It was just a few weeks ago that DNR Secretary and News Release Agitator-in-Chief Cathy Stepp ginned up anger at Wisconsin's Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribes by warning that treaty-protected spearfishing this year was going to take too many walleye and ruin the non-native fishing season.
There were echoes of the ugly 'spearfishing war' several decades ago. Legislators talked about taking away some state funding as official punishment.
Her not-so-helpful words:
The Chippewa tribes are acting lawfully within their treaty rights. However, over the past 15 years, we have seen a maximum of 10 lakes declared at one time for one-walleye bag limits. This drastic increase in lakes named at a one-walleye bag limit is significant, unprecedented, and a challenge to long-standing partnerships.When Stepp was busy stirring the pot, and treaty experts tried to shed light on the issue, I tried to see past her press release pandering:
Kudos to State Sen. Tim Cullen, (D-Janesville), for condemning a Republican colleague's threat to withhold a state grant from one of Wisconsin's small Native American bands over its legitimate exercise of fishing rights guaranteed by treaty...
And there will be walleye enough for everyone this year, due in large part to the tribes' long-time operation of fish hatcheries that meet their need for food as guaranteed by the treaties, and which help maintain the Northern Wisconsin recreation and tourism economy, too.Well...it looks like Stepp's 'fears' were something of a fish story, as we learned online Thursday night that the tribes took far fewer fish than first projected and right about at the average, state records showed:
Wildlife officials have increased daily walleye bag limits for anglers on many northern Wisconsin lakes starting Saturday as the spearing season winds down for the six bands of Chippewa in the northern part of the state...
The bands had harvested 28,382 walleye through Wednesday, well short of their declared goal of almost 60,000 this year.
The long-term average spearing harvest of walleye since 2000 is 29,065, the DNR reported.
Joe Hennessy, who coordinates the treaty fisheries management program for the DNR, said the 2013 total is the lowest walleye harvest total since 2008, probably in part because of the late spring...
Last year the tribes declared 54,057 walleyes but actually speared 32,321, according to DNR records.