Commercial fishery likely on Red Lake this summer

By Joe
Albert
Associate Editor

Red Lake, Minn. – Preparations are under way for the Red Lake
Band of Chippewa Indians to begin a commercial walleye processing
operation this summer.

The plan would allow tribal fishermen to bring the fish they
catch to the fish-processing plant in Redby, which is being
renovated after Red Lake received a $1 million economic development
grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

Tribal officials aren’t yet sure what the daily walleye limit
for band members will be for the coming season, which opens May 5,
but say it’s likely to stay at 10 per day. Only hook-and-line
fishing will be allowed, said Al Pemberton, director of the Red
Lake DNR.

He expects the fish-processing plant to open sometime in the
middle of the summer, at which time walleye limits could be
increased.

‘We haven’t really sat down and talked about that yet,’
Pemberton said. ‘It’s going to be a learning game for us because we
don’t know how many fish (band members) will bring in or how many
will do it. We’ll have to play it by ear to begin with.’

Band members still will have to abide by a slot limit, and the
total take won’t exceed the yearly quota. As part of the commercial
fishery, which will be a branch of Red Lake Foods, walleyes will be
filleted and frozen, rather than sold in the round, Pemberton
said.

After Red Lake was re-opened to fishing last May, tribal anglers
fishing during the open-water season took less than 20,000 pounds
of walleyes. Tribal ice anglers harvested about 58,000 pounds,
Pemberton said.

‘We’ll be lucky to be doing (commercial fishing) by mid-July,’
Pemberton said. ‘The limits probably will be increased once we find
out how it’s going. If we’re not getting enough, we’ll have to
raise them a little bit.’

Commercial fishing and illegal sport harvest are largely thought
to have led to the collapse of the walleye population in Upper and
Lower Red Lake. The band ended commercial fishing in 1997 and the
state closed its waters to walleye angling in 1999.

Since winter harvest is high among tribal anglers, it’s likely
fishing at that time will remain hook-and-line. Summertime netting
is possible in the future to help fishermen catch more fish,
Pemberton said, but that probably would consist of live-trapping so
anglers could release fish within the protected slot.

Tributaries closed

The DNR has announced a fishing closure of three major
tributaries to Red Lake in an effort to protect spawning
walleyes.

The Tamarac River from Upper Red Lake to the
Beltrami-Koochiching county line, Shotley Brook from Upper Red Lake
upstream to Highway 72, and the Blackduck River from County Road 32
downstream to the Red Lake reservation boundary line closed April
21.

The Tamarac River, in particular, is a main access point for
anglers fishing state waters. Boaters will be allowed to access the
lake via the river, but can’t fish in there. In the past, anglers
have targeted crappies there, but ended up catching more walleyes,
which are vulnerable during the spawn.

‘Generally, they were catching 10 walleyes per crappie,’ said
Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries manager in Bemidji. Anglers will
be able to go onto the lake and fish crappies while the river’s
closed, but can’t be in the river and catch and release walleyes
while fishing for crappies. ‘That’s what they were doing in the
years before we were posting it.’

The DNR has closed the waters in the past, usually from when the
ice goes out until the fishing opener. The opener this year is May
12.

‘This year, it’s touch and go,’ Barnard said. ‘I don’t know if
the walleyes will be done (spawning) by the opener this year.’

Categories: Hunting News

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