Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance Responds to DNR 2018 Update

 (May 23, 2018) Isle, Minn. — The Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance has been meeting with the Minnesota DNR since 2016 to encourage sound scientific management decisions regarding what is now considered the #1 bass fishing lake in the nation—Mille Lacs of central Minnesota. Since that time, MLSA members were instrumental in collecting 97%of the diary data used in a recently released report from the DNR.

 Highlights from the MN-DNR report include an estimated population of smallmouth bass 12” or longer is 67,000. This number is less than what the DNR’s previous guesstimates of the smallmouth population* and the information used to make 2018 regulations decisions now already in place. Additional conclusions can be gleaned from the data gathered, and the MLSA encourages patience on the part of anglers and lake stakeholders as they take a deeper dive into the data. The MLSA will be included in the evaluation process and will, hopefully, have input regarding regulation changes for 2019 and beyond.

 A quote from the MN-DNR press release sent out on April 19, 2018 included:

     “Though anglers have been allowed to keep more bass since 2013, creel surveys indicate that interest in keeping bass is low. The average number of bass kept each year is about 2,800. In recent years, anglers have caught and released more than 125,000 bass. ‘Based on the estimated number of smallmouth bass in the lake and the number that anglers catch each year, it’s clear that these fish are being caught more than once,’ said Tom Heinrich, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Garrison. ‘The anglers who are releasing those bass are helping maintain the lake’s incredible bass fishery.’”

“Using the DNR’s own numbers every smallmouth is being caught, on average, two times,” said George Liddle, MLSA vice president and Mille Lacs area homeowner and fishing/boating industry executive. “Those numbers say a lot. We’re at a tipping point here and if people decided to keep these fish they could do significant damage very quickly.” Many local bass anglers would like to see the regulation back to what it was from 2000 to 2012 which was simply one fish 21” and over in the summer months only—keeping the spring and fall fishing to catch and release only. “That regulation was the main reason we saw the lake grow into the #1 lake in the nation,” Liddle continued. “I hope we’ll see that regulation back someday soon.” The MLSA advertises a Free the Fighter campaign to encourage voluntary catch and release.

 The MLSA would like to thank the MN-DNR for allowing the MLSA to sit at the table and partner in the information gathering and subsequent review of data. It remains the founding mission of the 501c3 non-profit organization “to preserve and protect the world-class trophy smallmouth fishery,” now recognized as the best bass fishing lake in America, for generations to come.

 “At the end of the day we’re looking at a fishery that should be one of the finest multi-species fisheries in the country,” said Scott Bonnema, president/owner of Classic Bass and tournament angler. He likened Mille Lacs to Green Bay, Erie or Lake St. Clair. “There’s no reason bass, muskie and walleye can’t excel together when managed properly. I’m all for monitoring and managing regulations that are based on science. Mille Lacs can be a healthy multi-species lake.” A robust lake contributes to a healthy local economy, and that’s good for property owners, as well as resort owners and all area businesses.

 Association email for Jim DaRosa is The MLSA website is for more information.

 *   Publicly stated estimate previously between 100,000 and 150,000


Free Personalized Fish Print

Release your Smallmouth and join our Free the Fighter Trophy Board. Incentives for 17″ and longer released, but when a 21″ or longer is released receive a commemorative print from MLSA and corporate partner Scheels (for 2018 season).

Go online here to enter or email and we will send you the forms with directions to enter. This is a member benefit, but entering and joining are allowed at the same time.

Get Your Free Personalized Print in 3 Easy Steps:

Step #1: Become a Member of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (if you haven’t already). Click here to become a member.

Step #2: Catch, Document* and Release a 21″ or longer Smallmouth Bass on Lake Mille Lacs.

Step #3: Go Online to Enter for you Free Print

*When you document your fish, be sure to take the three required pictures:

Photo #1: Grip n’ Grin

Photo #2: Fish on a Measure

Photo #3: Fish being Released

Entrants are also required to have a witness.

If you have any questions about this program or the requirements, email

Now get out there and Free the Fighter!

Facebook Free the Fighter Photo
Free Personalized Free the Fighter Print – Final Product
Grip ‘n Grin
Grip ‘n Grin Photo
Photo #2-2
Fish on a Measure Photo
Photo #3
Releasing the Fish Photo
Close Up of Personalization


Simms Fishing Products Partners for Conservation Efforts with Non-Profit Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance

Simms Logo


(Feb. 13, 2018) Isle, Minn. —The Mille Lacs  Smallmouth Alliance is proud to announce a new partnership for the conservation efforts of the world-class trophy smallmouth bass on Mille Lacs with industry giant Simms Fishing Products. Proudly the choice of gear for professional guides and anglers everywhere, Simms has a storied history of encouraging conservation programs for fisheries and the work of this non-profit will benefit from their financial and in-kind contributions.




