The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges anglers who fish with frozen or imported dead bait to review regulations that govern the use of emerald shiners, spottail shiners, bluntnose minnows and other popular baitfish that are susceptible to the fish-killing disease Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia (VHS).
“In an effort to prevent the spread of VHS in Minnesota waters, additional regulations went into effect in the spring of 2012 that address the harvest and use of VHS susceptible species as frozen bait,” said Paula Phelps, DNR aquaculture and fish health consultant. “VHS is a highly contagious and pathogenic fish virus emerging in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.”
Anglers purchasing dead or frozen VHS susceptible or imported bait from a vendor should only purchase packages affixed with a label stating that the bait will not pose a threat of VHS to Minnesota waters. Anglers are required to keep the label with the bait until it is used up or discarded.
It is illegal for anyone to bring live bait into the state at any time. Nonresident anglers need to be aware of these rules and either buy their bait when they get to their fishing destination or ensure that their imported dead bait is affixed with the required label.
“Minnesota offers some of the best fishing in the nation,” said Phelps. “Anglers can help keep it that way by complying with the rules that prevent the spread of fish disease. With VHS present in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior, preventing inland spread is a high priority.”
DNR also reminds anglers that when ice fishing, portable bait containers (except on waters designated infested with VHS) are no longer required to be drained before leaving the waterbody as is required during the open water seasons.
The most current list of designated infested waters can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/ais. Information about VHS is available at www.focusonfishhealth.org. More information on bait rules and regulations can be found in the 2012 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet or by visiting www.mndnr.gov/regulations.