White Earth Reservation Fisheries Program
The White Earth Reservation features 530 lakes over ten acres in size and three river systems, with a total lake surface area of more than 48,000 acres and over 300 miles of rivers, creeks and streams.
The major species of game fish are walleyes, northern pike and large mouth bass. Other species that are present are: sauger, perch, muskellunge, small mouth bass, green sunfish, pumpkinseed, bluegill, black crappie, channel catfish, lake sturgeon, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, bowfin, burbot, tullibee and white fish. A number of species of rough fish are also found on the Reservation including suckers, redhorse, bullheads and carp. The most valuable species to the White Earth Band is walleye. White Earth Lake is the Reservation's only remaining, self sustaining population of walleye that does not require annual stocking to maintain a fishable population; all other lakes require a stocking effort to support the existing populations of walleye.
The White Earth Reservation Fisheries Program has operated a fish rearing program since 1982. The fisheries facility and related equipment are vital to providing the Reservation with a reliable production of fish. Without the capability to produce adequate numbers of fingerlings for stocking annually, the Band would be unable to protect its vested interest in the resources and fulfill its management responsibilities to preserve and protect its Treaty fishing rights.
However, the improvements made possible by the Fisheries Program cannot alone ensure an equitable distribution of the Reservation’s fish take. The 1997 creel census data indicated that non-tribal members harvested 90 percent of the fish taken and Tribal members accounted for only 10 percent of the total harvest. This ten percent tribal harvest, includes all culturally significant methods of harvest (angling, spearing and netting).
The White Earth Reservation has negotiated cooperative fisheries management agreements with other reservations and agencies since 1983.
Currently, the White Earth Fisheries Program is cooperatively rearing walleye fingerlings with the Leech Lake Reservation. This agreement has been in place since 1987. The White Earth Reservation is blessed with hundreds of small, natural hard water, fertile rearing ponds. The Leech Lake Reservation is blessed with large naturally reproducing walleye lakes (Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish and Cass Lake) that produce large spawning runs. Each spring walleye eggs are collected, fertilized, hatched and the walleye fry are delivered to the White Earth Reservation by the Leech Lake Reservation fisheries staff. The fry are reared in selected-natural rearing ponds by the White Earth Fisheries staff and both Reservation’s fisheries departments harvest the fall fingerlings and split the harvest, fifty/ fifty, for stocking public waters.
In the past, cooperative efforts have taken place with the Lac du Flambeau (WI), Fond du Lac (MN), Bad River (WI) and Red Lake (MN) Reservation fisheries programs. Also surplus walleyes have been supplied to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for stocking other reservations (Boise Fort (MN), Red Lake Grand Portage (MN) and Menomonie (WI)) and National Wildlife refuges (Desoto National Wildlife Refuge and Tamarac N.W.R.) over the past twenty-five years.
Several Canadian First Nation Bands have contacted the White Earth Reservation over the past twenty years to attain knowledge in walleye rearing for stocking and sturgeon restoration for their reserves. (Gull Bay Reserve, Lake Manitoba Reserve and the Nelson River Reserve Cree Nations - War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, York Factory First Nation and the Tataskweyak Cree Nation)
The White Earth Fisheries Program has four drainable rearing ponds capable of producing a combined total of 125,000 – two inch walleye fingerlings each year on average. This facility is located at the Natural Resources Offices on Ice Cracking Lake. Additionally, the Fisheries Program manages 10 to 20 natural rearing ponds which produce an average of 65,000 large (six to twelve inch) fall walleye fingerlings annually on average.
The Fisheries Program has stocked walleye fingerlings into reservation lakes on a continuous basis since 1983. A total of approximately 4.4 million walleyes fingerlings have been produced by the Fisheries Program to date. A total of 54 lakes have been stocked by the White Earth Fisheries Department with walleye fingerlings.
In addition, emerging technologies applicable to walleye culture and other cool/cold water species are continuously being implemented to improve the Ice Cracking Lake Fisheries facilities. The current goal is to stabilize production at 5,000 pounds of walleye fingerlingsor roughly, 225,000 fingerlings per year from both the drainable rearing ponds and the natural rearing ponds.
The State of Minnesota DNR Fisheries Department manages walleye and rainbow trout through a stocking effort on the White Earth Reservation. Twenty fishing lakes, the majority of which are resort/sport fishing destinations, are stocked with walleye fingerlings and fryby the State. Ninety-four percent of the 10,110,850 walleye that were stocked by the Minnesota DNR since 2001 have been walleye fry. Additionally, 18,000 yearling rainbow trout are stocked annually in Bad Medicine Lake and Two Island Lake on the reservation.
