Tribal members liking hook and line

Onamia, Minn. — Are Mille Lacs tribal members more often this summer employing the method of walleye fishing used by state-licensed anglers? It’s possible, but even if hook-and-line effort has increased by members of the Mille Lacs Band, most officials say it won’t be a high-speed driver of tribal walleye take from the lake.

Following DNR fall assessment nets that indicated the lowest walleye population in about four decades, both state and tribal allocations decreased this year; eight Ojibwe bands cut their allocation in half, from more than 142,000 pounds to about 71,000. But following the bulk of spring gill-netting and spearing, band members had taken less than 15,000 pounds of fish, according to tribal officials, leaving them with plenty of poundage left to take.

Sue Erickson, a spokesperson for the Odanah, Wis.-based Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said last week that some Mille Lacs band members had been attempting to catch fish from the lake via hook and line, a legal activity guided by tribal rules.

“It’s been a very limited harvest using a non-efficient method,” Erickson said.

There’s a 10-walleye bag limit and no size limit for tribal anglers, she said. Anglers need to possess a tribal fishing permit and tribal identification.

GLIFWC, she said, doesn’t closely monitor the walleye take, though wardens observe the activity.

One of those GLIFWC wardens is Rabindran Aruagiri, who relayed to Erickson last week that he “hadn’t observed any big numbers of tribal people out there hooking and lining.”

Callers to Outdoor News in recent weeks have asked about tribal walleye fishing via boat launches on the lake. Some had observed the activity on the lake’s west side, and DNR Enforcement Supervisor Brent Speldrich, too, had heard about such activity. He said he doubted tribal walleye take during angling launch trips would result in many pounds of fish, compared to spring netting and spearing.

“I’m glad people are paying attention to that, but I just don’t think the poundage would add up,” he said.

Tribal anglers sometimes are encountered by DNR creel clerks, said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Aitkin. Only state angler take is included in walleyes attributed to the state’s allocation. Tribal harvest by hook and line – information also gathered by the creel clerks – is considered by DNR biologists.

All fish kill is “accounted for in science,” or the modeling done by the state DNR, Bruesewitz said.

He said tribal harvest by hook and line “doesn’t count for a huge amount” of walleyes killed.

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