Department of Natural Resources fisheries managers and biologists will meet with their counterparts from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) Thursday to discuss Mille Lacs walleye management, including concerns by the DNR that the lake's male walleyes might be overharvested.
The DNR told tribal fisheries managers about the male walleye issue in June, and followed up with a detailed technical letter explaining its position, complete with 48 informational slides.
The data buttress the agency's belief that the harvest of male and female Mille Lacs walleyes should be managed separately, DNR fisheries research manager Don Pereira said Tuesday.
Neither GLIFWC nor any of the eight Chippewa bands that net Mille Lacs during the spring spawn has responded.
Nets used by the bands generally target Mille Lacs' smaller walleyes, which typically are males. Slot size limits governing the harvest of the lake's walleyes by sport anglers also direct pressure on smaller walleyes -- those less than 17 inches long, this year.
"This will be a standard summer meeting,'' Pereira said, "with the exception of this one huge item.''
Pereira will propose at the meeting that routine business between the two parties be dispatched quickly in the morning, so the afternoon can be devoted to discussion of possible changes in harvest methodology.
DNR officials had proposed a multi-day meeting to consider harvest options, but GLIFWC officials declined.
"I doubt there will be decisions made on Thursday about how we'll address the problem,'' Pereira said. "We'll likely have to have more meetings.''
The Mille Lacs walleye population isn't imminently threatened, the DNR believes. But the apparent shortage of males should be addressed sooner rather than later, when unforeseen complications from a gender imbalance could arise.
"We believe we've documented a trend of declining males in the lake,'' Pereira said. "We're not sure yet whether there's a shortage, and we haven't documented negative reproduction issues. But we're concerned.''
The meeting is closed to the public -- a sore spot among some who live near Mille Lacs -- but is usually attended by two legislative leaders.
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