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Scott M

How many muskies are too many?

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How many muskies are too many? Anglers are of two minds

By DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune

June 14, 2008

Kirk Schnitker said he believes Minnesota is stocking too many lakes with muskies, to the detriment of other species, including walleyes, northerns and crappies.

And he says the Department of Natural Resources -- in its push to improve muskie fishing -- has ignored studies that show muskies can adversely affect other fish species.

Nonsense, says Shawn Kellett. Minnesota's muskie fishery is the envy of the nation, and expanding it hasn't hurt other gamefish populations, he said.

"There's about two dozen studies that says there's no correlation between muskies and a decline in other fisheries," Kellett said. "Minnesota has become the muskie-fishing destination in the world; it's not Canada or Wisconsin."

Clearly, Schnitker and Kellett are on opposite ends of the boat.

Somewhere stuck in the middle is the DNR. The agency is developing a long-range management plan for muskies and northerns, and Schnitker and Kellett were among a 19-member citizens committee that advised the DNR. The plan will guide management for those species through 2020.

Schnitker, of Champlin, fervently believes the DNR is on the wrong track. After the DNR proposed to stock muskies in Gull Lake near Brainerd in 2006, he founded Sportsmen for Responsible Musky Management. He explains the group's positions on a HSOforum.

Kellett, of Excelsior, is president of the Twin Cities chapter of Muskies Inc., which over the years has successfully pushed for expansion of the state's muskie fishery. He and his group would like to see more lakes stocked with muskies.

The DNR's latest draft plan calls for muskie stocking in eight additional waters over the next 12 years and says muskies will be managed for "trophy angling opportunities."

"It's a modest increase," said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries chief. "Whether we even reach that [number] depends on public comments." He said potential new muskie waters would go through a biological evaluation and public comment period.

Muskie expansion

The DNR says 115 state waters, including Lake of the Woods, are managed for muskies. They total 790,000 acres, or about 35 percent of state waters. Of the 94 waters managed for "pure strain" muskies, 44 lakes and seven rivers are native waters; muskies have been introduced through stocking in 43.

Another 21 waters are managed with hybrid tiger muskies in the Twin Cities area.

About 14 percent of resident licensed anglers target muskies, the DNR says.

Payer said the DNR is considering increasing muskie waters because the number of muskie anglers is growing, opportunities are limited and anglers, including members of Muskies Inc., have asked them to do so.

Schnitker counters that, saying more than 35 percent of the state's waters already have muskies. He points out that the DNR acknowledges another 54 lakes have small populations of muskies and the DNR's HSOforum lists 137 lakes with muskies.

And he questions whether even 14 percent of state anglers fish for muskies.

"Why do we need to stock more waters in the state with muskies?" he asked last week. "The issue comes down to this: Do muskies eat walleyes? Our position is that they clearly do, and they clearly cause problems with other fish.

"We're not anti-muskie," he said. "Muskies are a great sportsfish and serve the interest of a lot of people. I occasionally fish for them. [but] there's a tremendous amount of bias in the DNR that favors muskie stocking, and it alarms me."

Impacts on other gamefish

Schnitker, Kellett and the DNR all cite research that they say justifies their positions. Schnitker says research in Wisconsin shows muskies can have a major impact on other fish populations, including walleyes.

Among the research Kellett cites is a Wisconsin study showing nearly half of the diet of muskies consisted of perch, suckers or shiner minnows.

Payer acknowledged that anglers have raised concerns about the impact of muskie stocking on specific lakes, such as Miltona and Alexander. He said the DNR looked at the 43 waters where muskies are stocked.

"There was no smoking gun," he said. "Do muskies eat other fish? Sure they do, they're opportunistic. Obviously they are eating some gamefish. But their preferred food is suckers and tullibees. We're just not seeing a negative measurable impact on the waters we've stocked."

Kellett said he, too, would be concerned if he thought muskies were harming other gamefish populations. "Muskies are my passion, but I love fishing for bass and panfish," he said. "We want everyone to have good fishing."

