The harvest numbers from the 2017 spearing season recently became available, with six tribes reporting their harvest as of May 9; almost 39,000 fish were harvested through spearing by tribal members in 24 counties across northern Wisconsin. Reported musky harvest was 193 fish.
Only 12 walleye were harvested by tribal members in Florence County and just over 900 in Forest County. In Forest County, Lake Metonga accounted for the majority of the harvest, with almost 500 fish taken from that body of water.
Only four lakes were declared in Iron County and 5,273 fish were harvested from those four lakes. By far the largest number, though, were taken from the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. Reported numbers state 4,998 walleyes were harvested during the spearing season from that single body of water. Safe allowable harvest for spearing, as set by the DNR and the tribes, was 5,289.
According to DNR fisheries area supervisor Mike Vogelsang, safe allowable harvest is calculated in a complex way for many lakes, but in lakes where annual surveys are done by the DNR, it is calculated based on population estimates achieved from those surveys.
On those lakes surveyed, safe allowable harvest is based on 35 percent of the estimated walleye population in the lake. For instance, he said, if a walleye population in a lake is 5,000, the maximum allowable harvest is 1,750. Of that number, tribes are allowed to spear up to 50 percent.
On lakes where surveys are not done, maximum allowable harvest is generated from a complex computer model, which actually allows for less harvest than the population estimate method.
Vogelsang said once the allowable harvest numbers are set, the tribe issues permits to tribal members who intend to take part in the spearing season. Those individuals declare the lake they will be spearing and creel clerks are sent out at night to record information about all of the fish harvested by each tribal member.
"The tribal harvest is highly accounted for," Vogelsang said. "With the regular hook and line anglers, it is impossible to know exactly what is harvested, but with the tribal harvest, they record every fish taken." While he said the system may not be fool-proof, he believes the counts are very accurate and certainly more accurate than is possible with the hook and line season.
In other parts of the Northwoods, Oneida County's total harvest number was just under 8,000 walleye. Pelican Lake had the most fish harvested with a total of 2,473. The Willow Flowage numbers came in second at 1,767. Thirty other lakes in the county were speared by tribal members as well, and accounted for the rest of the county-wide total. Only two lakes saw harvests of over 400 fish: Bearskin and the Rainbow Flowage. Tribal members were able to spear 326 walleyes from Lake Katherine.
The total for Vilas County was much higher overall at 10,827. In that county approximately 60 lakes saw some tribal harvest. Trout Lake saw the most action with a harvest of 815. Lakes with harvests of over 400 included Big Lake (on the Mich. border), Big Portage, Big St. Germain, Little John and Long. The Twin Lakes Chain and Cranberry Lake both saw walleye harvests over 500 fish.
Statewide the safe allowable harvest number were listed as 71,493. As of May 9, the total harvest numbers were 38,919.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.