ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that it plans to release muskie into the Gull Lake chain near Brainerd and into the Fairmont chain of lakes in southern Minnesota this fall.

The muskellunge are being stocked as part of a long-range plan to create new opportunities for muskie anglers around the state. But the plan has been met with opposition by some who believe muskie drive down populations of other fish, such as walleye, and crowd out already busy fishing spots.

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Fisheries section chief Don Pereira said the DNR reached its decision after considering more than 1,800 public comments and meeting with local leaders and the public over the past two years.

“The majority of the responses were positive and supportive of diversifying these fisheries in the Gull Lake and Fairmont chain of lakes and expanding opportunities that will benefit these areas recreationally and economically,” he said in a statement.

After the public process, the DNR opted not to stock Big Marine Lake in Washington County, where Pereira said it didn’t make sense biologically. It also decided not to stock three lakes in Otter Tail County, where the DNR did not have community support.

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The DNR says there’s been a growing interest in muskie fishing.

“Minnesota is the crown jewel for muskie fishing in the United States,” said Al Lindner, a well-known angler who produces educational fishing programs. “Creating more places to catch muskie where it’s biologically appropriate provides more than fishing opportunity for a growing number of younger anglers. It also offers a great economic benefit to resorts and tourism.”

The DNR’s plan called for eight new waters to be stocked with muskie by 2020. Three of those lakes — Roosevelt, Pokegema and the Sauk River Chain — have already been stocked. Pereira said the DNR is committed to find three new lakes by 2020.

“We’ll continue to move forward and work closely with our stakeholders,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

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