Spearing an issue

Two other groups, Northerns Inc., a 40-member group of northern anglers near Brainerd, and the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association, whose members like to spear northerns, also don't care for the DNR's long-range muskie plan.

"It stinks," said Roger Goeschel of Burnsville, longtime member of the darkhouse association. "It's a fallacy they need more and more muskie lakes."

Spearers are concerned that more northern spearing restrictions could be imposed if more lakes are stocked with muskies.

Kellett said that fear is unfounded. "We are not seeking any new restrictions on spearing," he said.

And Ron Carper of Baxter, an avid northern angler and member of Northerns Inc., said he believes muskie stocking can result in stunted northerns.

Meanwhile, the DNR says it is still accepting comments on the muskie-northern plan, and a final version could be ready by the end of summer.

The DNR doesn't expect everyone to like it.

*************************************************

Interesting article that documents a few of the issues that present themselves on this HSOforum. I felt the outdoor discussions forum was the place to talk about it.

I spear, I fish for trophy pike, and I fish for trophy musky, so I feel I have pretty good balance between the 4 organizations represented in the article. I really believe there is nothing wrong with adding a few more musky lakes where it is biologically feasible. An agreeable solution can be reached where musky are stocked and spearing isn't banned. There are plenty of lakes that are being set aside for trophy musky, just as there are a growing number of lakes with special regulations aimed at growing large and trophy pike. I believe you could do a categorical evaluation of the diet studies and overwhelmingly gamefish would be absent from the musky diet. Those in MRMM could do a better job reviewing the literature; muskies aren't eating walleyes, just look around at MN's largest walleye lakes- they all contain muskie.

Why add more waters? The public is getting turned on to this fishing and the demand will only go up. Minnesota has one of the best, arguably the best, musky fisheries in the nation. Add new lakes to areas where musky fishing was previously unavailable and the demand will continue to grow. We have diverse opportunities in this state for all interested parties in the musky stocking debate and now we can continue to expand those opportunities for all parties.

I think this issue is just reflecting the trend that is taking shape in Minnesota. Everyone is specializing in one species. Bass tournament guys, muskie nuts, cat river rats, walleye fanatics, etc. etc. Why not fish for them all? Be opportunistic. When one is down in numbers or isn't biting, another will be up. We're all fisherman so why squabble over trivial points. There's enough lakes, streams, and fishing to go around IMO.

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Sportsmen for Responsible Musky Management sick ha! I believe this is the group that was formally known as NO MORE MUSKIES. They don't want Muskies in any lake.

I can understand where the spearing guys are coming from. I personaly don't like spearing, but understand the passion they have for what they do.

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We keep stocking lakes for walleye that can not naturaly support them so we spend big bucks stocking these lakes year after every other year. We now have a bunch of lakes with muskies that never had them before just so some people can fish them.

It is just like thumbing our noses at mother nature. I call greed and the constant search for instant gratification. So I am against it.

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thats a ridiculous claim. I could make the argument that walleyes hurt lake too because they eat perch! You could say just about any game fish is bad for the lake. Bass and northern eat sunfish and perch too!

Just my opinion

Muskies Forever!

Ryan

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Well personally I think it depends on the lake. The lake my cabin is on in Northern Michigan had a GREAT bull bluegill fishery. You could (and I did, even when 6-10 years old) go out and catch a mess of 8-10 in sunfish. Then they stocked tigers in the late 80s and early 90s. The fishery was shot. NOTHING in the lake cept bass and rusty crayfish. No more panfish.

I think it was because there weren't enough weed beds, it was a small lake without much margin for error.

Now take Lake Calhoun/Harriet in the Twin Cities. They got a bunch of muskies in tehre and there are still a jillion panfish, and lots of big bass. If its a big lake with lots of weeds and structure and can support a diverse fishery, there is nothing to worry about

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Mille lacs is a great example of a lake where muskies have destroyed the Walleye Population! LOL Bring on the muskies in my opinion, lets rid our lakes of the eyes...........

Or teach people that it IS ACCEPTABLE to C&R walleyes, not just eat them!

