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Fond du Lac Band will spear walleye on 13 lakes this spring

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The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will spear walleye on 13 lakes in northeastern Minnesota this spring, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

The band made the full list of 13 lakes, along with the declared limits for each, available on its website.

2014 Spearing Declarations
– Ball Club (Cook Co.) – 120
– Cadotte (St. Louis Co.) – 59
– Caribou (Cook Co.) –144
– Cascade (Cook Co.) – 168
– Dumbbell (Lake Co.) – 81
– Echo (St. Louis Co.) – 228
– Elbow (Cook Co.) –82
– Fourmile (Cook Co.) – 119
– Pike (Cook Co.) – 163
– Silver Island (Lake Co.) – 270
– Tait (Cook Co.) – 304
– Tom (Cook Co.) – 81
– Wilson (Lake Co.) – 130

Tait Lake in Cook County has the highest declaration at 304; the low end is Cadotte in St. Louis County at 59. The band says it will authorize spearing only on these lakes, and won't allow gill nets for the 2014 season. Band members interested in participating are asked to contact the Resource Management Office.

The News Tribune notes the lakes are part of territory ceded in 1854, and a treaty from that year guarantees the band's right to fish there.

In recent years the band has been spearing fish in Mille Lacs and other central Minnesota lakes. The band announced its intention to spear in the northeast last month. This will be the first year in modern times that members have exercised their treaty rights on northern lakes.

In an announcement on its website the band said it would work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to determine which lakes will be open to spearfishing and set a quota for how many fish will be harvested.

The News Tribune reports the DNR didn't object to any of the band's requests or harvest totals, and an official with the department tells the paper the band's biologists wanted to find lakes "off the beaten path ... which is good."

The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, which says it represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, has a glossary of spring spear fishing terms.

Federal court rulings in the 1980s affirmed tribal rights to fish and hunt under the terms of 19th Century treaties. When Ojibwe bands in northern Wisconsin exercised their treaty rights to spear and net fish they were met by protesters, some of whom turned violent. The Milwaukee Public Museum has a page recounting those incidents.

In 1988 three Minnesota Ojibwe bands, including Fond du Lac, reached an agreement with the DNR under which the bands received payments from the state in return for limiting the use of their treaty rights. The News Tribune reports the Fond du Lac Band pulled out of the agreement the following year but the Grand Portage and Bois Forte bands still abide by the deal, which is administered by the 1854 Treaty Organization.

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