The six Chippewa tribes of Wisconsin are legally able to harvest walleyes using a variety of high efficiency methods, but spring spearing is the most frequently used method. In spring each tribe declares how many walleyes and muskellunge they intend to harvest from each lake. Harvest begins shortly after ice-out, with nightly fishing permits issued to individual tribal spearers. Each permit allows a specific number of fish to be harvested, including one walleye between 20 and 24 inches and one additional walleye of any size. All fish that are taken are documented each night with a tribal clerk or warden present at each boat landing used in a given lake. Once the declared harvest is reached in a given lake, no more permits are issued for that lake and spearfishing ceases.
Since 1985, 271 of 903 walleye lakes in the Ceded Territory have experienced tribal harvest. The number of lakes with tribal harvest in a given year has been between 144 and 171 every year since 1991. Total yearly tribal harvest has ranged from 18,500 to 30,558 fish for the past 13 years. Males comprise approximately 76% of all walleye speared each year. This is consistent with the relative numbers of males and females that make up spawning walleye populations in Wisconsin. The average length of walleyes speared is 15.5", and spear fishermen are restricted to a maximum of two fish longer than 20" for each permit issued.
The number of Walleye taken each year by the Tribal fishery is only 5-10% of the number taken by the recreational sportfishery (300,000 to 600,000 fish).
In the years since the federal court rulings Bands have developed both individual and collaborative management agencies that work with state and federal agencies to co-manage fisheries, wildlife and forestry products in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Two examples are the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and the 1854 Treaty Authority.
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