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Net Losses

The "stringer" of fish flowed from behind Dave Quast's boat on Lake Mille Lacs.
/ Source: The Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The "stringer" of fish flowed from behind Dave Quast's boat on Lake Mille Lacs.The "stringer" of fish flowed from behind Dave Quast's boat on Lake Mille Lacs.

Walleye, perch, northern pike, smallmouth bass, even eelpout. About 70 fish in all, he figured.

And Quast was devastated.

While it resembled a monstrous stringer - and essentially served the same purpose - Quast pulled a gillnet behind his boat after hitting it with his motor Tuesday night off Myr Mar Reef, about 4 miles north of Garrison, Quast said.

The net was likely one of about 15 lost by Chippewa band members when ice flows trapped the nets April 30. Each year the bands are allowed to set the 100-foot nets and spear for spawning walleyes in Mille Lacs under an 1837 treaty. At least two of the nets were lost north of Garrison, the rest on the south side.

Eight of the nets were reportedly recovered soon after, and tribal officials estimated that each contained about 40 pounds of walleyes. So officials subtracted that amount - for each net lost - from the tribe's annual quota of 122,500 pounds of walleye.

As of Thursday morning, Ron Payer, DNR fisheries section chief, said he thought only two of the nets remained unaccounted for, although he didn't know if that number included Quast's find. Either way, there's at least one net still out there.

"It wasn't a pretty sight. They (the fish) were pretty well decomposed," Quast, 59, of Aitkin said. "One of the walleyes was pretty fresh, so that net was still killing fish. And a perch was still jumping around. And they (nets) are still out there and still killing fish."

"It's sinful the fish that died in that net," said Quast's wife, Gloria.

Quast was fishing at about 7 p.m. Tuesday in 8 to 9 feet of water about a quarter- to a half-mile off shore when he hit the net.

"I didn't know what it was. It killed the motor. I thought something was up," he said. "I restarted it and put it in gear and went a little ways and it stopped again. I tried to start it one more time and it locked up. I looked behind and I was pulling a string of walleyes. (Then) I knew what it was right away.

"I untangled it and hooked it onto the boat and dragged it home. There were 70 fish, but actually a few more than that because some got off in the lake when I started pulling it. There was just about everything ... a 22-inch walleye and the northern was probably 30 inches."

Quast immediately contacted the DNR and they picked up the net.

"There's so many stories you don't know what to believe," Quast said of the number of nets that were lost - and remain - in Mille Lacs. "The DNR couldn't tell me either."

Said Payer: "The ice will often roll up the net. But if a net is lost it can keep fishing for a while until it gets saturated. It's not a good thing."

Nor has been the fishing on that side of Mille Lacs, according to Quast. The net was about the only thing he caught Tuesday.

"It's terrible," he said. "There's no fish left on this (the Garrison) side."

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at brian.peterson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5864.