View Full Version : Bone Lake massacre 2008-2009 edition

02-03-2009, 09:21 PM
Now that we're in the middle of the worst season for those of us who love to musky fish, and memories of last summer/fall as well as visions of this up coming opener are keeping you up at night, I would like to take a moment to vent about the topic which has kept me up tossing and turning the past couple months. But first I want to clearly state that I am not attemting to cause an up-roar. And I acknowledge that Native Americans have the right to practice their cultural traditions in peace. However, I would like to bring to light the decimation of a musky population in one of Wisconsins' famed musky waters, Bone Lake. As a musky fishermen who cut his preverbial teeth about 12 years ago on Bone, I, along with my fishing buddies, have come to know Bone extremely well. We're used to seeing tons of fish and hooking into a decent amount of some of the most pressured fish you'll find. But in the Spring of 2008, we started hearing rumors of 200 to 300 muskies that were taken through the ice over the winter via spear. I initially chalked it up to an exageration, but as June turned into July, and July to August, the decrease in the number of fish seen and caught was compelling. So we started to wonder. This winter we put our suspicions to work and my fishing buddy has has personally documented, with pictures, over 140 muskies killed through the ice within the past 2 months. The ice season is only half over in this part of the country. So those numbers will undoubtably increase. Leading me to believe previous years rumors to be not that far fetched. About 4 years ago the WDNR performed a survey on Bone and concluded there were approximately 950 adult muskies (30 inches or larger) in the 1780 acre lake. In essense, Bone has taken a huge hit in the adult musky population, and will continue to do so due to the apparent high success rate of spearing. Just this past weekend a 47.5 incher and a 45 were laying on the ice as well as rumors of 3 50+ inchers in previous weeks. For those of you who don't know, Bone is a numbers lake with most of the fish in the 34 to 44 inch range, 45 inchers are very rare, let alone 50's. Aside from the fact that the adult musky population has probably been cut in half over the last 3 to 4 years, Bone will also see a negative ripple effect from decimating the population of the lakes top predator. Over population of other fish species will lead to stunted growth, disease, and an overall unhealthy balance of predator to prey relationship. Please understand that I am not calling out Native Americans. I respect their heritage and tradition and would never want to see that taken away from them. However, I would like to see regulation so that musky populations aren't over-harvested. There are safe harvest regulations for open water seasons, why can't there be a safe harvest number through the ice?

02-03-2009, 11:40 PM
Got to agree with you here. As a person from the southern end of the musky range, West Virginia, I look forward to a trip or 2 "up north", and use these bits of info to help plan the areas that we fish. That being said, I can only say that they are only making it harder fo me to fish a lake or even a area for that matter , if I know that things like this will effect my chances of hooking a few fish. Personally, I really don't care if they are 36-40" muskies or 36-40" pike ( a fish that was unknown to me until 2003). If the top of the foodchain is not there in catchable numbers, muskies and pike, then it would not be in my best interest to waste my time and money in a place that even local fishermen, who I am sure have a lot more knowledge of the lake and the fish themself, are having a tough time seeing fish and catching fewer. My largest musky is only 45" from Lake of the Woods in '03 and my largest pike was from Vermilion in Minn. last year at 40" even.I have never killed a fish on any of my trips "up north". With the amount of water in Minn. and Wisc. and the limited time and money that I have, I don't see a trip to Canada in the forseeable future and with reports like this, I don't see one to Bone.

C.J. Cantley aka Mauser:'(

02-09-2009, 07:37 PM
I have been fishing this lake for about 15 years and have seen many changes. when I first started fishing it most fish 28-34. As the years progressed so did the size of the fish. I have cought over 100 and my partners are good for another 50 or so, with several over 45 with pictures. I know te lake and the fish better every year and should be doing better,but that is not the case. Only caught a few last year and nothing over 40, in fact dont know if a saw any big ones. None of the above fish were kept, all released to grow and thrill another angler. Just this year we voted to make it a 50 limit, but why should we waste our time with this situation going on. If they are going to spear through the ice it sould at least be part of the spring quota. If I have another year like last year, It may be my last on bone, so there goes a couple of grand for the busness people of the area. HOPEFULLY THEY OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL COME TO THEIR SENSES!!!:'( x( :-(

top water freak
02-15-2009, 09:05 AM
I fished the lakes bone/deer in over the last 10 years and have had great action except for the last two years. The tourney I fished this last summer was a sad not because of the number of fish caught (very few) but that over 60-70% of the field were fishing jigs and dawgs and still no fish. I wont be going back to fish the tourney again this year due to the lack of fish in these lakes.

