Monday’s announcement by the Department of Natural Resources that it will stock muskies in the Gull Lake Chain in Cass and Crow Wing counties and the Fairmont Chain in Martin County along the Iowa border might — or might not — prove to be a good thing for Minnesota fishing in general.
I say that as someone who loves to fish muskies — as I do other fish species.
The concern from my vantage point is that further muskie stocking in Minnesota has become highly contentious, not only between muskie anglers and lake-home owners on proposed muskie lakes, but in many cases between muskie anglers and other anglers.
The Gull Lake Chain is an example. Stocking muskies in that lake was overwhelmingly opposed by lakeshore owners, as well as by some anglers.
One reason: Many longtime Gull Lake anglers believe the lake’s walleye population has nose-dived in recent years. The presence of zebra mussels hasn’t helped — or might be the cause altogether.
But rather than intensify its effort to return Gull Lake to the walleye hot spot it once was, these anglers say, the DNR is stocking muskies, a relatively easy species to propagate.
To reiterate: Fishing is a pastime of the masses, and it can’t survive without support of the masses.
If in the interest of spreading the muskie gospel, the DNR undermines support for, or interest in, other types of fishing, the net loss will be to fishing in general, not just to muskie fishing.
And if fishing declines, so too will sales and values of boats and motors and other equipment and commodities, including, perhaps, lakeshore property.
Everyone agrees the Gull Lake Chain will make excellent muskie water. Yet at times it’s already tough to find a parking spot at one of its public launch sites.
Yes, Gull and other state lakes are public waters and should be managed for everyone’s benefit, including that of muskie anglers.
Yet for the benefit of fishing in general, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed when considering the further expansion of these fish in Minnesota.
Maybe we’ve crossed it already. Maybe not.
What’s certain is that the primary consideration in further muskie stocking no longer should be only biology — whether a given lake or river will support muskies — but also sociology and politics, e.g., what the public and the Legislature will accept without retribution.