Wisconsin wildlife officials on Monday reduced the number of lakes
where non-tribal anglers can take only a single walleye per day
even though the state's six Chippewa tribes have said they'll aim
to spear a record number of the fish.
The state sets
bag limits for non-tribal anglers to offset the number of fish
taken by the tribes. Last year, it was one walleye per day on 197
lakes, and Monday's announcement said there'll be 173 lakes with
that one-fish quota.
restrictions still sparked criticism from one tourism-minded
lawmaker and threatened to rekindle tensions over treaty rights
that cede considerable decision-making power to the tribes.
The Great Lakes
Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which oversees the Chippewa's
off-reservation rights, set a goal last month of 63,488 walleyes
— 6 percent more than the previous record of 59,659 set in 2010.
Historically, the tribes have taken only about half of their
quota, so the DNR increases the bag limit in response.
situation could play out this year, but until that happens, 173
lakes will have a one-walleye daily limit, 363 with a two-fish
limit and two lakes will have a limit of three, the state
Department of Natural Resources said. That's 905 walleyes if the
limits are reached, more than last year's 880.
determines bag limits using a formula that takes into account both
the tribes' goals and the overall walleye population. The process
dates back to the 1800s, when the federal government signed
treaties granting the Chippewa the right to hunt and fish in
millions of northern Wisconsin acres. The tribes generally begin
spearing as soon as winter ice melts and continue until spawning
ends in mid-May.
spokeswoman Sue Erickson said this year's goal is high in part
because the tribes have less access to a popular Minnesota lake
than they had in previous years. She also noted that many northern
lakes are still iced over, meaning the season could be
lawmaker from Neenah wasn't pleased by the DNR's limits. Rep. Dean
Kaufert, chairman of the Assembly's tourism committee, said sports
fishermen who face a one-walleye limit might decide to stay home,
keeping their tourism dollars with them.
"This is not
going to be good for filling up hotel rooms, lodges,
restaurants," he said.
have been a source of tension since the 1980s, when non-tribal
anglers staged racial protests that included rock-throwing and
fake Native American heads impaled on pikes.
anew last spring after the Chippewa, upset with Republican
lawmakers for establishing a new wolf hunt and relaxing certain
mining standards, raised their 2013 goal to 59,399. That was an
increase of 5,342 fish from the previous year.
The DNR reacted
by imposing one-fish bag limits on nearly 200 lakes and two-fish
limits on more than 300 others.
threatened to rescind a $250,000 grant for the Lac du Flambeau
tribe, and the then-chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe
countered by accusing the DNR of spreading propaganda that the bag
limits were the only thing standing between walleyes and
The DNR says it's
taking steps to ward off conflict in coming years by increasing
the general walleye population through better stocking techniques
and habitat improvements.