Contact(s): Steve Hewett, chief, DNR fisheries management - 608-267-7501; Joe Hennessy, DNR treaty fisheries specialist; or Laurel Steffes, director, DNR Office of Communications - 608-266-8109
MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is adjusting sport angler daily walleye bag limits on 250 lakes speared by Chippewa Bands in the Ceded Territory.
"This year's early spring gave us the opportunity to make final adjustments in bag limits for the first time ever before the opening of fishing season," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Fishing is the cornerstone of the North's tourism industry. People are eager to get this information as early as possible.
The early warm spring weather followed by a cool spell lead to a long spearing season. Tribal spearers have harvested 32,308 walleye from 184 different lakes, through April 30; Tribal declarations totaled 54,507 walleye.
Of the roughly 900 walleye lakes in the Ceded Territory, 165 will have a daily sport angler bag limit of three; 83 will have a daily bag limit of two; one will have a daily bag limit of one, and one lake will be catch and release only. All other lakes will have a daily bag limit of five unless otherwise listed in the 2012-13 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations.
Grindstone Lake, Sawyer County, was declared by the Chippewa Bands at a one-bag level. On Buckskin Lake, Oneida County, a tribal spearing violation resulted in the total safe harvest being exceeded. As a result the lake will be posted for catch-and-release fishing for walleye. Tribal courts are expected to follow through on the tribal citations.
"Though some sporadic spearing continues, primarily for musky, walleye spawning is for all intents and purposes done. We have completed this year's walleye population surveys and have a good handle on tribal success rates. We are comfortable setting bag limits now," said Treaty Fisheries Coordinator Joe Hennessy. "Getting bag limits out now allows us to save money on posting and to avoid the confusion of bag limits changing in the middle of the season," he said.
Due to the timing of setting these bag limits, it will not be possible to have printed bag limit pamphlets in the hands of anglers and license vendors prior to opening day of fishing. Printed bag limit pamphlets will be distributed as soon as possible - in the meantime, anglers should consult the 2011-12 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations], signs at boat landings, and the Revised Ceded Territory Walleye Bag Limits pamphlet for lake-specific information.
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. To assure the combined tribal and recreational angler harvest does not exceed a sustainable level, the state reduces recreational bag limits in lakes declared for harvest by the Chippewa bands.
"We are working with the tribes to assure the health of the fishery while they exercise their court-affirmed hunting and gathering rights," said Stepp. "Annually setting the bag limits is a key component of sport anglers and the tribes sharing the resource and harvesting fish sustainably."
An administrative rule passed by the state Natural Resources Board in 1998 allows the department to adjust initial bag limits annually to reflect actual spring spearing harvests and projected summer harvests.