Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Mille Lacs tribal harvest eclipses 87,500 pounds

Aitkin, Minn. – Spring tribal netting of Mille Lacs Lake
walleyes effectively was wrapped up prior to the May 10 state
fishing opener, and officials say the harvest by the eight bands
that net the 132,000-acre lake in central Minnesota was similar to
past years.

As of late last week, the harvest stood at about 87,500 pounds,
according to Sue Erickson, public information director for the
Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, an intertribal
agency that oversees treaty rights for 11 member bands. Pat
Schmalz, Minnesota DNR treaty biologist for Mille Lacs, said the
harvest included about 46,000 fish, for an average size of about
1.9 pounds per fish. The tribal allocation this year is 122,500
pounds.

Schmalz said it’s unlikely the tribal harvest will approach the
total allocation, because the lion’s share of harvest occurs in the
spring.

“There is definitely some fall netting that goes on, but it’s
very minimal,” he said. “There are thousands of nets (being used)
in the springtime, but not even 100 in the fall.”

Further, most of the fall netting is done by the Mille Lacs Band
of Ojibwe; the Fond du Lac (Minnesota) and six Wisconsin bands (Bad
River, Lac Courte Oreillies, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Mole Lake,
and St. Croix) do little fishing on Mille Lacs beyond
springtime.

Meanwhile, Schmalz said the department hasn’t yet determined
state angler harvest on Mille Lacs thus far; the allotment for
state-licensed anglers is 307,500 pounds this year, down from
449,000 last year. He said the DNR will provide the first update at
the end of the month. Currently, the DNR has three creel clerks
working different sites around the lake.

“I’ve heard (fishing) has been a little on the slow side Š but
it may be picking up a bit,” he said.

While tribal harvest still may increase somewhat, the current
amount is an increase over the past few years, according to
Erickson.

Tribal harvest from Mille Lacs last year was about 87,000
pounds; in 2006, it was about 70,600 pounds; in 2005, 81,100
pounds; and in 2004, 75,000 pounds.

Erickson said each band is allocated a percentage of total
tribal harvest of walleyes from Mille Lacs. The Mille Lacs band
initially was entitled to 20 percent of the total catch; after May
15, the quotas remaining from each band’s allocation are pooled and
reallocated, with the Mille Lacs Band given 50 percent of the
remaining total.

Erickson also said tribes had netted about 8,100 pounds of
northern pike; the total allowed this year is 12,500 pounds.

The current state regulation allows hook-and-line angers to keep
four walleyes under 18 inches. One walleye over 28 inches is
allowed in possession. DNR officials hope the rule will “stick” all
season long. Last year, a high catch rate in the spring forced the
agency to tighten the walleye protected slot midway through the
open-water season.

The tribal netting season was tainted in May by missing nets on
the lake.

About a dozen gill nets were trapped in ice floes in early May
on the west side of the lake, near Garrison, according to
Erickson.

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