these changes throughout history is important in order to understand current issues surrounding management of the lake today.

The Mille Lacs Lake region has been home to indigenous communities for hundreds of years. Long before Europeans arrived, the Dakota and shortly thereafter the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) lived here. Despite initial peace and cooperation between the Dakota and the Ojibwe, competition for resources led to decades of conflict that gradually displaced the Dakota from the region. In 1837, before Minnesota was a state, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and several other tribes signed a treaty that ceded lands, including Lake Mille Lacs, to the United States government and opened the area to Euro-American immigration and economic development. The tribes signed the Treaty of 1837 on the condition that they would still have the right to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territory – rights that have been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Exercising these rights remains important to the Ojibwe people as they pass these traditions onto future generations. In the late 1800s, many Ojibwe in Minnesota were moved by government forces to the White Earth reservation, but some, including the Non-Removable Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, resisted relocation and remained.

Utilization of the fish resources on Mille Lacs Lake evolved through time. Native Americans inhabiting the area used the resources for subsistence. With Euro-American colonization, commercial fisheries were established through the late 1800s. In 1895, the first regulations limiting harvest were enacted due to overharvest concerns. When railroads expanded to the area, access opened to sport anglers from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and industry expanded to serve this clientele. The commercial fishery closed in the 1920s, at least partially due to competition with the developing sport fishery. Initially the sport fishery was very oriented to consumptive uses, but today much of the sport fishery is catch-and-release. However, there is still a desire among some sport anglers to harvest fish. Cultural differences continue to influence how the fishery is used and viewed.

  1. www.dnr.state.mn.us, accessed September, 2021.
  2. Mille Lacs Lake Management Plan, 2021 draft, files.dnr.state.mn.us, accessed September, 2021.