Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Red Lakers may have 10-fish walleye limit

By Tim
Associate Editor

Red Lake, Minn. – Red Lake tribal members would be allowed to
take, by hook and line, 10 walleyes in waters of Upper and Lower
Red lakes under a proposal being offered by the tribal council.

Pat Brown, Red Lake Band fisheries biologist, said the proposal
is a cautious approach.

‘It wouldn’t include involve any commercial harvest as in the
past, not to say that won’t happen down the road,’ Brown said.
‘People want to take it slowly.’

The end of the current season ends in November, and new
regulations could be put in place at that time, he said. Such regs
could include a continuation of hook and line fishing, subsistence
fishing with nets, or commercial fishing. The tribal council
already is discussing its options.

The current proposal calls for a daily limit of 10 fish for
tribal members, and a protected slot of 18-28 inches. One fish over
28 inches would be allowed in possession, but Brown said that
aspect isn’t all that important for Red Lakers.

‘Trophy fish are not a big issue for tribal members,’ he

Last last year, the Minnesota DNR announced the regulations by
which state anglers will abide on the state’s portion of Upper Red
when the walleye season opens May 13. Anglers will be allowed to
keep two walleyes, but must release all walleyes from 17 to 26
inches; one walleye over 26 inches is allowed in possession. (The
regulation also includes Shotley Brook from Hwy. 72 west to Upper
Red Lake, and the Tamarack River, from the Beltrami County line
west to Red Lake.)

As reported earlier in Outdoor News, the total allowed walleye
poundage of the state and tribe is based on how much of the
northern Minnesota lake is controlled by each entity – the state
portion of Upper Red is about 48,000 acres, while the tribe manages
236,000 acres on all of Lower Red and a portion of the upper

For the tribe, that means an allowed harvest of 531,000 pounds
of walleyes between the tribe’s fishing opener on May 6, and
November. State anglers are allowed a harvest of 108,000 pounds.
For a full harvest season, which includes ice fishing as well as
open-water angling, Brown said the allowed harvest is double that
amount for both the state and tribe.

Those are harvest ‘caps,’ according to state and tribal
officials, giving both ‘wiggle room,’ Brown said. The ‘target
range’ is below that, he said – 413,500 (826,900, full year) pounds
for the tribe (May-November) and 84,000 (168,000, full year) pounds
for state anglers. The target range is a harvest of about 31/2
pounds of walleyes per acre, for both state and tribal fishers.

Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Bemidji, said
state regulations could change – like tribal regs – in subsequent
years, depending on harvest.

If harvest is below a certain level, ‘We could make adjustments
upward,’ he said. ‘We’re hoping with the two-fish limit and the
slot, we’ll be somewhere below 84,000 (pounds), and that would be
perfect,’ he said.

Angling pressure is expected to be much greater on the state
portion of Red Lake. Brown added that much of the tribal harvest
could occur along the rivers entering Red Lake, early in the

While the tribal council still is accepting input from its
membership, Brown said members ‘seem to be accepting of the

Brown said state and tribal stocking has ceased on the lake,
following several years of mass-stockings. ‘Red Lake is a natural
walleye factory that can way outproduce what we stock,’ he

Overharvest by state and tribal anglers caused a collapse of the
walleye population during the 1990s. Tribal commercial harvest
ended in 1997, and tribal subsistence (netting) fishing and angling
closed the following year. The state closed the walleye season on
Red Lake in 1999. After that, the agencies embarked on a plan to
aggressively stock and build the walleye fishery. Officials believe
several year-classes of walleyes needed to be in the lake to make
it self-sustaining again.

Henry Drewes, DNR regional fisheries manager in Bemidji, called
the recovery ‘nothing short of phenomenal.’

Barnard said the DNR will conduct a creel survey on Upper Red,
once the walleye season opens, to determine harvest level. He said
he expects results to be accurate due to the fact that there are
relatively few access sites to the lake, and that anglers are
‘funneled through certain areas.’ Tribal catch also will be
monitored by state and tribal officials.

Since many fish likely are to be released, Barnard said the
state will use a formula developed largely on Lake Mille Lacs to
determine release mortality. It will be based on a lower rate early
in the year when the water is cooler, and will increase in
percentage as the season progresses and water warms.

Unlike Mille Lacs, anglers won’t have structure to work when
angling begins this spring.

‘Red Lake basically has shoreline structure,’ Barnard said.
‘There will be a lot of activity on the break, about a quarter mile
out from shore.’

Gradually, walleyes will move to deeper water, in the 12- to
13-foot range (the maximum depth of Red Lake is a mere 18

‘Then they’re anywhere out there,’ Barnard said.


State anglers on Red Lake this spring also will encounter
special regulations designed to maintain the quality size of Upper
Red northern pike.

Anglers will be allowed to keep three northern pike, but must
release all pike from 26-40 inches, with one larger than 40 allowed
in possession.

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