Latest reduced bag limits
A two-walleye daily bag limit on many lakes across Vilas County and a one-walleye daily bag limit on the entire Three Lakes Chain and other area lakes are the devastating result of spearing declarations made by Chippewa bands this spring.
The headlines that have dominated the news have centered on a tribal vote in Lac du Flambeau, where a one-vote difference meant the end of the 16-year tribal/state agreement that guaranteed sport anglers a three-walleye daily limit on all lakes speared by the tribe.
A two-fish daily bag limit for walleye anglers has been labeled a tourism killer by chamber officials and sport shop owners. Even anglers who don’t routinely catch a limit of five walleyes a day aren’t excited about the prospects of a fishing vacation on some lake or lake chain where two walleyes is the limit. And quite often, they go elsewhere.
That being the case, the one-fish daily bag limit being left in the wake of spearing declarations by the Mole Lake Band near Crandon is even more harmful to sport angling and the tourism industry. Since the tribes began exercising their off-reservation spearing and gathering rights in 1985, there have never been so many lakes with a one-walleye limit for anglers.
We’re surprised and disappointed by the Lac du Flambeau vote because the tribe has historically been receptive to earning its reputation as a community partner and friend of the tourism industry — a tribe that clearly understood that the health of off-reservation tourism was directly related to the success of its casino and convention center.
Besides that, the tribe received more than $84,000 a year for its hatchery operations and was also able to retain the proceeds of license and permit sales to non-tribal members as compensation for trimming back the spearing declarations.
We are disappointed but not surprised that the Mole Lake Band increased its spearing quotas, for they have been unreceptive to negotiations that might help sport anglers and the tourism industry. It appears that their casino operations get no support from vacationers who come here to fish, otherwise they might try to accommodate these frequent North Woods visitors.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the tribes are unhappy about the state’s first wolf hunt and the legislature’s approval of new mining legislation. But tribal officials say the higher declarations are a reaction to soaring gas prices and the needs of tribal members to maximize their subsistence spearing harvest within a reasonable driving distance.
Whatever the reasons are, the reduced walleye bag limits are bad news for the fishing industry and that aspect of the tourism industry that relies on fishing. This spring’s declarations are the most devastating development in the history of off-reservation treaty rights.
Our biggest hope now is that tribal spearers won’t fulfill the harvest quotas they’ve set. That would give the Department of Natural Resources a chance to raise the daily walleye bag limits on some lakes. Hopefully, that will occur in late April or early May, before the general fishing opener gets too far along.
Behind the editorial ‘we’Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.
|Tuesday, March 19, 2013 3:19 PM|