Published October 14, 2010, 01:59 PM

Ciscoes, smelt must be processed for bait use

As the result of an emergency rule by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Oct. 4, anglers and trappers will no longer be able to use ciscoes or smelt for bait in Minnesota waters unless the bait has been processed and certified not to contain the VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) virus.

By: Sam Cook, Northland Outdoors

As the result of an emergency rule by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Oct. 4, anglers and trappers will no longer be able to use ciscoes or smelt for bait in Minnesota waters unless the bait has been processed and certified not to contain the VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) virus.

In order for ciscoes or smelt to be used as bait for the taking of “wild animals,” including fish, they must be processed in one of three approved methods by the holder of a Minnesota commercial fishing license and a permit to process cisco and smelt.

The purpose of the ruling is to prevent the spread of VHS, a virus that has caused fish kills and has been found in Lake Superior.

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 can obtain permits to preserve cisco and smelt as baitfish. For more information about getting an application to be permitted, contact the DNR fisheries section at (651) 259-5213.

It remains to be seen how many bait dealers, bait retailers and others listed above will want to process ciscoes and smelt and whether anglers will be willing to pay more for them as a result.

“Will there be a supply of the treated stuff? No,” said Russ Francisco of Marine General Sports in Duluth. “Nobody’s applied for the license. And if they double the price of ciscoes, I’m not sure people will use them.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now, the artificial bait business is looking pretty good.”

When anglers are fishing with preserved cisco or rainbow smelt as bait, they must have in their possession the label from the batch of bait being used, according to the emergency rule. The label must contain the bait processor’s DNR permit number, the lot number and date of processing.

The new ruling does not change the fact that ciscoes or smelt taken from Lake Superior may not be used for bait, even on Lake Superior, because the lake is considered “infested waters” under Minnesota laws. The lake was classified as infested in June.

Smelt harvested from Lake Superior and inland waters may be used for personal consumption. VHS does not have any impact on humans through direct contact or through fish consumption

Any smelt or ciscoes processed for bait must be taken from waters other than Lake Superior. Ciscoes and smelt are found in several inland Minnesota lakes.

Ciscoes and smelt are popular as bait at certain times of the summer on Lake Superior and on inland lakes by anglers fishing for lake trout.

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