02-17-2009, 08:00 PM
I have a cabin on Bone Lake and have been involved this winter with some of the other local fisherman in documenting the harvest of Muskies from the lake by Native Americans. The count after this past weekend is over 150 speared. This figure does not take into account fish speared and lost that will die under the ice from their wounds and the numerous fish speared that we may have not seen. Total number speared in open water harvest over the past ten years; 144.
We are all in agreement that we do not wish to deprive the Native Americans of their heritage, but there has to be regulations. What we are observing has nothing to do with conservation, only harvest. It appears they will not stop until the Musky population has been eradicated. This is not the 1800's, it is 2009 and something has to be done to protect the resource.
Close to half the estimated adult population of Muskies in Bone Lake have disappeared in only two years of winter harvest. Will the lake ever come back? Sure, but there is a big difference between some of the upper 40" to over 50" fish we have seen dead on the ice and the 30"-31" fish coming up to take their place. It will take years for the fishery to recover (if ever) and when it does, will the same cycle continue? Spear till their gone then wait for the lake to come back. Change must occur!
This is a local effort with no affiliation. The numbers are being passed along to anyone that will listen. I will keep you posted with any new information as it comes in.

02-18-2009, 07:35 PM
If they say that it is their right and heritage, then as far as I'm concerned, let them do it the way it was done in the time of their grandfathers, with a birth bark canoe and a pine pitch torch and wooden spear, not with a 2,000,000 candle power light and steel spear and ranger boat. Even a dummy like me can see that they are only killing fish to say they got a big one, not as food or a way of keeping from starving. I'm sure that the fish are eaten but really is this what is best for all? How long are the rest of the world going to be held hostage to this?? Once again , special interest wins out.

:-( :( :'(


02-18-2009, 08:59 PM
MrMusky - Can you please email me at grant.belisle@gmail.com

Thanks. I'd like to ask you some questions.

Grant Belisle

02-19-2009, 01:37 PM
I agree with the previous poster that heritage practice should be done with heritage equipment:

- Only hand crafted boats
- Only hand crafted spears
- No polarized lenses
- No fancy boats and motors
- No gore-tex

Modern equipment should require adherence to modern rules. They should paddle their way out there in a canoe and good luck to them in a storm.


02-19-2009, 06:38 PM
Hello Bone Lach and Mr Msky I finally tracked you down. You two are not the only ones that know how to post here.
The offical count is 160....Let's stock Small mouth.
I'm working on the economic impact figures.
"One More Cast"

02-19-2009, 08:03 PM
Hey there Flyer,

Glad to see you aboard. I'll be up this weekend. I've also alerted a few people that there might be some extra activity on Deer this weekend.


Mr Musky
02-19-2009, 08:09 PM
MrMusky, Anychance you'd change your user name?

02-19-2009, 08:45 PM
Not a problem, I added the 09 to the end of mine. To bad the system does not let you know when a user name is already in use. Oh well, live and learn!

Steve Heiting
02-20-2009, 08:32 AM
>To bad the
>system does not let you know when a user name is already in
>use. Oh well, live and learn!

Hi guys:

It does, except that to a computer, MrMusky and Mr Musky (note the space) is, indeed, a completely different user name.

Thanks for keeping this Bone Lake discussion above the table.

Steve Heiting


02-22-2009, 09:50 PM
Good News:

No spearing activity on Bone this past weekend.

02-27-2009, 07:41 AM
If this is true, no wonder the WMT dropped this lake from it's schedule. I fished the tourney in 2007 and although getting 3 undersized fish (40" min.) I didn't realize that Bone went to a 50" min, that could be the real reason it was dropped. Would have to be a judge boat tourney. I was looking forward to going back there due to the action if there's any action left to be had.

02-27-2009, 07:58 PM
Update: Friday February 27th

Today Indians have set up spearing shacks on the north end of Bone Lake. Three by the north landing and another three by the football field (as we call it) on the north west side of the lake. This weekend members of the Lac du Flambeau tribe are holding a winter spearing clinic for their children. Teachers, students and parents will be there to participate, instructing the next generation on how to harvest Muskies!

I strongly caution everyone not to disrupt this event. There will be children present and possibly law enforcement officers. Any type of harrasment is considered a federal offense.

