Each year tribes in Wisconsin have the right to spear up to 50% of the safe harvest of walleye for lakes on which they make a declaration. This safe harvest number is generated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 
Harvest has been well controlled in the past, but this year, four lakes in Vilas County were subject to at least some harvest over the declared number, according to the April 22 report from the DNR. In the case of Big Arbor Vitae Lake, the harvest was only one fish over the declared 517 walleyes. The harvest on Papoose Lake was three fish over the declaration of 134.
Of more concern to some were the results of the Kentuck Lake and Snipe Lake tribal harvests. On Kentuck Lake, the declared harvest was 566 fish, below the allowable 50% safe harvest number of 596. However, actual harvest exceeded both of those numbers, with 626 fish harvested by tribal anglers from that lake. This was 60 walleye over the declaration.
Snipe Lake’s declaration was 128 fish, with 50% of safe harvest 135 fish. In this case, too, harvest exceeded both numbers, at 168. This was 40 fish over the declaration. 
In all, tribes made a declaration on 109 Vilas County lakes. The quota was reached on 31 of those lakes, stopping at the declared numbers. In Oneida County, 142 lakes had declarations by the tribes with 23 of those reaching their declared numbers. According to the April 22 DNR report, none of the lakes in Oneida County had been over-harvested in excess of the declaration. They also reported no other lakes in other counties had seen a harvest exceeding the declared number.
In an email to The Times, DNR treaty fisheries coordinator Joe Hennessy said while both Kentuck and Snipe Lakes harvest exceeded their declarations, it was not a concern to the DNR.
“The first thing to point out is that does not constitute ‘overharvest;’ tribal spear harvest is only a portion of the overall harvest in a lake, so while exceeding a declaration may have ramifications for how the angling fishery operates, it is not of and in itself overharvest in a biological sense,” he said. 
He pointed to a clerical error leading to an inadvertent issuance of extra harvest permits.
In another email to The Times, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) public information office director Dylan Jennings echoed Hennessey’s remarks.
“The harvest numbers were a result of clerical errors which led to the inadvertent issuance of additional harvest permits on both Snipe and Kentuck Lakes,” he wrote. “Walleye population assessment work recently conducted this season identified high-density and healthy walleye populations in both lakes. At this time, both State and GLIFWC biologists are not concerned about any biological impacts from the harvest exceedance.”
Hennessey also said the spear harvest on these lakes plus the expected angler harvest for the 2021 season was not of “biological concern,” in light of the overall health of the fish populations in these lakes. He stated no further action is warranted on how the angling fishery operates on those two lakes in 2020-2021.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bgaskill@lakelandtimes.com.