harvests on state and tribal waters of Upper Red Lake and Lower
Red Lake gradually are moving toward safe-target levels, but there's
still plenty of room to take more fish, and populations are looking
good, managers say.
they do twice a year, members of the Red Lake Technical Committee
met earlier this month to talk about the big lake's continued
recovery and how it's proceeding in state and tribal waters.
The technical committee includes representatives from the Minnesota
Department of Natural Resource and the Red Lake tribal DNR, along
with others with an interest in the fishery.
consensus last week: So far, so good.
are rolling along well with the population," said Gary Barnard,
area fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji.
to Barnard, the annual "safe harvest" level the
amount of walleyes that can be kept without hurting the population
is 820,000 pounds in tribal waters and 168,000 pounds on
the state's share of Upper Red Lake.
works out to 3½ pounds of walleyes per acre.
year, Barnard said, anglers in state waters will keep about 147,000
pounds of walleyes 88 percent of its safe harvest. Pat Brown,
tribal biologist for the Red Lake DNR, said the band this year will
keep about 630,000 pounds of walleyes, which is 71 percent of its
gradually ramping up that's a good thing," Brown
said. "There's room for growth, but we're taking
are a couple of reasons for the increased walleye take. In state
waters, the DNR has increased the walleye limit from two when fishing
resumed in May 2006 to a four-fish bag this year. And this past
summer, for the first time since fishing reopened, the DNR in mid-June
began allowing anglers to keep walleyes from 17 inches to 20 inches
in length and one trophy fish longer than 26 inches.
anglers had to release all walleyes from 17 inches to 26 inches
with one trophy allowed in the bag.
in tribal waters, Brown of the Red Lake DNR said the band's
fish-processing plant this summer hired two netting crews to catch
walleyes and keep the facility running later in the summer, when
hook-and-line fishing success generally slows.
members other than netting crews are allowed to fish only with hook-and-line,
both for subsistence and to provide walleyes for the fish-processing
said the netting crews contributed about 200,000 pounds to this
year's tribal harvest. He said the fish plant might hire a
third netting crew to supplement the harvest next summer.
members fishing hook-and-line generally have their best luck through
the ice in late March and early April. This past year, for example,
Brown said the harvest was more than 250,000 pounds just in that
two- to three-week period.
to Barnard, fisheries managers are hoping the increased walleye
take improves growth rates, which lagged when populations were denser.
He said the abundance of spawning-class walleyes has declined a
bit, which is to be expected with the increased harvest, but still
falls within the "optimum" range.
story is similar in tribal waters.
not seeing a lot of big fish over 20 inches, but we're seeing
a lot of young fish, which is good news," Brown said.
so much of Upper Red's fishing pressure occurs in the winter,
the 17- to 26-inch protected slot in state waters went back into
effect Dec. 1. Anglers last winter logged about 700,000 hours of
fishing pressure on Upper Red, Barnard said, compared with 209,000
hours during the open-water period.
said the DNR will wait until after fishing season ends in late February
to decide whether to relax the protected slot and let anglers keep
17- to 20-inch walleyes for the second half of next summer.
hoping we can do that again," he said. "I know it was
very popular with the anglers and businesses up there. We're
taking a different approach this year, and we're going to wait
until the winter harvest is complete to set summer regulations.
We're inching close to the upper edge of that (harvest) range."
the state nears its harvest goals, Brown said the band also intends
to stay within its limits to keep the walleye population on track
and avoid a repeat of the collapse that crippled both sides of the
lake before the state and the band signed a recovery agreement in
have a threshold, and if we get close to 1 million pounds, we'll
shut it down," he said.
as that would be, it illustrates the challenge managers face on
both sides of the lake as demand for the resource grows.
been easy here since the opener in 2006, since we haven't been
close to target," Barnard said. "But the closer we get,
the more refined we have to get and the more regulation we have
not like it's going to get easier it will get more difficult."
Lake is comprised of two connected basins. All 152,000 acres of
Lower Red Lake and all but 48,000 acres of 108,000-acre Upper Red
Lake lie within the Red Lake Indian Reservation.