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Great Lakes Article:

DNR makes changes to fishing rules
By Mark Spencley
Cheboygan Tribune
Published June 15, 2007


LANSING - New fishing regulations will go into effect on June 28.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said it has made changes to fishing regulations in reaction to spreading fish diseases, particularly viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS. The disease has been detected in fish off the shores of Cheboygan County.

DNR Director Rebecca Humphries recently signed a series of fishing regulations designed to enlist fishermen and bait deals to help slow the spread of fish diseases.

“These regulations are critical to our efforts to slow the spread of VHS, along with other fish diseases, and we must have anglers and the bait industry as allies in this effort as the DNR cannot do this on our own,” said Humphries.

The new regulations are similar to those presented to the Natural Resources Commission in May, said the DNR. Any changes made to the regulations were based on public input at that meeting, as well as input from Natural Resources Commission members.

The key changes involved:

Baitfish and fish eggs, or roe, can only be used on a hook, which does allow the use of spawn sacks; the locations where fish can be released by catch and release angling; both the Disease Management Areas and Prohibited Species List are now appendices to allow for simpler changes; the use of roe for human consumption without fish disease testing will be allowed; and the bait certification process has been improved and clarified.

“The approved regulations are designed to provide a set of best management practices for anglers and the bait industry and are consistent with those of other states and the Province of Ontario,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Kelley Smith. “They are an education tool to make our anglers and the bait industry full partners in the fight against fish diseases, such as VHS.”

The following list includes key regulations changes:

€ The regulations only apply to species on the Prohibited Species List. The key baitfish species for anglers are spottail shiners, emerald shiners, bluntnose minnows, white suckers, and Pacific herring (frozen for cut bait). The key species for fish eggs (roe) are Chinook salmon, coho salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout/steelhead.

€ Bait includes live, dead, frozen and parts or cut bait including fish eggs (roe).

€ Anglers will get a receipt from the bait shop which will tell them where they can use the bait and if is certified VHS-free, which can be used anywhere in the state.

€ Receipts are valid for 7 days.

€ Uncertified bait from a bait shop or collected by anglers is restricted on where it can be used. Baitfish from VHS positive waters can only be used on VHS positive waters, VHS surveillance waters baitfish can be used in VHS surveillance or positive waters, and baitfish from VHS-free waters can be used anywhere in the state. The key for anglers is knowing the location of the Disease Management Areas, and that information will be available from bait dealers and on the DNR Web site.

€ Bait and fish eggs can only be used on a hook if they are on the Prohibited Species List. The use of spawn sacks is allowed. Anglers cannot release minnows when done fishing and must dispose of them when leaving the water.

Fisheries official warned, the release of many baitfish or large amounts of fish eggs by anglers that are potentially VHS-positive is an easy way to spread the virus.

€ When practicing catch and release fishing, you may only release a live fish back into water that the fish can freely swim into from the location it was caught. This applies to catch-and-immediate-release and catch-and-delayed-release (tournament) fishing. This will prevent the virus from being transported by live fish to new waters.

€ Live wells and bilges have to be emptied before leaving a body of water. This regulation applies to all boaters and will stop infected water from being transported.

In addition, the key highlights for retail and wholesale minnow dealers are:

€ Bait dealers will have to go through a certification process that will allow them to provide disease-free bait to fishermen. It is a two-stage process that includes both the holding facilities and the baitfish.

€ It is not required that baitfish be certified, but certified baitfish can be used anywhere in the state while uncertified bait is restricted to where it can be used.

€ Both wholesale and retail minnow dealers must tell their customers on their receipts where the baitfish was taken, the lot or transaction code, and what disease management area it can be used.

€ Receipts must be kept for one year.

The DNR Fisheries Division is asking the retail and wholesale minnow dealers to help educate anglers on where they can use their bait and which species are of concern for spreading VHS. Information packets are in development to help with this task and the DNR Web site will have the most up-to-date information, according to the DNR.

“It is critical that anglers and the bait industry keep an eye on the DNR - Fisheries Division Web site (www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing) for changes to the Disease Management Areas and the Prohibited Species List,” Smith said. “The order will be periodically updated with new information and the Web site will have the changes to the order that will be issued by the Director. We will make all new information available to the public through the news media as well.”

It is important to have anglers and the bait industry involved in fish disease control, fisheries officials said.

“The DNR and other fisheries management agencies in the Great Lakes can implement all possible disease control measures, but without the anglers and bait industry as full partners in this effort, these measures will be in vain and fish diseases will rapidly spread to sensitive fish populations,” said Gary Whelan, DNR fish production manager and chair of the Great Lakes Fish Health Committee.

For more information on VHS and other fishing-related topics in Michigan, go to the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.

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