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  • Wisconsin Outdoor News

    Walleye bag limits adjusted for Ceded Territory lakes
    Location: Wisconsin

    MADISON -- Daily walleye bag limits have been adjusted on 539 lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory in response to harvest declarations made by six bands of Chippewa in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources has announced. These bag limits are effective between May 7, 2011 and March 4, 2012, inclusive.

    There will be a three walleye bag limit for sport anglers on 226 lakes, a two-fish daily bag limit on 311 lakes, and a 1-fish daily bag limit on Potato (Rusk County) and Grindstone (Sawyer County) Lakes.

    "We strive to work together with the tribes so they can exercise their court-affirmed rights while maintaining recreational opportunities for sport anglers and a healthy, sustainable walleye fishery for future generations of all of our respective constituencies," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

    Most off-reservation Chippewa tribal harvest takes place during the spring spearfishing season. Tribal spearers typically have harvested walleye from 170-180 lakes annually, regardless of the number of lakes initially declared. DNR will review tribal harvest following the spring spearfishing season and may revise bag limits upwards on lakes lightly or not speared. An administrative rule passed by the state Natural Resources Board in 1998 allows the department to adjust initial bag limits to reflect actual spring spearing harvest and projected summer harvests.

    The adjusted walleye bag limits are available in portable document format on the fishing regulations pages of the DNR website. They will also be posted to the fishing regulations page of the DNR Fishing Wisconsin Web site and are being published as an insert to the 2011-2012 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations. Lakes not listed are subject to the regulations printed in the regulations pamphlet. Anglers should check the regulations for special size and bag limits that are in effect on specific waters.

    Of 234 lakes declared by the Lac du Flambeau Band, 224 will have a daily bag limit of three walleye for sport anglers, while 10 lakes and chains will have a daily bag limit of 2 walleye. Those lakes are: Turtle-Flambeau Flowage (Iron County), Bearskin, Minocqua, and Squirrel Lakes, Willow Flowage, and the Tomahawk Lake Chain (Oneida), and Big St. Germain, Plum, Squaw, and Trout lakes (Vilas)

    An on-going agreement with the Lac du Flambeau giving the Band authority to sell fishing licenses in return for making declarations at a level that allows a three walleye per day recreational angler bag limit was altered this year to accommodate tribal requests to harvest more fish. The Band declared 10 lakes at the two-bag level.

    "That negotiated change assured that the thee-bag agreement would be maintained on the majority of lakes the Lac du Flambeau traditionally spear. Further, the band has promised that it would not select any lake for a two bag two years in a row. We believe that on balance, the agreement is good for the northern tourism interests and the tribe," Stepp said.

    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 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 does not jeopardize the ability of walleye to sustain its population in any lake.

    For background information on Chippewa treaty rights, a description of the management and monitoring system used to ensure the long term viability of fisheries in the Ceded Territory, and to see data collected as part of that monitoring system, including walleye population estimates and creel survey summaries for all game fish, see the DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management Internet pages regarding the joint tribal and recreational fishery in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurel Steffes (608) 266-8109 or Joe Hennessy (608) 267-9427

    Chinook harvests up 47 percent in 2010, outlook good for '11

    MILWAUKEE -- Lake Michigan anglers had a banner year of chinook fishing in 2010, with favorable winds and other factors helping to increase harvest 47 percent, state fishery officials say.

    "It looks like our chinook salmon harvest by Wisconsin anglers was really good in 2010," says Brad Eggold, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor for southern Lake Michigan, who just completed analyzing surveys of what anglers caught on that water in 2010. "I don't see any reason that 2011 would not be another solid year."

    Eggold found that anglers harvested 315,294 chinook salmon from Lake Michigan in 2010, up from 214,621 in 2009 and 256,796 in 2008. More good news for Wisconsin anglers: they accounted for the bulk of the lake-wide haul.

    "Total chinook salmon harvests reported by all agencies in Lake Michigan was 531,170 fish. Wisconsin angler harvest comprised 60 percent of the total, so we did extremely well in 2010," Eggold says. "It looks like it was very good fishing on our side of the lake in 2010 with favorable wind conditions throughout most of the summer.

    "If we get westerly winds and cooler water like we did in 2010, we're going to see good harvests of salmon and trout in 2011."

    The 2010 harvest is lower than the average chinook harvest in the preceding five years (344,077) but is much higher than the average from 1988-2001. Eggold says that the chinook salmon may have benefitted from a large number of young alewives produced in 2010; recent years have seen smaller year-classes of the invasive species. Because of the smaller year-classes of alewives and the overall decrease in the forage base, all the agencies around the lake reduced chinook salmon stocking starting in 2006. "This lakewide reduction in stocking looks like it was a good move and is paying off with better chinook growth and survival," he says.

    DNR and counterpart agencies cut stocking levels by 25 percent to better match the number of predators in the lake with the declining forage base. In 1989 the estimated combined lake-wide biomass of four forage species in Lake Michigan hit a peak of around 770 million pounds, most of it bloater chubs. Today, the total is less than one-seventh that.

    In the 1970s, the prime suspect in the decline of native species was alewives where today quagga mussels and zebra mussels are usually blamed for changes in the ecosystem, according to U.S. Geological Survey research.

    The invasive mussels feed on plankton at the base of the food chain. Quagga mussels are considered even more damaging than zebra mussels because they can live in a wider range of water temperatures, water depths, and they feed most of the year, even in winter when zebra mussels lie dormant.

    The lake-wide stocking reduction is also showing up in improved condition of the chinook handled at the Strawberry Creek egg collection facility during fall, according to Scott Hansen, DNR fisheries biologist in Sturgeon Bay.

    "The lake-wide reduction in stocking has taken full effect now and it seems to be working," he says. "We've started to see the weights creep back up again."

    The condition stayed about the same or was slightly down from 2009, but is still significantly better than in 2007, "when we hit historical lows for weight at age for females," Hansen says.

    The average weight for 3-year-old-plus females in 2010 was 5.9 kilograms, down slightly from 6.08 kilograms in 2009, but up from 2007's 4.87 kilograms. Fish hatched in the same year the stocking reductions started taking place are now leaving the fishing through harvest or through natural mortality. With fewer mouths to feed, the existing forage base is stretching farther.

    Sport angler harvest results, also called "creel survey results" are available for other species caught from Lake Michigan on the Lake Michigan management reports pages of the DNR website.

    News Source: Wisconsin DNR - Apr. 13, 2011

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