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Governor's veto nixes smelt as bait

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Governor's veto nixes smelt as bait
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

DULUTH -- With Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the controversial Omnibus Game and Fish Bill on Tuesday, it's back to existing regulations for use of Lake Superior ciscoes and smelt as bait.

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A provision in the game and fish bill would have allowed use of ciscoes and smelt taken from Lake Superior to be used as bait on Lake Superior. However, that provision will not take effect.

Not using smelt or ciscoes as bait would be a hardship, especially to charter fishing captains on Lake Superior, said Adam Bohlmann, a Duluth charter captain.

"It's just going to kill our industry," Bohlmann said, "because we depend on them. All of August and most of September, it's our No. 1 fish-catching tool."

Concerns over using smelt and ciscoes taken from Lake Superior were heightened when the fish-killing virus VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) was found in Lake Superior in January. Fisheries biologists and enforcement officials are trying to make sure the virus does not spread to inland lakes in Minnesota.

The use of ciscoes and smelt as bait will now be governed by the existing law, as spelled out in the Minnesota Fishing Regulations synopsis.

The current law states: "It is unlawful to harvest bait (minnows, frogs, crayfish or other wild animals) from infested waters."

Lake Superior and the St. Louis River are listed as "infested" waters because they harbor several non-native species and VHS.

That means smelt and ciscoes taken from Lake Superior may not be used for bait anywhere in the state, including Lake Superior. Anglers must not transport infested water, including water in live wells and bait containers, from Lake Superior or the St. Louis River to any other waters. Live wells and bait containers must be drained upon leaving Lake Superior or the St. Louis River and be replaced with tap or spring water, according to regulations.

Smelt taken from other waters in the state that are not designated as infested may still be used as bait anywhere in the state. That creates a problem for Department of Natural Resources enforcement officials because it is difficult for them to know where an angler's smelt came from, said Randy Hanzal, a DNR conservation officer in Duluth.

"It definitely puts us in a difficult situation, to determine whether a violation has occurred or not," Hanzal said. "If the proof comes up, if I make a case and have the proof, I've got to do my job. I'll take the enforcement action."

In past years, DNR conservation officers have typically not enforced the smelt-as-bait law.

"What's changed is the importance now that we have VHS, and the significance of that," Hanzal said. "You see the law in a little different light."

Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids, said he was pleased the governor vetoed the game and fish bill because it had several "troublesome" provisions in it. But losing the new regulations on use of ciscoes and smelt was a casualty of the veto.

"That's an unfortunate piece," Goeman said. "We had cleaned up the piece for Lake Superior users. Now ciscoes and smelt (taken from Lake Superior) can't be used on Lake Superior. We'll have to work through that for the next year. I'm willing to struggle through that for the next year to get rid of the bad stuff (in the game and fish bill)."

Sam Cook is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co., which also owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

Y scook@duluthnews.com

DULUTH -- With Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the controversial Omnibus Game and Fish Bill on Tuesday, it's back to existing regulations for use of Lake Superior ciscoes and smelt as bait.

A provision in the game and fish bill would have allowed use of ciscoes and smelt taken from Lake Superior to be used as bait on Lake Superior. However, that provision will not take effect.

Not using smelt or ciscoes as bait would be a hardship, especially to charter fishing captains on Lake Superior, said Adam Bohlmann, a Duluth charter captain.

"It's just going to kill our industry," Bohlmann said, "because we depend on them. All of August and most of September, it's our No. 1 fish-catching tool."

Concerns over using smelt and ciscoes taken from Lake Superior were heightened when the fish-killing virus VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) was found in Lake Superior in January. Fisheries biologists and enforcement officials are trying to make sure the virus does not spread to inland lakes in Minnesota.

The use of ciscoes and smelt as bait will now be governed by the existing law, as spelled out in the Minnesota Fishing Regulations synopsis.

The current law states: "It is unlawful to harvest bait (minnows, frogs, crayfish or other wild animals) from infested waters."

Lake Superior and the St. Louis River are listed as "infested" waters because they harbor several non-native species and VHS.

That means smelt and ciscoes taken from Lake Superior may not be used for bait anywhere in the state, including Lake Superior. Anglers must not transport infested water, including water in live wells and bait containers, from Lake Superior or the St. Louis River to any other waters. Live wells and bait containers must be drained upon leaving Lake Superior or the St. Louis River and be replaced with tap or spring water, according to regulations.

Smelt taken from other waters in the state that are not designated as infested may still be used as bait anywhere in the state. That creates a problem for Department of Natural Resources enforcement officials because it is difficult for them to know where an angler's smelt came from, said Randy Hanzal, a DNR conservation officer in Duluth.

"It definitely puts us in a difficult situation, to determine whether a violation has occurred or not," Hanzal said. "If the proof comes up, if I make a case and have the proof, I've got to do my job. I'll take the enforcement action."

In past years, DNR conservation officers have typically not enforced the smelt-as-bait law.

"What's changed is the importance now that we have VHS, and the significance of that," Hanzal said. "You see the law in a little different light."

Tim Goeman, DNR regional fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids, said he was pleased the governor vetoed the game and fish bill because it had several "troublesome" provisions in it. But losing the new regulations on use of ciscoes and smelt was a casualty of the veto.

"That's an unfortunate piece," Goeman said. "We had cleaned up the piece for Lake Superior users. Now ciscoes and smelt (taken from Lake Superior) can't be used on Lake Superior. We'll have to work through that for the next year. I'm willing to struggle through that for the next year to get rid of the bad stuff (in the game and fish bill)."

Sam Cook is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co., which also owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

scook@duluthnews.com

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