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Douglas County bait shops fight invasive species

Local bait shop owners in the Douglas County area are taking steps to address the problem of aquatic invasive species in Wisconsin lakes.

Aquatic invasive species are nonnative plants and animals that threaten Wisconsin’s lakes and river systems. They harm the local economy by decreasing revenue from tourism and fishing, which can directly affect local businesses. Bait shops in the area recognize the importance of working together to keep invasive species under control and will be working to share that message with their customers.

The participating bait shops in Douglas County include The Bait Box, Jim’s Bait and Convenience, Solon Springs Mercantile, PJ’s Cabin Store, Sidelines, Sportsman’s Choice, Stop-A-Sec, Superior Fly Angler, and the Tradin’ Post. These bait shops have agreed to feature educational materials in their stores and answer customers’ questions about aquatic invasive species.

For example, many anglers wonder about Asian carp. Asian carp look similar to common baitfish such as gizzard shad, emerald shiner, spot-tail shiner, and golden shiners. Bait shops will be reminding customers to look through their bait before using it to check for these common look-alikes.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found most bait business owners are familiar with the problem of aquatic invasive species, but they believe that awareness levels among their customers are much lower.

The good news is bait shop owners and employees are in a unique position to share information about invasive species because they interact with boaters and anglers who use area lakes on a daily basis. Moreover, many people often consider bait shop owners to be a trusted source of information especially when it comes to lakes nearby.

Douglas County bait shops have recently teamed up with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, University of Wisconsin Department of Life Sciences Communication and the Department of Natural Resources to share information with boaters and anglers about the dangers of invasive species in Wisconsin lakes.

“We are very fortunate to have local bait shops involved, and we should applaud their efforts,” says Farrah Wirtz, aquatic invasive species coordinator for Douglas County. As one bait shop owner put it, “we are all responsible for protecting our lakes. It’s important that we all do our part to make sure the lakes stay clean for future generations.”

The combined effort of these bait shops, local officials, and citizens is the key to preventing the spread of invasive species. All citizens using lakes and rivers should remember the following guidance from the Wisconsin DNR to prevent fish diseases and other invasive species from spreading:

• Follow bait rules and buy bait from Wisconsin bait dealers. If you take minnows home after a day of fishing and you’ve added lake water or fish to the container, you can return with them only to that same water body.

• Inspect the bait you purchase. Familiarize yourself with what the different Asian carp species look like as juveniles and adults, and how to tell the difference between them and common baitfish. Place any fish suspected of being Asian carp on ice and contact your local DNR.

• Preserve bait correctly if you catch your own. If you use smelt or other dead bait, preserve it in a way that does not require freezing or refrigeration.

• Don’t move live fish away from the water. Keep the fish you have caught and intend to keep on ice until you leave at the end of the day, or carry them away in a dry bucket.

• Drain all water from your equipment. That includes all buckets and containers of fish. When you’re leaving the ice, you may carry up to two gallons of water in which you keep your minnows