MN: Tribal take up for Mille Lacs in 2011

Aitkin, Minn. – The safe allowable walleye harvest has been set
for Lake Mille Lacs in 2011, and while American Indian tribes’
allocation went up and that of state anglers went down, state
officials say it’s likely fishing regulations for the central
Minnesota lake will be consistent with last year.

DNR officials will meet with Mille Lacs-area stakeholders Feb. 16
to work out the details, according to Pat Schmalz, the DNR’s 1837
Treaty biologist. It’s likely regulations will reflect those of
last year – an 18- to 28-inch protected “slot” (one over 28 inches
allowed in possession) in effect when the fishing season opens in
May, with a slot change July 15 to 20 to 28 inches. (For the
ice-fishing season, the 18- to 28-inch protected slot would take
effect again.)

“We anticipate doing a similar thing this year,” Schmalz
said.

At a meeting between state and tribal officials in late January,
the safe Mille Lacs walleye harvest level this year was set at
540,000 pounds of walleyes, down from 544,000 in 2010. Of that, two
Minnesota and six Wisconsin bands may take up to 142,500 pounds, up
from 132,5000 in 2010. State anglers saw their allocation dip from
411,500 last year to 397,500 for 2011.

Last year, the eight bands harvested about 124,000 pounds of
walleyes, Schmalz said. The state angler kill (harvest and hooking
mortality) was about 271,000 pounds.

Tribal harvest first topped 100,000 pounds of walleyes in 2009,
with a take of about 101,000 pounds. The tribal fishing season
begins April 1.

Schmalz said the bands’ allocation this year represents the maximum
it may take in a year under the current five-year harvest plan that
runs through 2012. The take will increase this year because seven
of the eight that net and spear on Mille Lacs came within 90
percent of their individual allowed take last year, he said.

When bands pass the 90-percent threshold, Schmalz said they’re
entitled to an additional 2,000 pounds of walleyes; however, this
year that would’ve pushed the bands past their total allocation.
Schmalz said he’s unsure how the additional 10,000 pounds will be
divvied.

Last year, the Mille Lacs Band was allowed 27,000 pounds of
walleyes, and the Fond du Lac Band’s (Minnesota) allocation was
24,000 pounds. The Wisconsin bands and their allowed harvest last
year include Lac du Flambeau (19,500), Lac Courte Orielles (14,000)
and the Bad River, Mole Lake, Red Cliff, and St. Croix bands (each
with 12,000 pounds). Only Mole Lake failed to reach 90 percent last
year.

The tribal harvest likely has jumped in part due to increased
effort among tribal netters and spearers.

According to the DNR, tribal net lifts last spring – when the vast
majority of netting takes place – total about 3,250, up from the
previous years when net lifts were closer to 2,500. In 2002, tribal
net lifts (typically 100-foot-long by 3-foot-high gill nets)
totaled about 1,350.

Tribal spearing is a less often used method for taking walleyes in
the spring, and effort is measured by “boat hours.” Spearing effort
on Mille Lacs has varied greatly in recent years, ranging from 300
to 400 hours in both 2006 and 2008, to more than 800 hours in 2007,
and more than 1,000 in 2009. Schmalz said 2010 spearing hours
information wasn’t yet available.

Schmalz said the DNR probably will recommend last year’s state
angler regulations be in place again this year, including a
possible July 15 protected slot change, depending on angler success
to that point.

Following that change last year, “In the creel (surveys) there was
a noticeable increase in the average size of fish harvested,”
Schmalz said. “There definitely was a detectable effect.”

Local businesses liked the change, too, because it allowed a
greater variety of walleyes to be kept, and because it could be
marketed as a “second fishing opener.”

Ice-fishing season on the 130,000-acre lake has been decent this
year, creel surveys indicate. Harvest during the winter has
represented less than 10 percent of total angler harvest the past
few years.

Of the total state angler kill last year, about 226,400 were
harvested fish; another 44,200 pounds (16 percent of the total) of
walleyes represented release mortality.

Categories: Hunting News

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