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Today's Startribune...

Wisconsin may refuse to take the bait

Regulation of imported bait to stop the spread of a fish disease could hurt Minnesota minnow dealers.

By Doug Smith, Star Tribune

An emergency rule approved by Wisconsin officials Wednesday bans the importation of live bait unless it meets strict federal requirements, a move that could have major implications for anglers and Minnesota's multimillion-dollar bait industry.

The rule, which will go into effect by Monday, could shut off a prime market for Minnesota minnows.

And if that happens, Wisconsin anglers -- and the many Minnesotans who fish there -- could find minnows more expensive and harder to find. "If they do shut her down on Monday, and enforce it, there's going to be some problems over there," said Mike Lint of West Central Bait & Fisheries in New London, Minn.

And, said Lint: "If I can't ship out of state, there's no use being in business, because I can't feed my family on the bait I sell in Minnesota."

The measure also could open a can of worms for anglers fishing the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, which border Minnesota and Wisconsin. They may have to prove that the minnows in their boat came from Wisconsin.

The emergency action by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board is intended to slow the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, a fatal fish disease spreading through the Great Lakes. It has been called "Ebola for fish" because it kills them by causing severe internal bleeding. Large fish die-offs have occurred in several areas.

The disease, believed to have entered the Great Lakes in the ballast of oceangoing ships from Europe, has been found in all of the Great Lakes except Michigan and Superior, and appears to be moving west. Officials believe it will soon be found in Lake Michigan.

Minnesota officials have been watching the VHS developments closely, said Ron Payer, fisheries chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Under the new Wisconsin rules, anglers also must drain all water from bilges, ballast, buckets and live wells immediately after leaving the Great Lakes or Mississippi River drainages.

Minnesota bait producers still can ship to Wisconsin if they can show that their minnows are VHS-free, but that could be difficult.

"Most of our bait comes from wild populations, so each pond will have to be tested, or each lot of minnows," said Roy Johannes of Minnesota DNR fisheries. "Currently the testing process takes 28 days. That will really put a crimp on shipping any bait into Wisconsin from our state."

And the testing, depending on how much is required, is expensive.

"That's ultimately going to have to come from somewhere," Lint said. "It's definitely a bad deal."

Wisconsin is trying to be proactive, officials there said.

"VHS is one of the most serious threats that we've seen to Wisconsin's fisheries and our $2.3 billion fishing industry," DNR Secretary Scott Hassett said in a statement this week.

In Minnesota, about 1.5 million anglers spend more than $1.9 billion yearly, including at least $50 million for bait.

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Plastics,Cranks and Crawlers.Thats all I need grin.gifIt would suck for local baitshops though.

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The Michigan DNR has already completely shut down all fish hatcheries in the state this year, to make sure they don't spread VHS. If VHS is detected in a fish hatchery, it has to be shut down, sterilized, and all the fish destroyed. Minnesota DNR is testing fish monthly from Lake Superior. VHS is one of the most destructive fish disease in the world, having the potential to cause serious damage to fish populations. It's very difficult to detect, but scientists are working hard to come up with a quicker test that doesn't take 28 days. It's an exotic virus, not native to the Central US. It may have mutated to become a freshwater virus recently, but the exact source of the disease is still unknown. It attacks salmonids (trout, salmon, and whitefishes), pikes (muskellunge and northern pike), perch (walleye, sauger, and yellow perch), minnows, suckers, and sunfish. Carp are immune. You can't tell the fish is diseased by looking at it; fish that survive become carriers.

We all need to make sure to avoid transporting fish, minnows, and water between different water bodies. You do not want this virus in your favorite lake, or any lake.

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This sounds like a serious situation.Invasive species one after another keeps showing up. When will this end? Pretty sad if you ask me.


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My brothers and I trap most of our live bait we use. I have two minnow tanks I've made and all my brothers have there own tanks, maybe more people will just have to catch there own bait? I know some of the guys from west central bait and my brothers know them all and there waiting on the ruling, most of the redtails come from michigan that are shipped to Mn and mn bait is shipped all over the country. There has to be a solution but what?

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