Letter proposes changes on Mille Lacs

Editor

St. Paul In response to recent tribal concerns about state
walleye kill “overages” on Lake Mille Lacs this year, the DNR on
Tuesday proposed several fisheries management actions for the
lake.

In a letter to Curt Kalk, commissioner of natural resources for
the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, DNR Fisheries Division Director Ron
Payer outlined several actions that the state wants to employ to
address walleye mortality on Lake Mille Lacs. They are:

Prohibiting state tullibee netting this fall;

Issuing an appeal for state anglers to show self-restraint in
the number of fish they catch and release;

Imposing a prohibition on the sorting of fish (the prohibition
would be statewide and would go into effect with the fishing opener
in 2003).

In addition, the state plans on a hooking mortality study on
Mille Lacs and says that it will continue discussion regarding a
plan that addresses state walleye “overages,” according to the
letter.

“We have agreed to take these steps because we recognize your
concern about the effect the unusually high level of angling
pressure is having on the state’s harvest level this year,” Payer
wrote in the letter.

In addition, the bands proposed in a letter dated Aug. 21 that
the state also require the use of barbless hooks and impose a night
fishing ban for the remainder of the 2002 fishing year, Payer said.
The state, according to the letter, believes that imposing those
requirements will have little biological effect, but the DNR is
willing to consider it to resolve the bands’ concerns, Payer
said.

“We understand that the bands may have a different view and we
acknowledge that these measures may provide some benefit next
season if catch rates and angling pressure continue to be
extraordinarily high. We would be willing to take these actions if
they will resolve the current dispute.”

The state has a 300,000-pound walleye quota on Lake Mille Lacs
for the 2002 fishing year. As of the end of July, state
hook-and-line anglers had killed 398,000 pounds of walleyes, nearly
100,000 pounds over the quota deemed “overage” in treaty
management. The majority of the state kill through the end of July
237,000 pounds was attributable to hooking mortality. The state
estimates that only about 7 percent of walleyes released die of
hooking mortality, but high catch rates on the lake this year have
resulted in that large number.

The bands first raised concerns about the state overage in July,
and earlier this month suggested mediation might be needed. Tribal
and state representatives conducted a conference call on the matter
on Aug. 15.

Payer said the bands have indicated a willingness to attend a
special meeting of the Minnesota 1837 Ceded Territory Fisheries
Committee in mid-October to discuss an overage plan and the state’s
proposals for multi-year management plans for the big lake.

The state already had planned to restrict the 2002 tullibee
netting season on Mille Lacs to three days, down from the
traditional two-week season. Limited tullibee harvest on Mille lacs
is an attempt to jump-start low forage numbers on the lake, Payer
said.

Payer, as well as staff from the Aitkin area fisheries office,
and DNR Commissioner Allen Garber planned to meet with the Lake
Mille Lacs Fisheries Input Group Tuesday evening to discuss the
agency’s proposal.

Fond du Lac Band Resource Commissioner Ferdinand Martineau and
Neil Kmiecik, biological services director with the Great Lakes
Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, also received copies of the
DNR letter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *