Red Lake slot limit consistent with 2009

Bemidji, Minn. – Walleye anglers tired of changing regulations
will find welcome complacency in Upper Red Lake’s fishing rules
this year.

Thanks in part to consistent walleye reproduction and this
year’s winter catch, anglers will see a continued protected 17- to
26-inch slot from the May 15 fishing opener through Monday, June
14; the limit is four walleyes, and one over 26 inches is allowed
in possession. Then, beginning Tuesday, June 15, the protected slot
changes to 20 to 26 inches; the other rules remain the same.

Meanwhile, fishers from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
will be limited to the same catch as last year, too – about 830,000
pounds. Last year, band fishers caught and netted about 625,000
pounds of fish from Lower Red (165,000 acres) and the band’s
portion of Upper Red (72,000 of 120,000 acres). The state’s portion
is 48,000 acres of Upper Red. The band’s catch was about 76 percent
of its allocation.

Tribal officials say it’s likely those fish will come by way of
both hook-and-line fishing, and netting.

For state anglers, the slot will revert back to 17 to 26 inches
on Dec. 1.

“One year-round regulation would be less complex, but this set
of regulations provides a good balance of resource protection and
angler opportunity on Upper Red Lake,” said Gary Barnard, DNR area
fisheries supervisor from Bemidji, in an agency press release.

The more restrictive size limit is necessary for the early
season, the DNR says, when angler catch rates are higher and
mature, spawning walleyes are more vulnerable. The fish that may be
kept during the first month of the year are smaller males or
immature fish. The return to the larger protected slot in December
is because of high ice-fishing pressure, the DNR says.

Barnard said the regulations package has been popular with
anglers and local businesses.

The target harvest for state-licensed anglers this year is
168,000 pounds, the same as last year, according to Henry Drewes,
regional fisheries manager in Bemidji. Anglers began counting
toward that limit when the ice-fishing season began last winter,
and the current harvest stands at about 65,000 pounds, Drewes said.
That, too, is similar to last year, when state angler harvest
reached 147,000 pounds, or about 88 percent of the target
harvest.

Drewes said angler pressure on Upper Red has been leveling off;
last summer 209,000 angler hours were documented, the most since
walleye fishing resumed on the lakes in 2006. This winter, anglers
logged about 745,000 hours, the second most since the walleye
fishery reopened.

“Last winter, (angling) started off real good … but really
tailed off in February,” he said.

Earlier this week, Drewes said Red Lake walleyes were still
spawning, an activity that’s been extended because of this year’s
early ice-out.

“Things are probably two weeks ahead of normal,” he said.

Beyond that, the northern part of the state is quite dry, and
water levels are below what they typically are this time of year,
Drewes added.

“This has been an unprecedented spring,” he said.

Pat Brown, Fisheries program director for Red Lake DNR, said his
crews had conducted a spring assessment of Red Lake walleyes, and
found the fish to be “very, very healthy,” he said.

“The number of large fish hasn’t come up yet – fish that are 22
to 36 inches we’re not seeing (often),” Brown said. “That’s
probably because recovery is very young yet.”

Overfishing by tribal and state anglers led Red lakes’ walleye
population to crash in the mid-1990s. The entities heavily stocked
the lake with walleye fry beginning in the late 1990s, and the
lakes reopened to fishing in 2006. No walleye stocking has occurred
in about seven years; however, the Red Lake band continues with
sturgeon-stocking efforts.

The band’s walleye-fishing season begins May 1, Brown said.
Hook-and-line fishing will kick things off; netting could
follow.

“(Netting) is not a definite, but it likely will happen,” Brown
said. That’s due in part to helping keep the band’s fish processing
plant busy. Brown said activity is minimal now, but will pick up
again when the fishing season begins.

Last year, two netting crews hit tribal waters beginning July 1.
Hook-and-line tribal fishers accounted for just over 400,000 pounds
of the walleye catch; another 210,000 pounds came via netting.
Brown estimates some 200-plus tribal members took part in the
harvest last year.

Information about purchasing walleyes from the band can be found
at www.redlakenationfoods.com.

Mille Lacs-area case

Game wardens from the state DNR, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and
Wildlife Commission, and the Mille Lacs tribal DNR are looking into
several instances in which either fish carcasses or whole fish were
found dumped around the big lake during the tribal spearing season
there.

“We’re pursuing this pretty aggressively,” said Sue Erickson,
public information director for GLIFWC, on Tuesday. “The actions
here are not condoned and are taken very seriously by the
tribes.”

Whether tribal members were responsible for the dumping hasn’t
been determined, but the carcasses of the fish found were those of
walleyes; also located were several whole northern pike and a few
suckers.

Erickson said on April 9, five tribal nets were reported stolen
Later that day, the remains of “hastily filleted fish” were found
about five miles from where the nets were set on the lake’s east
side. She didn’t know how many fish remains were found.

That same day a dump of fish was reported at McQuoids resort
near Isle. Erickson said about 40 tribal members pay to discard
fish remains at that location, but 23 whole northern pike, weighing
a cumulative 85 pounds, were located at the resort, she said.

The third incident was “a big dump of fish guts” in a farmer’s
field, along with a couple whole white suckers, on April 14,
according to Erickson.

Mille Lacs tribal Conservation Officer Mike Taylor said fish
disposal services are available for Mille Lacs band members; the
fish remains are dumped in a tank, pumped after they decompose, and
spread on the tribe’s community garden, he said.

Another of the eight bands that net the lake (two from
Minnesota, six from Wisconsin) has an agreement to leave the fish
remains with a mink farmer, Erickson said.

Otherwise, band members who clean their fish while at Mille Lacs
must take fish remains with them, she said. “People are expected to
be responsible for their waste products,” she said.

Erickson said fish-gut dumping and whole pike waste isn’t new to
the Mille Lacs netting scene. But, she said, “It’s not common, it’s
not expected. And it’s certainly not condoned.”

Tribal members had netted about 123,000 of their 132,500-pound
quota by early this week.

Categories: Hunting News

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