Letter to the Editor: In search for more muskie waters, eyes are on Otter Tail
A few years back, the Legislature passed legislation to add eight additional lakes to the list of managed muskellunge waters in Minnesota, to be completed by 2020. The long-range plan, adopted in 2008, is 87 pages long and can be viewed on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
A couple of lakes have already been added, including the Sauk River Chain. Currently Tetonka Lake, east of Mankato, is being considered and there appears to be some opposition. If that lake ends up getting muskies, it will leave a need for five more to complete the statewide plan.
Future sights are on Otter Tail County, a county with numerous lakes that meet the criteria to be a managed muskellunge lake. There were 46 Otter Tail County lakes on the list; they needed to be more than 500 acres, more than 30 feet deep, have clear water, have good public access and have adequate coregonid (whitefish and tullibee) and/or catostomid (sucker and redhorse) populations for the muskie to feed on. Perch, drum, bullheads and other fish are considered secondary forage fish.
There recently were a couple meetings held at the DNR headquarters in Fergus Falls, where the list was narrowed down to nine lakes. DNR Area Fisheries officials, members of Muskies Inc., representatives from the Minnesota Dark House and Anglers Association and the National Fish Decoy Association were in attendance.
Because of opposition from the angler and decoy associations, Big Pine, Little Pine, Rush and Otter Tail lakes, all on the Otter Tail River system, were removed from the list. Marion and West Leaf Lake were also requested to be dropped from the list.
The process will continue with choosing one of the nine lakes still remaining. On the list are, in the northwest area, Lizzie, Crystal and Franklin lakes; in the north central area, Leek/Trowbridge, Loon and Big McDonald/Schwartz lakes; and in the south central area, East Battle, South Turtle and Clitherall lakes.
All these lakes are currently managed with walleye. All these lakes, according to recent net surveys, have declining numbers of the forage fish preferred by the muskie.
The DNR will be scheduling meetings with each lake association and gathering public input, starting this spring. The lake that puts up the least resistance (unless they desire to have their lake become a managed muskie lake) will be the lake name sent down to St. Paul. It will get the stamp of approval and young muskellunge will be introduced into that lake at the rate of one 12-inch fish per lake acre for five straight years, with maintenance stocking every other year after that.
Part of the long-range plan is that the public be involved in the decision. Be a part of it.
National Fish Decoy Association President