Tribal walleye take underway on Lake Mille Lacs

Aitkin, Minn. — Tribal and state fishing has commenced even without an agreement between state and tribal fisheries managers on a safe allowable harvest quota for Lake Mille Lacs.

State anglers are working with a quota of 76,450 pounds of walleye (after deductions for overages and winter harvest), based on their share of the 150,000 pounds of walleye that state fisheries managers said was the safe allowable harvest.

Tribal fisheries managers had pushed for a shared quota of 120,000 pounds of walleye, which, if the bands stick to that number, would amount to a 47,200-pounds walleye harvest.

Under that calculation, they receive 30 percent of the first 64,000 pounds of harvest (19,200 pounds), and then 50 percent of the rest (28,000).

Tom Jones, Minnesota DNR’s regional treaty coordinator, said tribal anglers had reported 18,272 pounds of harvest through Sunday, May 13.

That involved the harvest of 9,415 walleyes.

Jones said tribal anglers began fishing on May 2.

Tribal anglers on Mille Lacs had also harvested 60 northern pike through that period, for a total of 280 pounds of pike.

There was also a minimal yellow perch harvest reported, but there was a math error in the numbers, though Jones said he believed the harvest to be under 20 pounds of perch.

Jones said tribal anglers had done some of the harvest by netting and some by spearing, but he did not know yet what the ratio was between the methods.

Brad Parsons, DNR’s central regional fisheries manager, said at a May 7 meeting with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, which was detailed in the last edition of Outdoor News, that this wasn’t the first time the two sides hadn’t reached an agreement.

“And the season moved forward just like this season is going to move forward,” Parsons said.

The sides are bound by court protocols that they developed following the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the fishing rights of eight Chippewa bands that were party to the 1837 Treaty.

Despite the lack of an agreement, the state is pushing ahead with a 150,000-pound shared quota, which DNR managers say will not harm the lake’s walleye population.

But state anglers may not keep any walleye this year. Their part of the quota is deducted via estimated hooking mortality, which is based on creel surveys.

State fisheries managers said that even allowing for a one-fish bag would have come with too high a chance that the quota would be met before Labor Day, ending walleye fishing for the season.

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