DNR considering stocking five new muskie waters
In response to growing interest in muskellunge fishing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is considering the stocking of muskie in five new waters starting in the fall of 2011.
Proposed for muskie management are Roosevelt Lake in Cass and Crow Wing counties; Upper South Long Lake and Lower South Long Lake in Crow Wing County; Tetonka Lake in Le Sueur County; and the Sauk River Chain in Stearns County.
"All of these waters meet or exceed the biological and physical criteria for muskie management," said Dirk Peterson, DNR acting fisheries chief. He said there are eight key biological considerations including:
Proposed muskie waters must be greater than 500 acres.
Waters must contain adequate numbers and species of prey fish.
Water clarity must be moderate to clear.
Gillnet catches for northern pike must be three or less.
Waters must have the potential to produce a trophy fish.
"All five proposals are consistent with our management approach," said Peterson. "Also they have been selected in part because of their geographic location. These lakes represent a strategic approach to provide muskie fishing where opportunity is limited."
The muskie is one of Minnesota's largest fish, growing to more than 50 pounds and more than 50 inches in length. Anglers have become increasingly interested in the so-called "fish of 10,000 casts" now that 50-plus inch fish can be caught in Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Vermillion and other waters that have been stocked since the 1980s.
"As muskie grew in size and abundance, so did interest catching them," said Peterson, noting that muskie anglers are the fastest-growing segment of Minnesota's fishing population. He said the DNR is addressing the trend of increasing interest in muskie through a long-range northern pike and muskie plan that was developed with stakeholder input. That plan calls for adding up to eight new muskie waters by 2020.
Today's announcement of the five waters under consideration marks the beginning of a lengthy process to determine if the lakes will eventually become muskie waters. The DNR will post information on the proposed stocking at boat landings at the five lakes this spring, conduct public input meetings this summer and fall, and accept public comments until early next winter. If the DNR decides to move forward with the proposals, stocking would start in 2011. It would be 12 to 15 years after that before the fish reach 48-inches, the minimum size at which a muskie can be kept.
"Our process will be very transparent," said Peterson, who noted the agency recognizes the muskie's mystique appeals to a certain segment of anglers and generates the opposite reaction in others. The proposal will be discussed at the upcoming DNR stakeholder roundtable and later by a citizen advisory committee that is focusing on northern pike and muskie management.
Currently, muskies are found in 116 Minnesota water bodies. Of these, 64 are waters that have been stocked by the DNR.