Walleye – Red Lakes
Walleye is a freshwater fish that is found in lakes and medium to large rivers throughout the northern part of North America. It is a dominant predator that can grow to over 100 cm in length and live to 25 years of age. In the Red Lakes, Minnesota, the commercial fishery is entirely conducted by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. This is the oldest and largest walleye fishery in the United States.
The walleye population in the Red Lakes collapsed in the 1990s and commercial fishing was closed in 1997. A restoration plan was put in place, which allowed the population to recover, and commercial fishing was reopened in 2006. Since the reopening of the fishery, walleye abundance has been closely monitored by management bodies and has remained at high levels, above target abundance goals. The catch of walleye has gradually increased over 2006 to 2015, as a reflection of the healthy abundance of walleye. Management of the fishery is highly effective and precautionary.
Bycatch in the walleye fishery is low and no species of concern are captured. Most walleye are caught with handlines, which result in minimal damage to the bottom habitat. A small proportion of the catch is taken with bottom gillnets. Bottom gillnets can cause some damage to the bottom habitat, but gillnet fishing in the Red Lakes is highly regulated and thus the overall impacts are low. .