Msg 1 Posted: 12:09 PM 05/02/07 (CST)
Commercial fishery likely on Red Lake this summer |
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 3:38 PM EDT
By Joe AlbertAssociate Editor
Red Lake, Minn. - Preparations are under way for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians to begin a commercial walleye processing operation this summer.
The plan would allow tribal fishermen to bring the fish they catch to the fish-processing plant in Redby, which is being renovated after Red Lake received a $1 million economic development grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
Tribal officials aren't yet sure what the daily walleye limit for band members will be for the coming season, which opens May 5, but say it's likely to stay at 10 per day. Only hook-and-line fishing will be allowed, said Al Pemberton, director of the Red Lake DNR.
He expects the fish-processing plant to open sometime in the middle of the summer, at which time walleye limits could be increased.
'We haven't really sat down and talked about that yet,' Pemberton said. 'It's going to be a learning game for us because we don't know how many fish (band members) will bring in or how many will do it. We'll have to play it by ear to begin with.'
Band members still will have to abide by a slot limit, and the total take won't exceed the yearly quota. As part of the commercial fishery, which will be a branch of Red Lake Foods, walleyes will be filleted and frozen, rather than sold in the round, Pemberton said.
After Red Lake was re-opened to fishing last May, tribal anglers fishing during the open-water season took less than 20,000 pounds of walleyes. Tribal ice anglers harvested about 58,000 pounds, Pemberton said.
'We'll be lucky to be doing (commercial fishing) by mid-July,' Pemberton said. 'The limits probably will be increased once we find out how it's going. If we're not getting enough, we'll have to raise them a little bit.'
Commercial fishing and illegal sport harvest are largely thought to have led to the collapse of the walleye population in Upper and Lower Red Lake. The band ended commercial fishing in 1997 and the state closed its waters to walleye angling in 1999.
Since winter harvest is high among tribal anglers, it's likely fishing at that time will remain hook-and-line. Summertime netting is possible in the future to help fishermen catch more fish, Pemberton said, but that probably would consist of live-trapping so anglers could release fish within the protected slot.
The DNR has announced a fishing closure of three major tributaries to Red Lake in an effort to protect spawning walleyes.
The Tamarac River from Upper Red Lake to the Beltrami-Koochiching county line, Shotley Brook from Upper Red Lake upstream to Highway 72, and the Blackduck River from County Road 32 downstream to the Red Lake reservation boundary line closed April 21.
The Tamarac River, in particular, is a main access point for anglers fishing state waters. Boaters will be allowed to access the lake via the river, but can't fish in there. In the past, anglers have targeted crappies there, but ended up catching more walleyes, which are vulnerable during the spawn.
'Generally, they were catching 10 walleyes per crappie,' said Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries manager in Bemidji. Anglers will be able to go onto the lake and fish crappies while the river's closed, but can't be in the river and catch and release walleyes while fishing for crappies. 'That's what they were doing in the years before we were posting it.'
The DNR has closed the waters in the past, usually from when the ice goes out until the fishing opener. The opener this year is May 12.
'This year, it's touch and go,' Barnard said. 'I don't know if the walleyes will be done (spawning) by the opener this year.'
IF IT'S WET...IT'S CATCH'N FISH