Bait: There's a Lot on the Line
Keep fish healthy. Don't move bait!

The deadly fish disease viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) has been found in all the Great Lakes. As a result, states that border these water bodies have imposed stringent requirements on bait shops and sales of live bait to prevent VHS from expanding in distribution.

Fish infected with VHS and used as bait could introduce the disease to new waters. Even dead or frozen fish can contain the active virus. VHS has been found to live through at least two freeze-thaw cycles. For that reason, bait dealers in the Great Lakes States must certify that the fish they use as bait are disease free. In addition, bait sellers must provide receipts showing where the fish bait came from.

VHS kills fish, but it isn’t a known human pathogen.

Regulations on how to use bait, dead or alive, vary from state to state. However, in all Great Lakes States, bait fish harvested locally can only be used in the water from which it is taken.

Don’t transport bait fish away from the water you’re fishing in and never dump leftover bait into the water. Bait fish sometimes take over the waters they are dumped in replacing the native sport species. Even water from your bait bucket should be dumped onshore, not into the lake, pond or stream you are enjoying.

Information on bait fish requirements in the Great Lakes States:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Fishing Information

Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Indiana Fishing Guide and Regulations

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Fishing Guide

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Fishing Regulations
Special Notice: VHS found in Lake Superior

New York Department of Environmental Conservation
New York Fishing Regulations and Information
2010 Fish Health Regulations in Response to VHS

Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Ohio Fishing Regulations

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Pennsylvania Fishing Regulations

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Fishing Regulations

You can prevent the spread of VHS and other fish diseases. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Buy bait from reputable bait dealers. Follow State regulations regarding bait.
  2. Don't move bait from one waterway to another. Dispose of unused bait, dead fish, and fish parts in a secure trash area away from the water. And remember: freezing bait doesn't kill viruses or disease.
  3. Empty all water from boats, buckets, bilges, live wells, and other equipment. And remove all mud, plants, and aquatic life from equipment before moving it to another body of water.
  4. Thoroughly clean and dry all fishing and boating equipment including bait buckets, boots, boats, and trailers before moving them to another body of water.
  5. Don't release fish, plants, or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that water.