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Band to allow walleye spearing in northeastern Minnesota

For the first time since federal courts affirmed the treaty rights of American Indians in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1980s, tribal spearing of walleyes may take place on lakes in Northeastern Minnesota.

The Fond du Lac Band will allow its Band members to spear walleyes this spring in lakes within the 1854 ceded territory, which covers most of Northeastern Minnesota.

The Band’s right to hunt, fish and gather in the 1854 treaty area was affirmed in the 1980s in federal court. In recent years, Fond du Lac Band members have speared and netted walleyes on Mille Lacs and other lakes in central Minnesota under an 1837 treaty. Much of the netting has taken place on Mille Lacs Lake, but the walleye population there has declined dramatically in recent years.

This is the first time the band has declared its intent to spear in the 1854 treaty area. The band will name the lakes it intends to spear, and the amount of fish it intends to take, after consultation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

While the DNR and the Fond du Lac Band communicate regularly on fish and wildlife issues, there is no formal agreement between the two.

Impetus for spearing came from Band members, said Ferdinand Martineau, secretary/treasurer of the Fond du Lac Band.

“We decided we wanted to give our Band members another opportunity to exercise their treaty rights,” Martineau said. “There are Band members interested in doing some treaty harvesting in the 1854 area.”

The number of lakes to be speared hasn’t been determined yet, he said.

“It’s going to be limited to two lakes per night,” Martineau said. “We’re looking at smaller lakes. We’re not looking at going into lakes like Vermilion (near Tower).”

Each lake will have a specific harvest quota, he said.