Anglers and bait dealers reminded of minnow use regulations
The Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers and retail minnow dealers of the baitfish regulations that need to be followed in Michigan. Although the requirement for state-licensed bait retailers to provide customers with receipts upon purchasing live minnows was recently removed, all other regulations with respect to minnow use continue to be enforced.
Baitfish regulations were enacted in 2006 to reduce the potential for baitfish to move fish diseases as the state saw multiple fish die-offs in lakes Erie and Huron from viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv).
“While fish kills from VHSv have become less common, we do not want this fish pathogen to spread across Michigan,” said DNR fisheries biologist Tom Goniea. “Our regulations are designed to prevent this from occurring.”
The following are some of the key requirements anglers and retail bait dealers should be aware of when selling and using live minnows as bait in Michigan:
1) Fathead minnows and golden shiners are the most common minnows imported and sold in Michigan that are not on the VHS susceptible species list, so these regulations do not apply to them.
2) Spottail shiners (blues), emerald shiner (greys) and white suckers (sucker or pike minnows) are the most common minnows sold in Michigan that are susceptible to VHS and the baitfish regulations apply to these species. They are commonly harvested from Michigan waters for use as bait.
3) Bait retailers must verbally inform their customers where they can use the bait.
a. Minnows not on the VHSv susceptible species list as well as those that have been certified as “disease free” can be used as anywhere in the state. b. Uncertified minnows harvested in Michigan from VHSv-free waters can be used anywhere. Waters currently classified as VHS-free include Lake Superior and its tributaries and all Lake Michigan tributary streams above the first fish barrier. c. Uncertified minnows harvested in Michigan from VHSv surveillance waters can only be used in waters designated as surveillance or positive. Water classified as VHS surveillance waters include Lake Michigan and its tributaries up to the first fish barrier and all lakes Huron, St. Clair and Erie tributary streams (including the St. Mary’s, St. Clair and Detroit rivers) above the first fish barrier. d. Uncertified minnows harvested in Michigan from VHSv positive waters can only be used in waters designated as positive. VHSv positive waters include lakes Huron, St. Clair and Erie and their tributary streams (including the St. Mary’s, St. Clair and Detroit rivers) to the first fish barrier.
4) Certified disease-free minnows can be used for up to 14 days after purchase.
5) Uncertified minnows can be used for up to three days after purchase.
6) Anglers can catch their own minnows but must follow the same use restrictions that are outlined in point number three above and can use them for up to three days after harvest.
It is very important that anglers and bait dealers remain vigilant in their efforts to follow the regulations involving bait use in order to prevent the spread of VHSv to additional waters in Michigan. Please visit www.michigan.gov/vhs for more information on VHSv including the full list of susceptible fish species as well as descriptions of the positive, surveillance and free waters in Michigan.