The office of Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp has released an op-ed, regarding this year’s negotiations with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on walleye spearing in the ceded territories.
This year, two days before their annual harvest declaration was due, the Lac du Flambeau brought new issues to the negotiation table. They wanted to reopen the 30-year-old court order to allow some leeway in taking larger fish. They needed more fish. They wanted to harvest additional lakes at a two walleye per day bag limit for sport anglers and proposed harvesting some lakes as a pilot at rates higher than current population safeguards allow.
We explained that was outside our authority. We don’t have the data or science to assure that such changes are in the best interests of the fishery. I suggested that the tribe use an approach that was very similar to last year’s.
After repeated attempts to contact the Lac du Flambeau tribal leadership went unanswered, it appears they are closing the door on years of 3-bag agreements that have benefitted Tribal and non-tribal interests. Sport anglers may see many more lakes this year at a 2-bag. The economic boost to tourism that benefitted all in the Northwoods – including Lac du Flambeau and its conference facility and casino – may be impacted.
It’s truly unfortunate we have come to this impasse, but it is my responsibility to put the state’s fishery first.