Minnesota’s controversial muskie stocking plan hit a snag Tuesday at the Capitol.
Following a spirited debate, a House committee Tuesday approved a ban on the state’s planned expansion of muskellunge stocking.
The bill, which now heads to the full House for a potential vote, would ban muskie stocking on six lakes, halting a plan by the Department of Natural Resources to introduce the popular sport fish into four of those lakes. The lakes are: Big Marine Lake in Washington County, Gull Lake near Brainerd, the Fairmont Chain in Fairmont, and one of three lakes in Otter Tail County: Lizzie, Loon or Franklin.
The measure would not affect the 99 lakes already managed for muskie populations, including 44 lakes where they’re stocked and not native. Without legislative action, the DNR has the authority to stock the lakes. But the bill, if approved and signed into law, would trump that.
The measure was approved on a voice vote, so there’s no tally, but a number of voices could be heard in opposition.
The vote followed a hearing in which the same arguments that have simmered for months — years in the larger context of muskie controversies — were hashed out.
Supporters of the ban (opponents of muskie stocking), including representatives from several lake associations, cited the potential for muskies to damage walleye and panfish populations, risk of increased boat traffic from tournament anglers, and a general distrust of the DNR.
Opponents of the ban (stocking supporters), including the DNR, said there’s no evidence muskie stocking harms anything, and there’s popular support for the new lakes.
Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, who chairs the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee, chastised DNR fisheries Chief Don Pereira for the agency moving ahead over objections from lake homeowner associations. “The people who live along those lakes take very good care of those lakes, and then you don’t listen to them,” Hackbarth said.
Pereira said the majority of public comments the agency has received are in favor of the stocking expansion and described muskies as “ecologically benign” at the low densities planned to result from the stocking stocking, generally one adult for every four to 10 acres of water.
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