As salmon begin making their way up the state’s rivers from the Great Lakes, the Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the use of salmon eggs and minnows for bait is restricted in some waters as part of a strategy to slow the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).
VHS, a disease that causes fish to die from internal bleeding, has caused mortalities among a number of species of fish in Michigan in both the Great Lakes and inland waters. The disease has been found and has caused fish kills in Michigan’s waters of Lake Erie and Lake Huron. VHS has been found in Lake Michigan, but not in Michigan’s waters. Inland, it has been found in Budd Lake in Clare County and in Baseline Line Lake in Washtenaw County. VHS has not been found in Lake Superior.
“Basically, if you don’t take any spawn out of the watershed it came from and you fish below the first upstream barrier from the Great Lakes, you are legal,” said DNR fisheries biologist Gary Whelan.
“But you can not use it upstream from the first dam or in another body of water.”
Anglers who purchase spawn for bait should look for certified VHS-disinfected spawn as this bait can be used anywhere in the state. Certified VHS-free spawn and minnows are widely available and can be used up to 14 days after purchase.
Anglers who purchase bait must retain their receipt to prove it is disease-free. Uncertified bait may only be used in waters that have tested positive for VHS, as listed in Fisheries Order 245 which can be found on the DNR’s Web site at www.michigan.gov/vhs, and uncertified bait can be used for only three days after purchase.
“There is no known treatment for VHS,” Whelan said. “Our best defense against it is trying to prevent its spread.”
Anglers and boaters can help prevent the spread of VHS, as well as
other invasive species, by taking a few simple precautions:
- Do not move fish from one body or water to another
- Do not empty bait buckets into the water
- Drain live wells and bilges when leaving the water
- Disinfect boats between uses
For more details on all aspects of VHS and fishing regulations specific to VHS, check the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/vhs.