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Wisconsin DNR lowers walleye daily bag limits

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced on Monday that it has reduced daily walleye bag limits to one fish on 173 lakes in northern Wisconsin for the upcoming fishing season, which opens Saturday.

That’s in response to last month’s annual tribal walleye harvest declarations by the six bands of Chippewa in northern Wisconsin. The bands said in March they intend to spear a record 63,488 walleyes during the annual spring harvest. The normal walleye limit on Wisconsin lakes is five.

Additional lakes will have limits of two or three walleyes per day this season. After the actual spearing harvest is recorded, bag limits may be adjusted again. That typically happens in May.

The actual walleye harvest is typically about half of the tribes’ declaration, DNR officials said.

The Chippewa spear walleyes on lakes throughout northern Wisconsin every spring under rights they reserved in treaties signed in the 1800s. Those treaties allow tribal members to hunt, fish and gather off their reservations on land they ceded in the agreements — about the northern third of the state. Federal courts have affirmed those rights.

The state adjusts bag limits in an effort to keep the combined tribal and sport harvest within a “safe limit” on each water.

Between 1997 and 2012, no more than 10 lakes a year had been declared at spearing levels that would result in a one-walleye bag limit for recreational anglers. Last year the number was 197.