MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wildlife officials increased daily walleye bag limits for anglers on Thursday as Wisconsin Chippewa spearfishing winds down.
The state Department of Natural Resources raised limits on 442 lakes in the ceded territory, a swath of northern Wisconsin the tribes gave to the government more than a century ago. The rules include a five-walleye limit on 289 lakes, a four-walleye limit on three lakes, a three-walleye limit on 131 lakes, and a two-bag limit on 20 lakes.
Steve Hewett, chief of DNR's fisheries management, said the Chippewa declared harvest on 535 lakes this year but fell short of their goal. As a result, bag limits for the remaining 93 lakes remain unchanged.
The DNR adjusts bag limits each spring after the state's six Chippewa tribes set their annual spearfishing quotas to ensure the combined tribal and recreational take doesn't hurt the overall walleye population.
Hewett said by Wednesday, the Chippewa had harvested 28,382 walleye, well short of their declared goal of almost 60,000.
DNR's treaty fisheries specialist Joe Hennessy said the latest harvest figure is the lowest since 2008, possibly due to the late spring in Wisconsin. Hewett said the figure is not surprising as it's not significantly different from the past.
Spearfishing usually begins early each spring when tribes provide the state with a 48-hour notice of their intent to harvest. But the DNR's announcement of raising bag limits doesn't mean their season will end, Hewett noted.
"There is no official end and tribal members can continue to spear through the summer and fall," he said. "Usually they don't go out after spring but they could. Some tribes do declare an end to their spearfishing season, but it's up to them and there is no target date."
The news came a day after Gov. Scott Walker announced a nearly $13 million effort to boost walleye production in the state.
The plan would create $8.2 million in borrowing authority to expand hatcheries and allocate $1.8 million for operating expenses and $2 million for grants for private organizations to expand walleye production. It also includes money for aquaculture work, buying fingerlings from private vendors and expanding a program that gives tribal youth jobs on natural resources-related projects.
Walker's office said the initiative will boost walleye to more than 500,000 annually by 2016.
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