Wiltz: Make our walleyes great again?
I can't speak for Lakes Oahe, Sharpe, and Lewis & Clark because I don't fish them enough, but I can say that walleye numbers are down on our own Lake Francis Case. Do we accept the situation and settle for the current status quo, or do we do something about improving the situation? If something is done, I want to see it come from South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks with input from us, and not the floor of our capitol in Pierre.
A good friend in Burke is an avid, longtime angler. His opinions are respected, and he has spent enough years on Francis Case to speak with authority. In visiting with him a few weeks ago, I could sense some anger when we talked about our walleyes. Speaking of late winter-spring in particular, he felt that there was too much pressure on the walleyes in the Chamberlain area. He didn't specifically say it, but I would guess that he was thinking Chamberlain north to Fort Thompson. He also indicated that politics are shaping the issue.
Again, for lack of experience in the capitol, as well as GF&P commission meetings, I can neither confirm nor reject his sentiments on politics. I can, however, say with certainty that if the majority of our local anglers had their way, the walleye season on Francis Case would be closed until the spring spawn was completed.
I'll translate this sentiment in the following manner: If the anglers who live here and pay the taxes are generous to the point of foregoing their spring walleye fishing, why should we allow non-residents to pound our waters? I smell money.
Based on past letter writing to GF&P, our fisheries biologists say, "What difference does it make whether a female is taken from the lake in the early spring or in the early summer?" I have an answer. In the early spring she's full of eggs. In the summer she isn't.
I'll catch some heck for saying the above as well as mentioning the presence of politics and money, but answer me this: Are Minnesota biologists stupid? Minnesota's Lake Mille Lacs is the queen mother of Minnesota fisheries. Just like last year, this year's Mille Lacs walleye fishing will be catch and release only, and this catch and release only season will run from May 13 to Sept. 4.
I can only imagine the financial impact of shutting down the Mille Lacs walleyes as the huge lake is surrounded by fishing resorts. The only business these resorts will garner will be bass, northern pike, and panfish anglers. Our Francis Case is crawling with smallmouth bass and catfish. No one would need to put their rods away.
I don't feel that we need to completely shut down our Francis Case walleyes, but I am for shutting it down until after the spawn. When would we close the season? Feb. 1? March 1? I don't know enough about this, but I would go to two fish instead of four for the daily possession limit.
Other than shutting down during the spawn, size limits including slot limits might offer a rebuilding solution. Currently on Francis Case, it's a four-fish daily limit with none under 15 inches and only one over 20 inches. What do other places do? I do some Wisconsin fishing as two of our daughters and their families live in the heavily populated Madison area. Fishing on Lake Mendota, which is smack in the middle of Madison, is excellent. The minimum length for keeper walleyes is 18 inches with a three-fish limit. It works for Wisconsin. They, too, are closed down until after the spawn.
I'm interested in what others have to say, and I'll listen with an open mind.
Some months ago I read the book Endeavor, the story of Capt. James Cook's voyage around Cape Horn, on to Tahiti, and eventually the discovery of Australia. I devoted a column to the subject. I was particularly interested in the Tahitians. They had little interest in agriculture as fish and tropical fruits made up their diet. Breadfruit was often mentioned, and I became curious about it.
While in Hawaii last month, we toured the Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu. We saw some breadfruit trees, but they bore no fruit at the time. While visiting the Polynesian Culture Center, I asked about breadfruit and was directed to a restaurant that served it. Here they gave me a cupful and a spoon. They served it warm and mashed. It looked like, and tasted exactly like mashed potatoes. It was used as a potato substitute and covered with gravy alongside roast pork or beef. I wonder if Capt. Cook's Tahitians ate it raw or cooked.
We know there are some major deer season proposals in the works, and I'll try to discuss these next week. No matter what is done, application deadlines are already set. It's May 19th for elk, July 14th for West River Deer, and September 1st for East River Deer.
See you next week.