Getting along swimmingly: Muskies, walleyes thriving in Lake Miltona, say surveys
Studies show that the walleyes and muskies in Lake Miltona are getting along just fine.
The size and number of walleyes are increasing and the muskie population has a healthy distribution of adult fish ranging from 25 to 53 inches.
That's according to trap-netting surveys conducted in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Glenwood Area Fisheries included the survey results in its latest newsletter.
The netting results should soothe a controversy that's been brewing for years.
Back in the late 1970s to early 1980s, when fishing for muskies started to become popular, walleye fishermen began to complain to the DNR Glenwood Management Area about the muskellunge population.
Stories were told of muskies killing walleyes in Lake Miltona, depleting their population.
Glenwood DNR officials assured anglers that the problem couldn't be solely attributed to muskies eating walleyes.
Growth, distribution and reproduction rates had mainly been key factors in the low population of walleyes around this time in Lake Miltona, according to Dean Beck, supervisor of the DNR's Glenwood Management Area.
Some walleye fishermen, however, did not buy these claims. To argue the issue, they started a group, "No More Muskies," and carried the fight all the way to the state Legislature.
Eventually, both sides came to an agreement. The Glenwood Management Area would only stock 800 muskies every other year.
For the past few years, the controversy simmered down.
The trapnetting surveys will help the DNR in determining future muskie stocking. Because of a dramatic increase in the demand for muskie fishing in the past few years, the Glenwood Management Area is working to increase the population of muskies stocked in area lakes, especially Lake Miltona.
"We need to base these decisions on biological results so we do not sacrifice great opportunities," said Beck. "Biological tests have proven that growth, distribution and reproduction of walleyes have increased, especially when occupying the same fishery area as the muskellunge population."
Beck said the DNR Section of Fisheries has developed a statewide muskie fishing expansion plan that would add 10 new lakes across Minnesota by 2012.
Multiple trapnetting surveys have shown that in the past 12 years, the average individual size of walleyes has increased in Lake Miltona.
On average, based on the past 10 years of netting data, 50 percent of the walleye population in Miltona measures between 15 and 20 inches in length and the percentage of fish between 20 and 25 inches has tripled.
"People need to realize that walleye are not in danger," Beck said. "With each side increasing, the relation to each other is neutral."
The survey is good news for walleye anglers searching for a meal of keepers or for that large, memorable catch on Lake Miltona, Beck said.
Muskie anglers, too, can expect more fish approaching trophy size in the coming years, provided that forage species such as tullibee and white sucker remain healthy, Beck said.
Remember, that the minimum length for muskies in Miltona is 48 inches, which means if you catch a muskie, it has to be 48 inches or larger to legally keep.