“We’re thrilled to have another industry partner step up in such a big way to help us with our message of catch and release and sound conservation management on Mille Lacs,” said Jim DaRosa, president of the MLSA. “Simms is a great organization, not only for their high-quality clothing and product line, but for their corporate commitment to conservation efforts.”




“MLSA is working to ensure future generations have the same experience on Mille Lacs that we are fortunate to have today. That is something we can get behind,” said Patterson Leeth, Lakes Community Leader at Simms. “Mille Lacs is such a special fishery and the surrounding communities rely on the health of this state treasure to prosper. We want to do our part to support that.”


Free the fighter is more than a slogan for the MLSA, it is the future of sustaining this world-class fishery as showcased the last two years at the year-end Angler of the Year Bassmaster Elite tournaments. Together, with Simms as the leading producer of high quality products to keep anglers dry, comfortable and protected from the elements, the synergy grows.







The in-kind product will be used at the MLSA’s fundraisers and the cash contributions all help share the message of catch and release and how important it is to manage the fishery for the health of the older (and larger) smallmouth bass population. Simms applauds the MLSA’s vocal efforts to speak up to sustain a fishery so that it can continue to be phenomenal for generations to come.


Donations for the MLSA’s Bronzeback Blowout fundraiser are welcome from other industry partners in support of this mission. The event will be held on Saturday, April 21 at the local resort Izatys on Mille Lacs. Interested organizations should email DaRosa at

About Simms Fishing Products: Established in 1980, Simms is the preeminent manufacturer of waders, outerwear and technical fishing apparel and accessories. Simms’ new 80,000 square foot facility in Bozeman is the country’s only manufacturing facility for fishing waders. The full line of Simms gear is available at specialty and large format retailers across North America as well as For more information on Simms, please visit



The MLSA website is for more information.

Frabill Weigh Bags Make a Difference on Mille Lacs

Weigh BagsUtilizing the 10 Frabill-donated Weigh-Bag Systems and Conservation Series Nets are making a difference for small tournaments held on the lake. The goal is decreased mortality of the world-class smallmouth bass, and the local non-profit, the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance (MLSA), now coordinates efforts with small or regional tournaments to improve fish-handling skills. It’s working and making a difference.


Major League Series LLC bass tournaments utilized MLSA’s Frabill Weigh-Bag Systems with aerators in two tournaments on Mille Lacs. The bags worked flawlessly. The exterior bag is waterproof and utilizes sturdy handles. The inside mesh liner-bag holds the fish and keeps them contained in the aerated water. The tournament circuit’s holding tanks near the stage offer fresh running water. The mesh bags move the fish into the fresh water until the angler is called to the scale on stage. The fish are weighed in the mesh bags and then after the weight is calculated, fish are transported in the weigh bags to a holding tank to recover until released back into the lake.


“The MLSA is committed to preserving and protecting the #1 smallmouth fishery in the United States,” said Jim DaRosa, President of the organization. “Weigh-in bags like these keep the fish alive and healthy; it is an excellent way to release these fish back into the lake to be caught again. Free the fighter is more than a slogan, it is the future of sustaining this world-class fishery.”

“Biggest thing for us – the main focus – is the fish care. Every guy that I talked to, said these quality bags with two layers including the mesh and the aerators made a significant difference,” said Jason Schade, President and Owner of Major League Series, LLC. “The tournaments guys really care about taking care of the fish. It is a big deal, for sure. We have BASS Open and FLW guys that fish with us and they said those Frabill bags with the mesh and the aerator are a good, quality product. I truly believe it helped reduce fish mortality.”

MLSA thanks corporate partner Frabill for the generous donation of the weigh-in bags. “We’ll make the bags available to any tournament organization conducting events on Mille Lacs in 2018,” continued DaRosa. MLSA member Vern Wagner will serve as coordinator for the effort with the Alliance. Organizations can contact Vern at 612 756-3474 or email:


“Frabill has a near 80-year history of delivering trusted gear for anglers, and that includes specialized gear that helps conserve our angling resources for future generations,” said Chris Russell, Plano Synergy Marketing Manager. “The Frabill Weigh Bag System and Conservation Series Landing Net are two great examples of Frabill products that are meticulously designed and constructed to reduce stress on fish, which is something every tournament or catch-and-release recreational angler should be concerned with. Plano Synergy applauds the important work of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance, and we’re happy to help support their mission of conserving this phenomenal fishery.”


“We’re excited to be able to offer this system to tournament organizers on Mille Lacs,” continued DaRosa. “Sportfishing industry partners who would like to protect this resource are encouraged to donate (cash or in-kind) to the 501c3 non-profit organization. “We use the money we raise to educate the public about how vital catch and release is for the big smallies. We run newspaper ads, social media promotions and purchase billboards strategically located near the lake.” Interested organizations should email DaRosa at


The MLSA website is for more information.