From the Soo Evening News:
Fisheries Chief Kelly Smith of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources indicated the fishing portion of the consent decree involved long and detailed discussion. The state was looking to protect fish stocks while at the same time minimizing the impact on licensed anglers and maintaining the current regulations. The tribes were looking to maximize harvest at peak times of efficiency utilizing spears and nets even during the spawning runs.
The tribes agreed to a permit system with notification requirements and timely harvest reporting. For its part, the state agreed to allow subsistence fishing activities even during spawning periods with certain restrictions designed to protect fish populations.
Walleyes, salmon and steelhead may all be taken by subsistence fishermen utilizing the tribal permit system with a variety of restrictions. They will be limited to somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the walleye population in any given inland lake depending on acreage. Certain river systems leading into Big and Little Bay de Noc will also be open during the spawning run.
Smith observed the combination of sport anglers and subsistence fishermen should not exceed the 35 percent threshold required to maintain walleye populations on any given lake.
Steelhead and salmon will also be available to subsistence fishermen under the agreement with certain limitations again designed to protect brood stock in key areas.
Tribal members utilizing their own hunting permits will be allowed to harvest up to five deer a year with the season beginning the day after Labor Day and running into January. These permits will limit harvest to two antlered deer with only one allowed to be taken with a firearm before Nov. 1. The agreement also calls for a quiet period from Nov. 1-14, prohibiting the use of firearms for trial deer hunters.
Tribal regulations allow for the harvest of two turkey during the spring hunt and two more during the fall hunt. Migratory bird hunting will be governed by existing federal regulations with most other small game species unaddressed by the consent decree.
Bear hunters operating under tribal regulations will have the same start and end dates as Michigan hunters without any breaks. Tribal members will be entitled to up to 10 percent of the harvest within each bear management unit and that number can increase to 12.5 percent in the future if needed.
Tribal hunters are also guaranteed 10 percent of the state’s elk permits, but that can increase to 20 percent if the state issues less than 101 permits and more than 50.
Permits for both bear and elk will be transferable.
There were a number of questions from the audience following the DNR’s presentation including one member who asked if the tribe should be required to utilize the same equipment and techniques available at the time the treaty was signed.
“The courts have uniformly held that tribal members can use the same benefits of technology as non-tribal members,” answered Dobbins, meaning tribal members do not have any gear restrictions above and beyond the average sportsman.