Reduced bag limit system
In a press release announcing its spring walleye spearing declarations on a record 273 northern Wisconsin lakes, the Lac du Flambeau tribe said last Friday that the state’s angling bag-limit system is a “flawed practice” that continues to “fuel contempt and animosity toward Chippewa tribes.”
We beg to differ.
In line with the safe harvest formula that was devised by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and approved by federal courts, the system of reducing sport angler daily bag limits to curtail the chances of a walleye overharvest is not flawed. It’s essential.
As the official management authority, the DNR had no choice but to draw a permanent line in the sand — a safe harvest system based on extensive walleye population estimates where neither tribal spearers nor sport anglers can escape the consequences. There is no other way to share the walleye resources while also protecting them.
Lac du Flambeau Tribal President Tom Maulson has always opposed the stringent counting and measuring of every walleye taken by spearing, which the courts defined as a “high efficiency” harvest method that required more monitoring than “low efficiency” sport angling.
Reduced bag limits for anglers might fuel contempt toward the tribes, but then again, so might the entire subject of off-reservation spearing and a shared resource. Let’s not blame bag limits for animosity created by federal court rulings that affirmed off-reservation spearing rights. Reduced bag limits are a result of the bigger issue, and they will always have a direct correlation to the number of walleyes speared or declared for harvest by the tribes.
The tribes have also pointed out for years that spearers harvesting 30,000 walleyes is light pressure compared to sport anglers taking between 700,000 and 900,000 walleyes annually in the ceded territory. Here’s the difference: For the tribes, it’s 200 spearers taking an average of 150 walleyes each during a two-week period. For the state, it’s 400,000 anglers taking an average of two walleyes each over the course of a year.
It’s just a guess that 400,000 of the state’s 1.24 million licensed anglers go after walleyes. It might be more; could be less. However, it’s still low efficiency. DNR studies have shown that the average walleye angler spends eight hours fishing to harvest a legal walleye.
We suggest that the DNR tread carefully when it comes to alternative regulation adjustments to the reduced bag limits for anglers. Changing season lengths or employing stricter size limits will come with a long learning curve. The department shouldn’t risk failure in protecting the walleye fishery, regardless of how unhappy either side becomes.
We can only hope that the tribes don’t ignore the importance of maintaining a healthy fishing-related tourism industry in the North Woods, which is good for the economy and every business here — tribal casinos included.
The current bag limit system is not a flawed practice. It is the only way to control the total angler walleye harvest in response to spearing declarations, to prevent depletion.
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 25, 2014 11:31 AM|