Dayton Faces Protesters’ Blockade in Fishing Expedition

The governor called the protesters' actions "destructive" and cancelled planned meetings in response.

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Image Credit: Preya Samsundar/Alpha News

Governor Dayton had a less than successful fishing expedition to Lake Mille Lacs on Saturday, as a circle of protesters angry at regulations on the lake’s walleye population joined him on the water.

It was Dayton’s second trip to Lake Mille Lacs this season, and unlike the season opener, this one was not without controversy. Current restrictions by the Department of Natural Resources have extended a ban on walleye fishing. The regulations bans targeting walleye until July 28. After that, anglers may engage in catch-and-release fishing until September 5, when a full ban is in place again until December.

A number of concerned citizens took to their boats to voice their displeasure with Dayton, reports the Pioneer Press. Dayton was less than pleased as his fishing trip was cut short.

“We couldn’t get fish because we had these boats circling around us,” Dayton told press in audio obtained from the governor’s office. “One person caught a Northern but [the protesters] just ruined the fishing with these boats just circling around us and heckling and the like, and you know they have a First Amendment right to do that but I’m here to emphasize the positive.”

The protest was organized by a group called Proper Economic Research Management (PERM.)

“DNR Management of the lake has nothing to do with Biology anymore, it is all about Politics,” PERM said in a press release on their website.

PERM is advocating an end to the co-management of fishing resources between the state and relevant Native American tribes. Specifically with regard to Lake Mille Lacs, Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin have some treaty rights to the area’s fishing resources.

The Star Tribune reports that Dayton responded to the protest by canceling a meeting he was scheduled to have with several Lake Mille Lacs area business owners because he didn’t want to “reinforce that kind of destructive behavior.”

“I offered to meet with a representative group of the protesters and have that conversation,” Dayton said in the audio. “I thought of going today but I’m not going to emphasize the negative here.”

Dayton has met with protesters before however. In 2015, Dayton met with Black Lives Matter leaders even after their protests shut down highways, including ones leading to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, the Star Tribune reported.

The governor’s office declined to answer a question regarding what criteria Dayton uses to determine a protest is engaging in “destructive behavior.”

Anders Koskinen