DNR considers altering VHS rulesMADISON — State wildlife officials have agreed to relax rules to contain a deadly fish virus
By: By TODD RICHMOND/Associated Press Writer, The Daily Telegram
MADISON — State wildlife officials have agreed to relax rules to contain a deadly fish virus by allowing anglers to reuse bait minnows under certain conditions.
Current VHS emergency rules prohibit the movement of live fish from any Wisconsin water. Those regulations expire April 7.
The state Department of Natural Resources wanted to make the movement ban part of a permanent regulatory package the agency has been developing.
But Republican lawmakers balked at that idea because it forces anglers to discard good bait minnows — a popular universal bait — and buy new ones for every outing, even if the fishermen would have reused the minnows on the same body of water.
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee, which has the power to object to the DNR’s proposal, asked the agency to revise the plan.
The DNR offered a compromise Wednesday that would permit anglers to use the same minnows again if they come from a registered Wisconsin dealer, they haven’t come into contact with any wild water and they’re used on the same water body.
“I think we can agree to this,” said state Rep. Scott Gunderson, a Waterford Republican who chairs the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. “This will make a lot of fishermen more apt to agree with the rule.”
Jim Schleifer, an Onalaska fisherman who serves as the western Wisconsin director for the state Bass Federation, said the changes would make life easier for anglers.
“They’ve wasted what they didn’t use and they have to buy new tomorrow,” Schleifer said. “It’s probably a reasonable relaxation of the rules.”
The DNR plans to ask the Natural Resources Board to insert the changes into the existing emergency rule and the permanent rule package next week.
If the board OKs the changes, DNR fisheries management director Mike Staggs said he expects the Legislature’s rules committee will extend the emergency rule beyond April 7 until the permanent rules are published. Board Chairwoman Christine Thomas didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press.
VHS can’t harm humans. But it can cause a variety of trophy fish to bleed to death from the inside out and has caused massive fish kills in the Great Lakes.
The virus turned up in the Lake Winnebago chain in May.