Anglers headed to the Northwoods for the Memorial Day weekend got some good news when the Department of Natural Resources increased daily walleye bag limits on 384 lakes, effective Friday.
The state sets the number of walleye anglers can keep from individual Northwoods lakes that are declared for spring spearfishing by the Wisconsin Chippewa tribes. The limits are intended to ensure that enough walleyes remain in lakes to reproduce and maintain healthy populations. Bag limits are adjusted after the spearing season, based on the number of fish harvested by tribes.
Anglers generally can keep five walleyes per day on lakes that aren't speared, while those who fish lakes that are speared typically can keep between one and three fish per lake.
While the changes to bag limits on individual lakes should make it easier for anglers to reach their daily bag limit, some fishermen said the adjustment by the DNR won't affect their fishing plans.
Joshua Mooney, 50, of Amherst often fishes in Ashland County or near the 10 acres he owns in the Eau Claire area and frequently takes his 8-year-old grandson with him.
"I don't know if being able to have more fish to take home or less fish will impact my desire to pass on that tradition," Mooney said.
The six bands of Wisconsin Chippewa set annual spearing harvest quotas for off-reservation lakes in the Wisconsin Ceded Territory following a 1983 federal appellate court decision that affirmed off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights.
The DNR boosted the bag limits on 88 lakes from two walleyes to three per day, Joe Hennessy, the DNR's tribal treaty specialist, said in a news release. Another 294 lakes will go from an initial bag limit of two or three walleyes per day to five walleyes.
The daily bag limit on Grindstone Lake in Sawyer County will be increased from one walleye to two walleyes per day, and Potato Lake in Rusk County will be increased from one walleye to three per day.
The DNR previously increased daily bag limits from two walleye to three for the Willow Flowage and the Tomahawk Lake Chain in Oneida County before the May 7 regular-season fishing opener. That change was made after the Lac du Flambeau tribe revised the number of fish it would spear on those lakes, Hennessy said.
The six Chippewa tribes had speared a total of 28,883 walleyes and 199 muskies this spring, as of May 19, according to the DNR.