As journalism conundrums go, this one won’t vie with whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers or identify Deep Throat.
Still, this question: Should newspapers (or other media) insist that anglers identify the lakes or rivers where they catch trophy fish?
The issue arose most recently when I wrote a column about an albino (or whitish) muskie landed by Joe Mikalojczyk of Coon Rapids.
Mikalojczyk caught the fish while guided by Josh Stevenson, whose operation, Mighty Musky Fishing Guide Service, is run out of his Oakdale fishing shop, Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle.
Some background: I know, generally, where Mikalojczyk and Stevenson hooked the 46-inch muskie. Yet I didn’t identify the location in my column except to say “in the metro.”
To me, it’s just common sense: Muskies in Twin Cities area waters are under enough pressure, day and night, without this newspaper pinpointing where an unusual, and big, specimen was caught.
Yet some readers wanted me to cough up the details.
“Please, oh please, don’t go silent on this, like so many idiots do,” one guy wrote. “You’re not giving away any defense secrets here. And it’s not like there will be an avalanche of fishermen racing to get there!!! I’d like to know because I live on a ‘metro waters’ lake!”
I’ll concede a definitive rule in these circumstances is difficult to establish.
If someone catches a 2-pound crappie in Minnetonka, for instance, I don’t have a problem naming the lake, assuming it’s OK with the angler. Ditto a 4-pound bass from Big Marine, or a monster sunnie from Forest Lake.
And trophies — including muskies — caught in lakes well outside the Twin Cities seem fair game as well, because reports of their catches aren’t likely to produce significant added pressure to those named waters.
But the metro?
A few years back, I wrote about catching a 5-pound largemouth and a couple of other whoppers on a Saturday bass opener. The story appeared the next day, in a (large circulation) Sunday paper, and later that morning a parking spot couldn’t be found within blocks of the lake’s only public landing.
Lakeshore owners also have complained in recent years when I name their lakes, metro or otherwise. The publicity, they say, increases boat traffic and the chances invasive species will be imported to their lakes.
So it’s a bit of a moving target, whether to publish details about where big fish are caught.
But identify the home waters of an albino, or whitish, muskie caught in the metro?
I don’t think so.
After all, maybe the fish wasn’t even an albino — as reports published elsewhere suggest, citing the expertise of Minnesota DNR fisheries officials.