Note to walleye anglers and northern pike spearers: Your chance to be heard regarding muskie stocking will occur in the next few weeks.
Show up — or hold your peace.
Because Minnesota's Great Muskie Stocking Debate is about to begin.
Or, rather, continue.
The Department of Natural Resources announced this week it will soon gather input "to help determine if new muskellunge lakes spread geographically throughout Minnesota should be established in 2016.''
Some walleye anglers definitely will vote no. They think the state's muskie expansion is being accomplished at the expense of walleyes.
Some in the darkhouse crowd also will oppose the idea. They fear spearing might be banned on lakes newly stocked with muskies, because occasionally muskies are mistaken for northern pike and illegally speared.
The DNR has developed a long-range muskie plan that attempts to balance the interest of muskie anglers for more big fish in the state with those who oppose the idea.
The plan calls for eight additional lakes or rivers to be stocked with muskies by 2020. Three new lakes — Roosevelt, Pokegema and the Sauk River Chain — already have been stocked.
But plans to stock other lakes with muskies were shelved after public criticism arose.
Muskie stocking is among the state's hottest fishing topics — even though, according to the DNR, muskies don't hurt walleye populations.
"Fisheries research work in Minnesota and Wisconsin shows that muskellunge coexist with healthy populations of walleye and other important game fish," said T.J. DeBates, East Metro Area Fisheries supervisor, while announcing four public meetings.
To be discussed at the meetings is whether Big Marine in Washington County, the Fairmont chain in Martin County and the Gull chain in Cass County should be stocked with muskies.
Two lake chains in Otter Tail County also are being proposed — the Franklin and Lizzie chain, and the Loon chain.
Although no more than one of the three lakes within the Otter Tail chains will be chosen, the DNR acknowledges that muskies, over time, will move among connected lakes.
Last summer, the DNR began gathering opinions about whether to stock the proposed lakes with muskies. Signs were posted at public boat accesses, and local fishing clubs and lake associations were consulted.
Now the public can weigh in. But be forewarned: Even if most comments about a given lake proposal are negative, the DNR might go ahead with muskie stocking, anyway.
That said, if you have an opinion about one or more of the proposed stockings, show up at one of the meetings or, alternatively, submit your comments in writing (either online, by e-mail or snail mail; see below).
Meeting dates, times and places are:
• Big Marine: 7-9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Scandia Community and Senior Center, 14727 209th St. N., Scandia.
• Gull chain: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Crow Wing County Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., Brainerd.
• Fairmont chain: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Martin County Library, 110 N. Park St., Fairmont.
• Franklin and Lizzie chain, and Loon chain: 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Lake Region Electric Cooperative, 1401 S. Broadway, Pelican Rapids.
• Twin Cities: Muskie stocking in all of the proposed lakes will be discussed 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, in the Oak Room at the Bunker Hills Activity Center, 550 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW., Andover.
Online comments on each lake also will be taken at www.mndnr.gov/muskie or by e-mail or postal mail to the following area fisheries offices:
•Big Marine: DNR East Metro Fisheries, 1200 Warner Road, St. Paul, MN 56401, firstname.lastname@example.org.
•Fairmont chain: DNR Windom Area Fisheries, 175 County Road 26, Windom, MN 56101, email@example.com.
•Franklin and Lizzie chain, and Loon chain: DNR Fergus Falls Area Fisheries, 1509 1st Av. N., Fergus Falls, MN 56537, firstname.lastname@example.org.
•Gull chain: DNR Brainerd Area Fisheries, 1601 Minnesota Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401, email@example.com.
Muskie fishing is one of the fastest-growing segments of Minnesota sport fishing. Still, panfish, walleyes and northern pike far exceed muskies each year, measured by numbers caught.
Additional information on the proposals is available online at www.mndnr.gov/muskie.