Wassup with Mille Lacs?

Click here to view original web page at veryangrybird.blogspot.com

"I do know this from my background in contracts - when you sign an agreement which goes into perpetuity, and if you find out in the future you don't like the terms, that is usually tough toenails."

Oh yes - ceded territories. They are all over the upper Midwest. Many of us studied these in school. First the Treaty of 1837 with the Chippewa, and then followed up by a much larger treaty. It was the great treaty of 1854 called the 1854 Ceded Territory. It was agreed to between the federal government at that time, and the Chippewa of Lake Superior. Article 11 of that treaty has a nifty little sentence on which much of the tribe's fishing today rests: "And such of them as reside in the territory hereby ceded, shall have the right to hunt and fish therein, until otherwise ordered by the President."

How has that treaty been working out? Not well. Been to court many times and the tribe usually comes out on top. Why? The 1854 Treaty. Legally, it is pretty iron clad. For sport fishermen (and women) however - it is a travesty. Especially when it is evident that the walleye production, for whatever reason, is declining. The fishermen who come up to Lake Mille Lacs to fish find tighter slots, more catch and release, and sometimes an all out ban on walleyes. The tribe? Not so much. They can gill net, spear, or whatever.
In my more active fishing days, I became very aware of which lakes I fished on had treaty regulations. In fact many decades ago, there is a ceded lake up by the border called Nett Lake. It was at one time a thriving walleye lake. The tribe just about cleaned that lake out of walleye by over fishing it. It took years to get the numbers of game fish back up to semi-normal. Lesson learned? Over fishing and poor lake management can happen on just about any lake, ceded or not.
The problem comes when a ceded lake is shared between the tribe(s) and the sports fishermen. When times are good, the bite is good, the numbers are good, then all is good. When the numbers are down, dangerously down like they have been in the past few years in Mille Lacs, then the bad blood comes out. I have heard some very unfortunately things said up on Mille Lacs. Language and accusations which cause a bad situation to only get worse.
Yesterday our Governor was on a good will trip of sorts up to Mille Lacs. He was promoting bass fishing on the lake. Okay, I like to bass fish. But Mille Lacs has never cut its reputation on being a bass lake. Sure, there are bass in the lake, but this is the "Walleye Factory" - remember? How can a lake this size, so close to the Twin Cities, now become known as the "Dead Sea" instead of the "Walleye Factory"? In the eyes of many of the sports fishermen, the spotlight for this decline rests solely with the tribe.
Anyhow, the Governor's trip up to Mille Lacs was a bust. He was as popular as a sore tooth. How is this going to end? I have no clue. I do know this from my background in contracts - when you sign an agreement which goes into perpetuity, and if you find out in the future you don't like the terms, that is usually tough toenails. The ceded treaties have been there for many years and are likely to be there more many to come.