I will post any additional info.

03-02-2009, 07:37 PM
MR MUSKY09 - Did you check out "The Teachings" this past weekend? How many did they get?

Did you ever hear if they went to Deer 2 - 3 weeks ago?

03-02-2009, 08:12 PM
my big question on this is why muskie? i mean for as old as they are to get that big they are not recomended for children or women of child bearing age on the dnr website. so why would they want to chance someone getting pcb's or other chemicals when there are so many other fish that they could catch/spear that would be better for them. I guess i just dont understand. But what i do know is this should definantly be a quota harvest on each lake. I dont know where this lake is but those of you that live there should contact that tribal biologist as there is one for each tribe and the dnr biologist in the area and find out what can be done.

03-03-2009, 03:41 PM
The first time I see one fillet and ready for the frying pan will be the time I believe they are doing this for subsistence, and not for spite.

I remember stories from my father, 40+ years ago how walleye were speared by some in the Ashland area, only to be left to rot. He told me the largest walleye he ever saw (35") came back as a gift to him from two Indian brothers who worked for him at the time. That's how he knew the "rest of the story".

Not being a bigot, but please someone show me a photo that will change my mind on this.


03-03-2009, 08:15 PM
I heard that they didn't get their casino in Beloit this year. Could be that now they will step up on their spearing and hunting to get people complaining to try to get public opinion to work for them so they can get what they want.

03-08-2009, 08:21 PM
Any activity the last two weekends?

06-30-2009, 10:26 AM
Have you contacted the WDNR? What is their comment on this?? Bone was 'their' lake for many years. I would hope they would have a comment on this. There is a quota process (I believe) that the tribes go through..also, I believe that they need to report their harvest, including size, to the DNR.

07-29-2009, 07:34 AM
No quota on winter spearing. It goes completely un-monitored. Only the spring spearing is counted. What a joke!!

07-30-2009, 01:36 PM
Does anyone have pictures? My Parents live on the lake year around and with full view of the North landing.I asked my Dad if he has ever seen any spearing shacks, Tents, He said No. Was out there July 14th, 15th,16th Day and night Fishing was SLOW. Bomber:(

07-31-2009, 09:14 AM
Bomber, I sent you an email to the address listed in your profile!

07-31-2009, 12:19 PM
I haven't even touched Bone yet this year, probably won't after reading all of this discouraging news.


08-02-2009, 10:35 AM
I was fishing on Bone and was able to talk to one of the 3 guys that documented and took pictures of the muskies taken from the lake this winter.

They kept watch on the lake from when there was 3 inches of ice on the lake to ice out. This winter they took 176 muskies from the lake, not counting the ones that die on the bottom that were wounded. The indians got used to them coming out and were quite open with what and how they did things. They let them take pictures and posed for pictures. Why not, the law is on their side. When the agreement was written the only thought was about how many walleyes were to be taken because the lawmakers thought they would have no interest in Muskies and the indians weren't going to correct them.

The interesting thing I found is that the ones doing the spearing are not our local tribe but they are from the Eagle River area I think. Its like they travel 3 hours when they live around some of the best musky lakes in Wisconsin. What,they dont want to upset the people they live around? He said they come for the clear water and high numbers.

The only good thing that has happened is one of the group has gotten ahold of our DNR, the tribal DNR and the tribal leaders. All were shocked about how many were speared and all thought something needed to be done. No one has kept tabs on how many are speared through the ice.

Thats what I know of what is happening on Bone Lake. So far when I have fished Bone this year, all I will say is there is a very good age class right now in the 28"-34" range. Maybe in 6 to 10 years with the new 50 inch limit, the lake can recover to where it was 3 years ago before they started spearing it.

08-13-2009, 09:42 AM
I have been fishing Bone Lake for over 10 years and the last two years have been god awful!!!!I heard rumors last year(Winter 2007-2008) that the Indians spread fished over 500 but after talking with some of the locals at the bar they put it at 75-100. The common thing they did say was the Indians took a lot of big fish. I have fished Bone 7 times this year and it is a desert. I have only seen one fish and it was not even close to 40".

The DNR needs to take action immediately! This is becoming an ecological disaster. This lake used to support a 40" musky per acre now I would be supprised if there is one every 50 acres. The impact on the ecology of the lake will last decades. For years thousands of Wisconsin tax dollars supported a restocking program and surveys that have now been wiped out in two winters.

