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Tribes Reserve More Walleye for Spearing

Eric Engbretson
US Fish and Wildlife Service

The state Natural Resources Board has authorized the DNR to take emergency steps to protect Wisconsin’s fish supply.  The move comes after Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes declared they’ll reserve a record number of walleye in the spearing season.

Wisconsin’s six Chippewa tribes plan to spear up to 63,000 walleye this spring - five thousand more than last year.  As Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission spokesperson Sue Erickson explains, typically tribal members only take about half of what is declared.  

“Unfortunately the season is very short. It’s influenced by a number of factors such as ice conditions, water, high winds and so forth. So historically, declarations have always exceeded the harvests.”

Treaty rights dictate tribal members can spear fish within ceded territory.  Each Chippewa tribe comes up with its own quota. Lac du Flambeau declared almost 28, 000 walleye, about three thousand more than last year.  Spokesperson Brandon Thoms explains that number is a result of reduced quotas in Minnesota’s Mille Lacs, and on community need.    

“All our tribal spearers, our tribal members are heavily dependent on the resource. This has been the case for centuries – we’ve been stewards of the land, protectors of the resource.”

The DNR typically adjusts bag limits for sport anglers based on what the tribes declare.  DNR Fisheries Management Director Mike Staggs says other options could include season or gear restrictions. 

“What the board did was basically do an emergency rule if spring weather conditions, or something happens between now and opening day to where we might want to alter angling regulations.”

Staggs says DNR officials have not proposed any concrete plans or changes. TAG:  The DNR says new walleye stocking efforts won’t affect fishing until the fingerlings are bigger.    

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