Preventing The Spread Of VHS
To help prevent the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in Minnesota waters, anglers cannot use cisco or rainbow smelt as bait in any body of water effective Monday, Oct. 4.
The exception is those who use fish that have been preserved by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit holder, using accepted methods known to make the virus inactive.
"This expedited, emergency rule was enacted to protect Minnesota's inland waters from VHS, which is now present in Lake Superior," said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR fisheries program supervisor. "With cisco and whitefish netting season upon us, it's imperative that people understand the new rule."
In June, DNR classified Lake Superior as infested with VHS and prohibited public harvest of all bait from its waters. Cisco is known to carry VHS, and rainbow smelt are likely carriers. Both are popular baitfish used in Lake Superior and inland waters.
Erickson-Eastwood said it is likely that some private individuals harvested bait prior to the ban, froze it and plan to use it this winter, following in the footsteps of past tradition. The new rule prohibits such use. Also, under current law, smelt or cisco that were taken from designated infested waters cannot be preserved and used for bait.
Anglers who harvested and froze cisco and smelt for use this winter as bait can have it preserved and labeled by an authorized permit holder. Bait dealers, bait retailers, fish hatcheries, commercial netters, fish packers, fishing guides and aquatic farms may be permitted to preserve cisco and smelt for baitfish. For more information about getting an application to be permitted or who has been permitted, contact the DNR Section of Fisheries at 651-259-5213.
When fishing using preserved cisco or rainbow smelt as bait, anglers must have in their possession the label from the batch of bait being used. The label must contain the bait processor's DNR permit number, the lot number, and the date of processing.
It is legal to harvest cisco and rainbow smelt for personal consumption in Lake Superior and Minnesota's inland waters. VHS does not have any impact on humans through direct contact or via fish consumption.