Anglers have long suspected that the DNR was giving away too much of the walleye quota—now we know just how much.
Since the advent of “treaty management” in 1997, The Mille Lacs walleye harvest has been subject to a court-approved allocation system that puts a 24 percent cap on the poundage of catchable size walleye that can be removed from the lake each year. That number, which includes all forms of sport and tribal harvest, is called the safe harvest level (SHL) and is the basis for setting the fishing regulations.
Each year, the DNR calculates the SHL based on a population estimate derived from its computer model. But the number must be approved by tribal biologists who generally argue for a lower number, even though they have practically no data of their own to support their case. Anglers have always suspected that the DNR was giving in to tribal demands and lowering the SHL, but no one knew exactly how much was being cut.
Data recently released to Dick Sternberg, who is studying the Mille Lacs walleye management plan on behalf of the Mille Lacs landowners, reveals that the SHL cuts have been much deeper than anyone expected. The graph below shows the DNR’s post-treaty SHL proposals, the SHL after negotiations, and what the actual walleye harvest was in each year.