The $1 million Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs will open Thursday with barely any hands-on presence by state or tribal natural resources officials.
Brad Parsons, Central Region fisheries manager for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said the Bassmaster Elite Series assigns its own conservation director to oversee handling of all fish. Each day of competition, the anglers take their top five catches for weigh-in at Grand Casino Mille Lacs. The live fish are then returned to the lake.
With high temperatures predicted in the 70s from Thursday through Sunday, Parsons said there is little worry of inadvertent fish kills. The touring pros normally fish in warmer conditions and their live wells and other equipment are top-notch, he said.
Like other bass tournaments on Mille Lacs, the state has agreed to waive the rule that calls for the immediate return to the lake of any bass in the 17- to 21-inch range.
Parsons said walleyes caught and released by the contestants will be factored into the DNR’s hooking mortality methodology. In cool weather, hooking mortality is lowest. Any mortality will count against Minnesota’s 2017 walleye quota, not against the tribal quota.
Parson said it’s no different for any other fishing tournament on Mille Lacs. A year ago, tournaments led to about 900 pounds of walleye hooking mortality. About half that was attributed to walleye competitions where the fish are photographed and released. There were 10 bass tournaments on the lake last year.
Parsons said marshals at the Bassmasters tourney this year will record all catches and give the fish data to the DNR.