The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Red Lake Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs on Wednesday signed a new 10-year memorandum of understanding to continue cooperative management of the walleye population in Upper and Lower Red lakes in northwest Minnesota. The signing took place during a ceremony in Red Lake, Minn.

“Red Lake Band members are pleased that our walleye have come back and our fishing community is revitalized,” said Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. “We are committed to ensuring that Red Lake walleye are managed sustainably in the future.

“Renewing this agreement will enable the Fisheries Technical Committee to continue its work to help protect this valuable resource,” Seki added. “While the walleye fishery has rebounded, we must now focus our attention on ridding Red Lake of invasive species.”

Wednesday’s MOU provides an opportunity for the partners to address other issues that arise such as the prevention and eradication of invasive species.

The new MOU closely parallels previous 1999-2019 agreements that facilitated restoration of high-quality walleye fishing to Minnesota’s largest inland body of water. The agreement states that each entity will support the Red Lake Fisheries Technical Committee, a joint panel of experts that recommends policies and practices to maintain a healthy fishery.

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“We’ve come a long way in the past 20 years,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement, noting that the combined state and tribal harvest continues to average about 1 million pounds per year. “By renewing this agreement, we are reaffirming our commitment to a successful partnership and working together for the future of this outstanding fishery.”

Historically, Upper and Lower Red Lake was a highly productive walleye fishery, but it collapsed in the mid-1990s from overharvest. That led to the Red Lake Fisheries Technical Committee in 1997, followed by a moratorium on walleye harvest and an aggressive stocking effort.

Through those efforts and continued cooperation between members of the Technical Committee, walleye numbers quickly rebounded, and fishing in both state and tribal waters resumed in May 2006.

The regulations, policies and other actions this joint body has recommended have led to a healthy walleye population and a resurgent walleye fishing economy.