Lakesturgeon is an ancient species that can reach weights in excess of two hundred pounds and often live for more than two hundred years. Over fishing, dams and poor water quality have drastically reduced this species population. The last recorded adult lake sturgeon harvested within the White Earth Reservation was in 1926 from the White Earth River.
The White Earth Reservation’s Fisheries Department/ Natural Resources Department in cooperation with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the White Earth Land Recovery Project and the Rainy River First Nations have reared and stocked the Rainy River strain of Lake Sturgeon in the Red River Watershed since 1999, in an attempt to reintroduce this culturally significant species. Over 124,706 lake sturgeon fingerlings have been reintroduced into White Earth Reservation waters since 2001, on an annual stocking basis.
The White Earth Reservation's Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan originally required 8,000 sturgeon fingerlings to be reared and stocked in White Earth Lake and 5,000 sturgeon fingerlings to be reared and stocked into Round Lake annually. Current survey data suggests that the annual sturgeon fingerling stocking rate can be reduced to half the original stocking rate due to the survival success of fingerlings stocked in the last ten years. As part of the public relations outreach efforts, public awareness signs posted at both public accesses and local resorts on both lakes, the White Earth Fisheries Department has received reports and pictures of caught and released sturgeon in White Earth Lake, including one reported to be 48 inches long and several in the mid-30 inch size range.
Four major fish migration-limiting dams have been altered to allow fish passage throughout the White Earth River, Wild Rice River and the Otter Tail River. Another dam, located on the outlet of Round Lake, is scheduled to be altered during the summer of 2011 to allow fish passage on the Otter Tail River. This project is in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
A stocking goal of thirteen thousand lake sturgeon fingerlings annually for the next ten years within the White Earth Reservation has been established to achieve the existence of thirty-year classes within the Reservation's lakes and rivers systems.
The documentation of preferred habitat and movement, via a radio telemetry study, would allow for the identification and protection of the lake sturgeon’s preferred habitat throughout the Red River Watershed.
Increased public awareness of this culturally significant and long-lived species via media press release, public events, educational programs and a documentary film should help protect the lake sturgeon for future generations, benefiting not only the White Earth Nation, but First Nations people and the general public throughout this watershed, clear to Hudson Bay.
The White Earth Reservation’s Fisheries Department and the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with Muskies Inc. have been working successfully to establish muskellunge in Many Point Lake through stocking 565 Muskellunge fingerlings annually since 2006.
The major goals of the Fisheries Program are:
- Create new and viable, self sustainable, harvestable populations of walleye wherever possible through stocking to respond to the ever increasing harvest pressure and demand for existing walleye populations, not only by the White Earth Nation membership but the general public. This goal should also enhance existing populations of walleye, down stream of the initial body of water being stocked, as walleye will compete with and forage by competing with and foraging on the perceived over-abundantpopulations of rough fish existing in these admittedly marginal walleye lakes.
- Maintain or increase the currently existing walleye population at a level each body of water being stocked, at a rate of carrying capacity for that individual body of water.
- Restore the lake sturgeon population to a viable, self sustaining, harvestable population through stocking, habitat improvement and the creation of fish passage structures at dams through out the White Earth Reservation and the Red River Watershed.
- Monitor the current fisheries through periodic lake and stream surveys to determine population trends.
- Manage the current fisheries via harvest control, habitat protection, stocking and modern fisheries management techniques, based on population trends, current technology and funding.
- Increase tribal harvest via traditional means through the implementation of modern fisheries management techniques.
- Research the effects of sustained harvesting of baitfish within the White Earth Reservation due to the increased pressure of commercial batfish harvest by non-tribal harvesters.
Click link for 2016 Netting Season: /data/upfiles/files/Netting_Season_2016-2017.pdf
Click link for 2016 Angling Seasons: /data/upfiles/files/2016_Angling_Seasons.pdf
Click link for 2016 Rough Fish Spearing Season: /data/upfiles/files/2016_Rough_Fish.pdf
White Earth Water Division Manager
White Earth Natural Resources
PO Box 393, 216 N. Main Street
Mahnomen, MN 56557
Phone: (218) 935.2488 Ext. 2105
Fax: (218) 935.2524
Gerald Roberts - Fisheries Technician Gerald.Roberts@whiteearth-nsn.gov
Cliff Crowell - Fisheries Technician Cliff.Crowell@whiteearth-nsn.gov