An Editorial in the Dec. 11, 2007, Tomahawk Leader:
Anglers had better be aware of state DNR rules established to halt the spread of the deadly fish virus Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) before taking to the ice this winter. Under extended statewide emergency regulations that went into effect this summer, anglers can no longer leave any body of water with live minnows – regardless of whether the bait has been used or kept in the bait bucket. Instead, regulations require that all bait be dumped on the ice and water drained from containers before returning to shore.
There’s little doubt with a $329 fine for leaving the lake with live bait and a $228 penalty for removing water, the DNR is ratcheting up its efforts to protect our fish populations. However, the new rules anglers will be required to follow, and DNR game wardens will be asked to enforce, in several cases go against simple logic. Like the Madison bureaucrats who dreamed up these rules, we, too, don’t want to see VHS reach our waters. But by putting in place questionable rules and backing them with harsh penalties, the DNR is only creating confusion while offering regulations that aren’t logical and in the long run will do little to protect our waters.
A recent question-and-answer sheet posted on the DNR’s web site offers these responses to the new regulations. And then we offer ours.
Q: Can I leave the bulk of my minnows in my vehicle at the landing and take a few minnows out on the lake at a time so I will not have to kill all of them at the end of the day?
A: Yes, Any minnows that are never possessed on the water or the shore or bank of the water can be transported to other locations, such as home at the end of the day. Any minnows possessed on the water, bank or shore, may not be transported away live …
Our response: The DNR suggests anglers leave bait buckets at boat landings and return when additional bait is needed. This idea is by no means ideal because nomad anglers would have to pull all their equipment out of the water and return to a distant shore during the period when fish are most actively feeding. Or, the DNR suggests anglers only purchase as much bait as they intend to use that day. Perhaps those who devised this advice have reached the pinnacle, but most anglers aren’t usually sure if they’ll even catch one fish. Maybe if we were all overpaid, or fished as little as the ones who came up with these rules, killing $5, $10 or $15 worth of bait each outing wouldn’t be such a big deal.
Q: Are minnows that are brought onto the ice still considered on the lake and do they have to be killed before I leave the shore?
A: Yes, when you bring minnows to the shore, whether water is open or frozen, those minnows may not be transported away.
Our response: You don’t want to get ticketed for this one. If caught leaving the lake with live minnows and water, you could face fines exceeding $500. That’s a lot of frozen cod.
Q: Can I leave unused bait in a container under the ice of my ice house for use the next time on the same lake?
A: Yes, you may submerge a container holding live minnows under your ice house as long as you have a way to retrieve the container …
Our response: Yeah, like we enjoy paying the heating bills for our houses so much that paying to heat the ice shack sounds like a great idea.
Q: Do I have to drain the water from my drinking water containers and coolers, including melted ice in coolers used to keep fish or food and beverages cold?
A: This rule does not apply to beverage containers, including bottled drinking water. Melted ice in coolers used to keep dead fish fresh also needs to be drained, but the ice which has not yet melted may be kept to keep your fish, food or beverages cool.
Our response: So the goal is to keep water from leaving lakes. The last time we checked ice was made from water. Maybe we all need some of what the DNR bureaucrats were drinking when they came up with this one – we’re sure it wasn’t the bottled water eluded to in the answer.
While we all want nothing more than to protect our waters and the fish that inhabit them, the DNR needs to rethink these new regulations before they start handing out tickets. Don’t make a debacle of what was one of our state’s greatest pastimes.