Brett’s blog — Ice and tribal harvest update

From the look of yesterday’s satellite photo, the ice is still pretty thick, especially in the south. As you travel north, it looks darker and darker gray.

We could have a big chunk of ice floating around out there for a few more days.

Facebook tells us Wigwam Bay is ice free this morning.

I could see ice just outside of Wahkon Bay when I drove out to Barea$$ Beach this morning. Evaporation made it look like it was steaming.

Fisher’s is putting their launches in today, so we may start to see some anglers hitting the Malmo sand.

I talked to Tom Jones of the DNR, who said the bands’ walleye harvest through May 13 is 12,993 pounds of walleye and 2,170 pounds of northern pike. Lac du Flambeau has taken 6,884 pounds of walleye, and Mille Lacs has taken 4,491 pounds. Most has been by spearing.

Little known fact that doesn’t usually come into play: According to the Band conservation code, as of May 15, Wisconsin and Fond Du Lac bands have to give half their quota to Mille Lacs, and the rest can’t be taken until mid September. The Mille Lacs Band can continue to net or spear all summer.

However, Bands have a 135,000 pound quota of perch they can net, and there’s some allowance for walleye by-catch.

Bottom line: You probably won’t see much if any netting or spearing after today. If you do, they’ll be targeting perch.

Jones said the walleye spawn is pretty much over.

He also said the DNR didn’t come close to the 20,000 walleyes they were hoping to tag for another population estimate. They’ll be lucky to tag 5,000.

Whatever data they get will be combined with next year’s for a better estimate than they can get strictly from gillnetting.

As you may recall, last fall’s gillnet survey used in population estimates turned up a record low number of walleyes.

Jones’ theory on the late ice out here is that the snowstorms in April made the difference. Upper Red is already ice free, and Leech and LOW both have less ice (percentage wise) than Mille Lacs. Jones said Mille Lacs got both the cold that the northern part of the state had and the snow that the southern part of the state got.

The ice itself was not THAT thick this year. Jones said 40-plus inches used to be common. The highest he’s seen is 54.

The crazy swing from earliest ice-out last year to latest this year has some folks saying “What global warming?” and others saying “Extremes are what climate change proponents have been predicting.”

I haven’t looked at the official records yet, but I don’t think the winter was that cold. It was the lack of 50+ days in March and April that were really unusual. Those months will probably come out well below average, but the winter as a whole will probably be typical or even a little warmer than average.

Let us know what you’re seeing from your perch. If the ice moves to shore again, call the Messenger at (320) 676-3123. Either comment here or email news@millelacsmessenger.com. And send us some fish pics, too!

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