I support Native American rights and pratices of traditional customs but those customs practiced in the 21st Century must match the same methods and practices that occured centuries ago. The use of auggers, gore tex, portable heaters, tents, ansd spotlights did not exist back in the 17th century so they should not be applied now. The Eskimos in Alaska conduct traditional whale hunts using wood canoes and spears not 30 foot power boats. Why can't the local Wisconsin tribes practice the same? I wonder why this tribe picked Bone Lake 3 hours away from Eagle River when they drive by over 100 other musky lakes? Do they know local law enforcement/DNR/residents would not enforce laws in Polk County?

Now would this happen if it was Walleyes? I think not! The sad part was Bone Lake was a great Musky lake now it has become a product of outdated laws and lack of legislature support for the DNR.

10-12-2009, 08:27 AM
I understand your parents live on the lake as do I (at least most weekends). There are fishing houses on the lake all winter long. Most if not all of the spearing is done from portable fishing houses with the exeption of a few old school methods of a very small tent with pine branches around it. Unless you walk out on the ice to each house you would not see the difference. Most of the spearing is done on the north end of the lake down to the big island. Late in the season there was activity on the south end.

10-13-2009, 09:08 AM
The WDNR, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Tribes all know about what is happening on Bone and they are talking. It's a start. I think the only way for change to occur is to set aside hatred and work towards a common goal. We are not going to accomplish anything by throwing stones or insults. I realize we are all passionate about our sport but we are dealing with something much larger than that. We now wait to see what happens this winter.

I've included a great report the WDNR did on Bone a few years back. If you haven't seen it, take the time and check it out. There was talk even back then about winter harvest being a concern.


03-14-2010, 10:52 AM
Has anyone heard if the massacre occurred again this year?

03-14-2010, 01:32 PM
Is there anything left to slaughter?
-Chris :-(

03-14-2010, 02:28 PM
Yep, happened again this year. Deer got smoked too...:(

03-14-2010, 07:57 PM
Jim Saric and Steve Heiting, is there anything Musky Hunter can do to elevate this problem so a wonderful fishery is not ruined?

03-23-2010, 03:19 PM
While I am not on Bone daily I been fishing it since mid-80's. Size and numbers down? - you bet. Yet in the later '80's I think the numbers were even less but size larger.

Spearing sucks - but so does what I see every summer occuring by those who take, I call it swipe, smaller fish and toss them into livewells. That is BS, Pure BS. Bet half are damn near illegal too.
Yes - I've called WDNR like one should. After fact gets tough....

BTW - these summer Bandits, they are 100% to date NOT Native Americans. Never seen anything but a tanned white face. LOL
Troubles me to no end to listen and read all the blame they get for all ailments to fisheries and such.

It's the system that is broke - non-enforcement or inability to get there to do so in time which means lack of staffing.
I have no Bone (pun intended) with the N.A. having availability. Heck - even if they do it as an in your face payback at that. I always say it so simple - who was here first and got railroaded outta Dodge? Case closed.

Sorry if I offend some here but some get over the top on this too.

06-04-2010, 02:14 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eet_o1KmPlE ;(

06-09-2010, 05:20 PM
For anyone to bring race into this discussion is completely ridiculous. Does anybody really believe that people wouldn't be concerned about this issue if it was a bunch of white's, African Americans, or Hispanics out there spearing muskies. Let's get serious.

I agree the Indians are not breaking the law, but that doesn't mean what they are doing is a good thing. To simply condone this action because of tradition is silly. All of are Dad's and Grandpa's used to shoot muskie's in the head when they caught them. Guess what it decimated the muskie population and we learned from our mistakes and outlawed that practice.

I am not an expert on Indian tradition. But just guessing I bet in the old days Indians speared muskies for food in the winter. Even if all the muskies that are speared are eaten they are not being speared as a necessity to survive. We all know we can go to the grocery store to buy food.

Me and my family have fished for eight years and we have had one muskie die on us. If people are keeping non-legal muskies that to is a problem. Two wrongs don't make a right. I don't know why though someone would want to keep a 38 inch muskie.

Musky's simply cannot survive when they are harvested at massive rates. I am sure that the Indians 300 years ago would never knowingly destroy a muskie population.

Yes they have a treaty, but we should try and work with the tribes to stop this practice. If its all about tradition, should I be able to shoot all the muskies I catch?