More than a dozen Band members met at the Government Center in District I on August 9 to hear an update on the tribal harvest and the DNR’s telemetry study from Fisheries Biologist Carl Klimah.
So far in 2018, Mille Lacs Band members have harvested just under 10,000 pounds of ogaa (walleye), with just over 10,000 pounds remaining in their quota. Over 27,000 pounds have been harvested by all eight Ojibwe bands, with 19,716 pounds remaining.
Gill netting has accounted for 52 percent of the harvest and spearing for the other 48 percent.
The ginoozhe (northern) and asaawe (perch) harvests have been minimal.
State anglers are well under their quota for the year, with 33,619 pounds harvested from an allocation of 87,800.
The tracking study being conducted by the DNR in conjunction with Dr. Aaron Shultz of the Great Lake Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) is attempting to determine the causes of a decline in the Mille Lacs ogaa population.
The study’s hypothesis is that increased water clarity and temperatures have reduced the optimal thermal habitat (cool water) for ogaa, forcing them into smaller areas near the bot- tom. This phenomenon that Carl calls “the squeeze” may be bringing adult and juvenile ogaa into the same areas, leading to the cannibalization of younger ogaa by older fish.
This theory corresponds with data showing that the decline in population is caused by the fact that young walleyes are not surviving into adulthood.
The study attempts to assess the “thermal niche” for juvenile and adult ogaa across the seasons, identify key aquatic habitats, and identify the areas and conditions where adults and juveniles overlap.
The method of assessment is called acoustic telemetry and involves the placement of receivers throughout the lake and the insertion of transmitters into juvenile and adult ogaa.
Fisheries Technician George Big Bear has been trained in scuba diving to assist with placement and retrieval of receivers.
Carl also gave an update on the Band’s fish hatchery and proposed stocking plans. The hatchery will be developed over the next several years at the site of the old wastewater treatment ponds behind the casino. The DNR has hired Band member Keith Wiggins to work with Carl in developing the hatchery.
Fish produced at the hatchery will be stocked in 15-20 lakes around the region.
An educational youth fishing pond will also be constructed.