If Sunday’s article “Lake associations flex muscles over muskie infusion” (Outdoors, Jan. 17) weren’t so pathetic, it would be laughable.
Instead, it is time for some pushback from at least one interested bystander who is bone-weary of the ineptitude revealed time and again by Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on fish and wildlife.
Public: “Where have the bluebills gone?” DNR: “Gee, we don’t know.”
Public: Where have the pheasants gone?” DNR: “We have some thoughts, but we really don’t know.”
And now, Public: “What has decimated the walleye population in Mille Lacs?” DNR: “Oh, it could be gill netting, or spear fishing, or invasive species or you name it, but we really don’t know.”
However, the DNR wants to replicate its “successful” stocking of muskies in Mille Lacs — a lake that has just yielded two record, or near record, muskies in the last 45 days or so. The DNR wants to plow ahead with its stocking plans without knowing whether there are 10 more, or 50 more, or you-name-it-more monster muskies in Mille Lacs, nor what impact those fish and their progeny might be having on Mille Lacs’ walleye population.
Does anybody else see a pattern here? Apparently not the DNR. Its fisheries chief, Don Pereira, declared: “The agency is justified in expanding muskie fishing opportunities and confident it can do so without damaging other fisheries.” Should one laugh or cry?
But then Pereira added that “our waters are public waters,” to which he received positive feedback from a muskie proponent. In so doing, Pereira introduced the fact that the DNR’s plan is receiving — according to its regional fisheries manager, Henry Drewes — “… a very loud, very strong no” from the public in those areas where stocking has been proposed.
Drewes represented that “surveys show statewide support for the DNR plan.” What the agency’s surveys really show is that “14 percent of resident anglers target muskies, with another 18 percent of [currently] non-muskie anglers moderately or very interested in fishing for them.” That adds up to 32 percent of resident anglers having some degree of interest in fishing for a muskie. Juxtapose that number against the fact that “about 35 percent of surface waters in the state” already contain muskies, including the hybrid tiger muskie. When is fair fair, and enough enough?
Eric Bakke, first vice president of the Twin Cities chapter of Muskies Inc., offered his ill-thought reaction to the gathering opposition to the DNR’s plan by lake associations: “It’s an entitlement mentality. Well, it’s not their lake.”
Coming from the officer of a group that already enjoys having its prized game fish roaming in over one-third of the state’s waters and aware that the DNR really cannot guarantee that stocking will not lead to negative unintended consequences not only for the fisheries but for the overall quality of the targeted waters, his comment is not only misdirected but insulting.
It is not, in my experience, lake property owners who express a sense of entitlement. On the contrary, we fight a constant battle to maintain our lakes at a sustainable level of quality. We see them as a great asset — maybe the greatest asset — that all Minnesotans share. Those who visit these lakes, spending their time racing in high-powered boats from one place to another in their quest to catch their “trophy” fish, to which they are certain they are entitled, are the ones who exhibit the entitlement mentality.
At the end of the day, watching the visitors’ taillights go down the road to their next venue, maybe leaving their refuse in their wake — possibly including Eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels, spiny water flea and other assorted aquatic invasive species — the property owners wonder: Now whose lake is it?
The visitors are gone, and the DNR will throw its arms up in the air and pronounce: “Gee, we don’t know what you should do about these problems, but good luck to you.”
Jim Moe lives in Edina.