Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Fond du Lac plans to net Vermilion’s west end this spring

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 3/30/16

LAKE VERMILION— The Fond du Lac Band has announced that it plans to net or spear up to 2,500 pounds of walleye on Vermilion’s west end this spring.

The official declaration was posted this …

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Fond du Lac plans to net Vermilion’s west end this spring

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LAKE VERMILION— The Fond du Lac Band has announced that it plans to net or spear up to 2,500 pounds of walleye on Vermilion’s west end this spring.

The official declaration was posted this week on the band’s website, but Brian Bolkholder, with Fond du Lac fisheries said tribal officials have yet to make a final decision on whether to move forward with the planned harvest.

Last year, Fond du Lac had announced plans to harvest up to 2,500 pounds, but reversed themselves under pressure from the Bois Forte Band, and the two bands are reportedly discussing the issue again this year.

The Bois Forte’s annual reservation-based netting has prompted barely a ripple over the years with most anglers. That could well be because Lake Vermilion continues to enjoy one of the highest walleye populations in the state, according to the DNR’s annual test netting. Vermilion’s most recent management report, issued this month, showed a whopping 19.1 walleye per test net. Those numbers put Vermilion among the very top walleye lakes in Minnesota.

Given the size and health of the Vermilion fishery, it’s unclear that a 2,500-pound harvest would have much impact. “It’s not that much,” said Edie Evarts, the DNR Tower Area fisheries manager, noting that the safe harvest level for regular anglers on Vermilion is 65,000 pounds annually.

Tim Lescarbeau, a Vermilion fishing guide agreed that if the harvest is limited to 2,500 pounds, it’s impact should be minimal, although he worries that some members of the public might view it differently. In either case, he said, “it’s their court-affirmed right.”

Eric Hanson, of Pehrson Lodge, said he’s surprised that Fond du Lac would consider netting on the west end of Lake Vermilion. “It’s a much smaller basin,” he said.

The Bois Forte Band already nets fish on Lake Vermilion and have been responsible neighbors in their harvesting of walleye, said Hanson. “We have a good relationship with them.”

But he expressed concern about having a second band exercise its treaty rights on Lake Vermilion — especially on the west end where the perception has exists that fishing has been down.

“We’re starting to bounce back,” said Hanson, who added that recent netting results by the DNR indicate a strong year-class this season. “And to have the news that tribal netting is taking place on the heels of the west end’s recovery could keep some anglers away.”

Hanson said it’s already difficult for resorts to retain anglers during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall and this could make that goal more challenging.

Long-term plans

Under the terms of the 1854 Treaty, Indian tribes are allowed half the safe harvest, although the harvest announced by Fond du Lac won’t come anywhere near that level. Even so, DNR officials have been in discussion with Fond du Lac about their long-term plans, which currently include an annual harvest on Vermilion. “Their intent is to alternate each year between the east and west basins,” said DNR regional fisheries manager Joe Mix.

Mix noted that the Fond du Lac harvest is intensively managed, with both law enforcement and a team of biologists on hand whenever a netting or spearing night is established. All of the band members need to use a single designated access point, said Mix, and every fish brought in is weight and measured. “We’ll know right down to the fish, what they harvest,” said Mix.

Typically, the netting begins shortly after ice-out, so it could be a few weeks yet before the harvest gets underway.

Other lakes in the region slated for spearing and netting by Fond du Lac this spring include Jeanette (354 pounds), Echo (848 pounds), and Dumbbell (153 pounds).

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snowshoe2

Wonder what their total poundage in the state is at present.

They are talking aprox.2200 pounds out of Mille lacs also.

Thursday, March 31, 2016
Shaking my head

No one should be allowed to net during the spawn. It is wasteful and makes no sense, except perhaps 'it's easy'.

Saturday, April 2, 2016