Snagged Lake Vermilion gill net full of rotten fish
Spielman Associate Editor
Cotton, Minn. – Authorities in northern Minnesota are
investigating a 200-foot gill net a Lake Vermilion angler recently
hooked. The net, which contained an estimated 75 to 100 fish, had
been in the water about three weeks, according to a state
CO Marty Stage, of Babbitt, said the net was found in tribally
netted waters of the 40,000-acre St. Louis County lake, where
recently the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener event was held.
The net was unmarked, Stage said.
Because the net was in waters legally netted by members of the
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Jeff Poskie, an enforcement officer
for the 1854 (treaty) Authority is investigating the incident.
“It’s pretty sad,” Stage said. “There were a lot of fish,
primarily walleyes, a fish for every two or three feet of net.
“It’s just a poaching deal, that’s all it is,” Stage said. “It
could’ve been anybody’s net.”
Because it wasn’t marked, it isn’t known if it belonged to
tribal members. Officials say nets have been illegally placed in
the lake by non-tribal members. It’s also possible the net was
legally placed by tribal members, and that someone cut off the two
buoys that would’ve marked the net.
Members from the Nett Lake and Vermillion communities net the
lake, according to CO Dan Starr, who also took part in the early
portion of the investigation. In recent years, members of the Bois
Forte set about 20 to 25 nets in the most popular area of Lake
Vermilion. This year, he said, an estimated 50 nets were
Tribal members are permitted a total of 200 feet of net per
member, Starr said.
Starr reiterated the net located by the angler could’ve been set
by non-band members. That net also had three other fishing lures in
it, besides that of the angler who located the net.
Starr said most nets are placed in shallow water; most are set
at night and pulled in the morning. Tribal netting activity usually
concludes before the sport-fishing opener, he added.
Sport anglers may fish all of Lake Vermilion. There’s a
protected slot for northern pike of 24 to 36 inches (one over 36
inches permitted in possession). Local DNR fisheries officials are
considering a protected slot for walleyes, and perhaps a lower
daily limit, Starr said.
Because Vermilion walleyes are tapped for eggs in the spring,
the DNR returns a portion of the fry to the lake. Tribal harvest
isn’t monitored by state officials.
Starr said depending on the outcome of the investigation,
parties charged could either appear in state court or tribal
The 1854 Authority enforcement officers and COs with the state
of Minnesota are cross-deputized; they have the authority to
enforce each others game laws. Conservation officers for the state
may enforce tribal code against tribal members, while conservation
officers with the 1854 Authority may enforce state code against
state-licensed residents and nonresidents.
However, the court of jurisdiction depends on other