Letter to the Editor:

In my opinion, the walleye problems are people problems. I have no doubt that between anglers and tribal spearers, we are simply damaging the resource by overkill. 

Starting with the politically instituted “ceded area three-bag” limit and the tribal desire to claim over 50% of the safe harvest on favorite lakes, not because they need to but because they want to.

The agreement signed by the state and tribes in federal court was designed to protect the resource. It was agreed that if tribes claimed 50% or less of a lake’s safe harvest — which was to be set by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fish management — the angler bag limit would be three.

As the tribes claimed over 50%, angler limits would stair-step down to two, then one, then zero. The goal was to protect the resource.

Now when the tribes claim over 50% of a lake’s safe harvest, the angler bag limit is staying at three, clearly resulting in the potential for overkill of the population. We have the ability to prevent this overkill, but people are going to have to work together — tribal and nontribal — to protect the resource. It shouldn’t be that hard.

The second issue is habitat. We damage it by clearing woody debris and aquatic vegetation, also known as weeds, so we can have a beach. Also, over time woody debris disintegrates on its own and is lost. Water bodies do age, especially where dams flooded areas years ago.

We can replace lost wood with “fish sticks,” and we can protect native aquatics, but when we introduce invasive species like rusty crayfish, zebra mussels, milfoil and others, it can be almost impossible to correct the damage.

Stocking has been seen as the solution to population issues. It can be when it is used to supplement a good reproducing water that has seen some bad reproduction years, but it can’t fix everything. 

In the past, we stuck walleyes in many lakes that never had native populations. In some cases, it resulted in a good healthy, naturally reproducing fishery, but some — not so much.

We wind up throwing good money after bad when we try to make a lake a walleye lake when nature says no. Sometimes the answer is not stocking but reducing the take and improving the habitat. A good fishery is built literally from the bottom up, with cover, forage and spawning areas.

This isn’t Canada, never was. It’s time to take responsibility for protecting and enhancing our resources. We can’t shuffle the blame off on fish eating our walleyes. We’re the big consumer.

Duane Harpster

Boulder Junction