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The Resource Management Division is involved in various aspects of research and management of fish populations throughout the 1854 Ceded Territory. Our work is conducted in cooperation with other management agencies like the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Through cooperation, we work together to stretch tight budgets with a goal of successful management and protection of fish resources for all constituents, both band members and non-band members alike.

As ogaa (walleye) are a culturally significant species for the bands we serve, much of our fisheries work focuses on this species. Our work with walleye ranges from assessments of spawning populations in the spring, to investigations of year class production in the fall, to identification of important spawning and “nursery” habitat…

Spring Walleye Assessment

As the ice cover melts off of local lakes each spring, the increasing day length and warming water temperatures trigger walleye impulse to spawn.

Our Resource Management Staff conduct spawning surveys at night when walleye congregate in shallow, rocky areas of lakes. An electrofishing boat is maneuvered along the shoreline, “shocking” fish. The walleye are temporarily stunned, scooped up with a dipnet and placed in an onboard tank. The crew then processes fish to collect data: the sex of each individual is identified, lengths are recorded, and spines are collected determine age and growth rates for each fish. The live walleye are then released back into the lake.

Spring walleye surveys are also important to identify critical walleye spawning habitat in area lakes.

Fall Walleye Assessment

As September rolls around and water temperatures begin dropping below 70°F, we begin our annual fall electrofishing survey on inland lakes in the 1854 Ceded Territory. The goal for the fall walleye assessments is to get an idea of how strong of a year class, or how many walleye were produced that spring.

Small, three to six inch, young-of-year (YOY) walleye are captured in the lake shallows, measured, and scale samples are taken for aging and growth analysis. The fish are then released.

Trawling Surveys

From 1989 to 2004 the U.S. Geological Survey conducted trawling surveys in the St. Louis River Estuary to monitor populations of the invasive Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus) and native fish species. Although the surveys showed increases in ruffe and establishment of another aquatic invasive, Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in 1995, surveys were discontinued in 2005 due to a lack of funding.  

The benefit of a consistent, long-term study is a better representation of what may be occurring within populations. Therefore in 2010, 1854 Treaty Authority reinstated the annual bottom trawling surveys of the St. Louis River with three goals: 

  1. maintain annual monitoring of population trends of the native and nonnative fish communities;
  2. surveillance for new exotic introductions;
  3. document the survival of natural reproduced lake sturgeon following restoration efforts by the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources.

Thanks to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1854 was able to acquire our own trawling vessel in 2014, and will allow for bottom trawling surveys to continue on an annual basis. Since 2016, the 1854 Treaty Authority has conducted three seasonal surveys in the spring, summer and fall of every year.

Lake Sturgeon Monitoring Projects

The St. Louis River, once a historical location of a large, self-sustaining Name 'Ogimaa giigonh (Lake Sturgeon) population, is in the initial stages of re-developing a naturally reproducing population. Lake sturgeon are a long-lived species capable of reaching very large sizes, yet this same life history makes them vulnerable. Sexual maturity is not reached until 15-30 years of age and spawning by individual fish often only occurs every two to nine years. Lake Sturgeon were likely eliminated from the river by the early 1900's due to the combined effects of exploitation, water pollution, habitat alteration, and logging practices...