Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Mike Kallok

Mille Lacs Messenger

This spring marks the beginning of a two-year northern pike
population study on Mille Lacs that, according to DNR 1837 Treaty
Biologist Rick Bruesewitz, will likely show that pike numbers in
the lake are considerably higher than they were when the safe
harvest level was set at 23,000 pounds in the mid-1990s.

On April, 5 DNR fisheries employees out of Aitkin were pulling
pike from survey trap nets that have been placed in most of the
tributaries that flow into lake Mille Lacs as well as the outlet at
the Rum River.

“We hope to tag between 5,000 to 10,000 fish over the next two
years,” DNR Large Lake Specialist Tom Jones said from the bank of
the Thains River near Isle about the joint effort between the
Minnesota DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife
Commission.

Back in January, the Ceded Territories Fisheries Committee,
which is comprised of tribal and state biologists, agreed to a
modest northern pike harvest increase of 2,000 pounds for the ’05
season, which raised the safe level to 25,000 pounds.

The safe harvest level is a number divided equally between state
anglers and tribal netters, but in recent years, state anglers have
exceeded their quota, previously set at 11,500 pounds, Bruesewitz
said.

Originally no increases in the safe harvest level of pike were
slated until the two-year study currently underway was completed;
however, an increase of 4,000 pounds was urged by GLIFWC at the
annual meeting, according to a January interview with Bruesewitz.
GLIFWC’s proposal was one that many Mille Lacs watchdogs felt
directly was related to the fact that tribal netters in the past
have often handled unwanted pike poorly in an effort to stay below
their pike quota until they have netted their allotment of
walleye.

If tribal netters reach their quota of any species, they must
stop netting entirely for the season. GLIFWC Fisheries Biologist
Neil Kmiecik refused to comment on the reason for the apparent
urgency in raising the safe harvest level for Mille Lacs pike, but
the DNR eventually met the tribal side in the middle with the more
conservative 2,000-pound increase.

According to Bruesewitz, the DNR was comfortable with the slight
increase, as gill net surveys during the past several years have
indicated that the pike population is higher than it was in the
1990s.

“We legitimately believe that the population can handle a higher
harvest, but we want to find out for sure,” Bruesewitz cited as the
reason for the two-year study.

Between 1994 and 1998 the population estimates of adult pike
over 18 inches derived from gill net surveys ranged from 15,000 to
35,000 pounds. Bruesewitz estimated that the data could show an
updated pike population estimate as high as 50,000 pounds.

The population study may allow for an increase in the safe
harvest level for state anglers and tribal netters, but Bruesewitz
did not believe the 24-to-36 inch protected slot in place for Mille
Lacs pike would be relaxed.

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