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...It is just like thumbing our noses at mother nature. I call greed and the constant search for instant gratification. So I am against it.

I am unable to word it as well, but am also against stocking. Muskie, walleye - stocking after stocking after stocking! I could see some initial stockings in a lake that has just totally winterkilled, but to continue to stock fish in lakes year after every other year is something I am against. If a fish population cannot sustain itself, then we should adjust our regulations, or quit the restocking year after year.

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stocking walleyes in a natural walleye lake and stocking muskies in a lake that has never had muskies are two completely different things and to compare the two is ridiculous. I have no problem with stocking muskies in natural muskie lakes and in other lakes (not prime walleye lakes) on a limited basis.

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I guess I’m neutral on the subject.

But it’s quite easy to see what’s going on here. The groups such as Muskies INC has done a tremendous job of lobbying and swaying opinion that this stocking needs to be done.

Just like everything else that happens in this country. You round up lots of money and a big enough lobby and you can pretty much get whatever you want.

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Indian Lake by Annandale is thick with 4-6 inch sunnies , has been for years, throw a dozen big ole toothy's in there and make it CPR only and I would bet that in 10 years it would be a better fishery all togather. bass - northern - panfish. the perfect cycle.

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Walleye fisherman must be the biggest whiners I have ever heard. Just go out and fish. Good grief, everybody is an activist now days.

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Walleye fisherman must be the biggest whiners I have ever heard. Just go out and fish. Good grief, everybody is an activist now days.

I agree.

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We keep stocking lakes for walleye that can not naturaly support them so we spend big bucks stocking these lakes year after every other year. We now have a bunch of lakes with muskies that never had them before just so some people can fish them.

It is just like thumbing our noses at mother nature. I call greed and the constant search for instant gratification. So I am against it.

BINGO! Couldn't have said it better....

...and as for who the whiners are...... why should the state or anyone else plant non native fish of any type in YOUR back yard so you can be a {insert fish} fisherman????

Besides, if it got too good for everyone, they'd just become a glorified pike anyway. grin

Guess that's just what we've become.... we've all gotta have everything. After all, we are entitled. sleep

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People plant fish in peoples backyards? Last time I checked not too many individuals owned the water their backyard is connected to.

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People plant fish in peoples backyards? Last time I checked not too many individuals owned the water their backyard is connected to.

How did the labotomy surgery go Moe?

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Muskies must eat all the walleyes. Thats why Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods, Cass, and many other muskie lakes have such poor walleye fishing. Bring on the muskies!

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what do the walleye guys care anyways... they kill everything they catch anyways...

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isn't it okay to keep and eat muskies if they are in the legal size limit to be in possession?

I don't understand why it's okay to keep and eat certain fish but others need to be released. Juts my .02

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The walleye fishing is good on these lakes because of the restrictions put on anglers. eg. slots, max. lbs. per year etc. Just because the walleye fishing is good on a certain lake does not mean muskies do not have and effect on the walleye population. I personally am in the middle on this debate right now and waiting for more information to come out so we can make a better informed decision. What I do know is that we need to slow down on the muskie stocking until we have the true answers to it's effect on other fish populations. But maybe this is what the muskie people want. Keep the stocking going at a high rate now so if the facts come out that it does effect other fish populations there is no reversing the effects. Kind of like Carp smile

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isn't it okay to keep and eat muskies if they are in the legal size limit to be in possession?

I don't understand why it's okay to keep and eat certain fish but others need to be released. Juts my .02

If it's within your legal right to do so, go for it. Mount em, eat them or feed them to your cats, whether they be bullheads, muskies, walleyes or Lingcod.

There's getting to be more and more of this hogwash all the time. If the elitists want a zero harvest on all these FISH, that's right folks.....fish, then they should get a movement together and lobby the DNR to make keeping any fish a thing of the past.

You don't want to keep anything fine. Good for you. Walleye fishermen keep everything..........laughable. Atleast you brought a smile to my face.

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yeah eat what ever you want, but if your fish get eaten by my fish then don't cry about it.

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