Judging by our “high-functioning” DMV and our educational achievement gap, too many Minnesota legislators seemingly struggle to legislate. So why should we trust them to be scientists, too?

This is what I’m left wondering after reading a recent Star Tribune article (“Minnesota Legislature declares war on muskies,” March 20) outlining an unprecedented legislative assault on a prized and already vulnerable Minnesota game fish.

I know politicians love power but remain surprised that Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and Sen. Tom Bakk, D-Cook, would be so turned on by the predation of an apex predator fish.

Their belief is that the boogeyman muskie, by way of stocking, has affected walleye and panfish populations in their districts’ lakes. On the surface it seems plausible to the layman. Muskies are as large and fierce as they are elusive. But recent DNR research, as illustrated in the newspaper’s balanced reporting, shows otherwise. Walleyes and crappies, which aren’t primary forage for the muskie, typically do better in lakes after muskies are introduced.

Despite plain and credible data that defies their logic, Ingebrigtsen and his coalition of legislative poachers are pushing to allow spearing of muskies and for a 20-inch minimum size limit (down nearly 3 feet for many Minnesota lakes — think about that for a second) on lakes where stocking has occurred.

A moratorium on expanded stocking, while shortsighted, is one thing. This new legislation is outlandish and punitive.

Or we can just get real and look at the economics. Muskie fishing is a growing sport, fueled by the adrenaline of landing the “Fish of 10,000 Casts.” There are high school muskie fishing leagues and growing youth programs. Folding this next generation of anglers into the existing fraternity of muskie hunters creates a passionate and conservation-minded force that pays for licenses and boat registration, invests in expensive gear and boosts local tourism.

You can be sure that Wisconsin, Ontario and other destinations will gladly welcome this disposable income should the current bill pass.

That will leave the muskie antagonists just where they are now. I recommend that the affluent lake home and cabin owners who aren’t catching as many walleyes or bluegills as they’d like spend their money finding the true problem (e.g., over-harvesting during spawning season) or hire a guide. My suggestion for the Legislature is term limits.

This should bother all Minnesotans, regardless of whether they ever picked up a fishing rod. It is an issue of overreach by powerful deniers of state-funded research and, ultimately, science. That is not what we do. Please call your legislator and ask them to vote against this nonsense.

 

John Feld lives in Shoreview.