Upon receiving annual tribal walleye harvest declarations from the Chippewa tribes for waters in the Ceded Territory covering the northern third of Wisconsin, DNR analysis indicates that of the 535 lakes named for harvest, 197 were named at a level that will result in a one-walleye daily bag limit for anglers.
Waters named at a one-walleye bag limit include the Three Lakes Chain, part of the Eagle Chain and a number of popular walleye fisheries in northwest Wisconsin.
Of the remaining 338 declared waters, 331 will have a two-walleye daily bag limit, and seven will have a three-walleye daily bag limit.
A full report on declarations by county is available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/documents/regulations/2013init_bag_limits_for_web.pdf. Further tabular summaries, are available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/documents/ceded/Tabular_summaries_of_2013_declarations.pdf
The number of lakes declared is similar to past years. However, the percent of these lakes declared at a one-walleye bag limit is much higher than usual. Within the past 15 years no more than 10 lakes have been declared at a one-walleye bag limit in one year, and that total was reduced to five lakes before spearing started.
The Tribes do not always take as many fish as they declare. When that happens, angler bag limits on individual lakes are readjusted when spearing activity diminishes, based on the percentage of walleye actually taken.
As part of this year’s declarations, the Lac du Flambeau Tribe has named 232 of their 233 total lakes at a two-fish daily bag limit. The lakes had previously been set at a three-bag limit as part of a long-standing Memorandum of Agreement between the DNR and Lac du Flambeau. Lac du Flambeau’s unprecedented change in declarations effectively terminated the 16-year Agreement.
As part of the Agreement, the Tribe received $84,500 from the state to maintain the three-walleye bag limit. They also received revenue generated through sales of snowmobile, ATV and fishing license sales on reservation. Based on the tribe’s breach of the Agreement, the department has no choice but to withhold the payment and the license revenue.
In response, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has issued the following statement:
“Wisconsin’s strong walleye fishery and the tourism it produces are very important in northern Wisconsin. As Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, sustaining our fishery is foremost in my priorities.
The Chippewa tribes are acting lawfully within their treaty rights. However, over the past 10 years, we have seen a maximum of 10 lakes declared at one time for one-walleye bag limits. This drastic increase in lakes named at a one-walleye bag limit is significant, unprecedented, and a challenge to long-standing partnerships.
I remain committed to building on the successful partnerships we have expanded upon and enjoyed together over my two years as DNR Secretary. However, I will stand up for state interests, including angler harvest opportunities and the benefits they bring to local economies.
Be assured, the increased declarations do not endanger the fishery. The DNR manages the fishery and has developed a nationally respected system designed to protect water bodies from over harvest.
Over the next few weeks, DNR aims to work with the tribes in an effort to negotiate a reduction in their declarations.
We have displayed a willingness to cooperate and negotiate with all of Wisconsin’s tribes, and we have many success stories that represent that partnership.
We will continue to be available to work with the Chippewa tribes for the proper management of our state’s abundant and important natural resources. All of Wisconsin’s citizens–tribal and non-tribal–expect and deserve that.”
As part of a 1983 federal Appellate Court decision affirming Chippewa off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, the six bands of Wisconsin Chippewa set annual harvest quotas for off-reservation lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory. As part of subsequent court agreements, the Department of Natural Resources reduces bag limits for recreational hook and line anglers in lakes declared for harvest by the Chippewa bands to assure the combined tribal and recreational angler harvest in a lake does not jeopardize the stability of that lake’s walleye population.
For background information on the joint tribal and recreational fishery in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory, Chippewa treaty rights, a description of the management system used to ensure the long term viability of fisheries in the Ceded Territory, and to see data collected as part of that management system, including walleye population estimates and creel survey summaries for all game fish, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Fishing Wisconsin Ceded Territory.”
Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources