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Author Topic: Northern Wisconsin walleye bag limit proposed by DNR  (Read 981 times)

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Offline mudbrook

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Northern Wisconsin walleye bag limit proposed by DNR
« on: March 29, 2015, 08:00:51 PM »
Northern Wisconsin walleye bag limit proposed by DNR

A daily bag limit of three walleyes would apply to all northern Wisconsin waters — regardless of Chippewa tribal spearing declarations or harvests — under a proposal released last week by the Department of Natural Resources.

The rule would discontinue the current system of annually adjusted bag limits in response to tribal plans.

Instead, the DNR would set the daily limit at three walleyes and institute various length and slot limits to control the harvest of the popular sport fish.

“The regulation is designed to be as protective to the walleye population as the reduction in bag limits were,” said Joe Hennessy, DNR tribal fisheries specialist. “But it would provide more harvest opportunity and more consistency to anglers.”

The three-walleye bag limit would apply on all waters — with a few exceptions — in the ceded territory, where six Wisconsin Chippewa bands exercise their rights to fish, hunt and gather on public lands, as provided by treaties negotiated with the United States in 1837 and 1842.

Under the proposal:

* Waters that now have a 15-inch minimum length limit would retain the 15-inch minimum, but no walleye could be kept between 20 and 24 inches in length and only one walleye 24 inches or longer could be harvested.

* Waters with no minimum length limit would retain the no minimum length limit but allow the harvest of only one walleye 14 inches or longer.

* Length or slot limits on waters with other regulations (such as an 18-inch minimum length limit) would be unchanged.

The proposal will be presented as an emergency rule to the Natural Resources Board at its April 8 meeting in Madison.

The DNR developed the rule after hearing requests from anglers for more predictable and uniform regulations, according to agency officials.

As part of a 1983 federal court decision affirming Chippewa off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights, the six bands of Wisconsin Chippewa set annual tribal harvest quotas for off-reservation lakes in the ceded territory, essentially the northern one-third of the state.

For the past three decades the DNR has reduced hook-and-line bag limits in lakes declared for harvest by tribal spearers to ensure that the combined harvest wouldn’t jeopardize the stability of the lakes’ walleye populations.

The new strategy comes as the six bands of Chippewa declared intentions to harvest a record 68,226 walleyes during the 2015 off-reservation harvest. The 2015 declarations are 4,738 walleyes, or 7 percent, higher than 2014.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission presented the tribal harvest plan to the DNR on March 13.

Based on recent history, the declarations would have resulted in more than 200 lakes being adjusted to a one- or two-walleye daily bag limit.

Resort owners and anglers have complained for years about the negative impact such low bag limits have on tourism and fishing opportunity. The standard Wisconsin daily bag limit is five walleyes.

The DNR’s proposal received support from leaders of the Wisconsin sport fishing community.

“Anything we can do to keep a three bag is helpful,” said Joe Weiss of Spooner, chairman of the Warm Water Committee of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. “I think a uniform limit across the region makes a lot of sense.”

Mike Arrowood of Fond du Lac, Wis., chairman of Walleyes For Tomorrow, said he liked the predictability of the proposal.

“If you can get consistency in the bag limit it will be a good thing,” Arrowood said. “The inconsistency irked people as much as anything.”

The proposal would prevent the “yo-yo” of regulations each spring, Arrowood said.

In most years, the tribes’ harvest is less than 50 percent of the declaration.

In 2014, for example, the tribes’ declared 63,488 walleyes and harvested 27,725, according to state records. In 2013 the declaration was 59,399 and the harvest was 28,447.

If approved by the NRB next month, the three-walleye bag limit is expected to be in force in the ceded territory for the May 2 fishing opener.
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