The Natural Resources Commission recently approved new baitfish regulations that affect personally caught bait in Michigan waters. Any personally caught bait now must be used within the same body of water, or connecting bodies of water, where it was captured.
What that means for anglers is that bait can be caught within a tributary of a lake and used within the lake that is connected to the tributary. This principle also applies to chains of lakes that are void of barriers. However, if a man-made dam exists on a tributary that prevents free movement of baitfish between the lake and other connected waters, baitfish may not be moved or used within those nonconnected waters.
For example, if bait is captured in a small stream that is connected to a lake or network of other rivers and lakes, it can be used in any of those bodies of water. The general rule of thumb is if the baitfish can swim freely from the capture location to the location of use, the angler is in compliance.
The DNR has heard from anglers across the state who are concerned with this regulation. Fisheries Order 245 was put in place in 2007 to protect Michigan’s waters from the movement of fish diseases and aquatic invasive species. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia is one of many diseases that can be moved from one body of water to another through the movement of baitfish. To protect the state’s fisheries from this threat, the DNR requires commercial baitfish catchers to test their baitfish for diseases prior to sale.
Further, aquatic invasive species significantly affect Michigan’s fisheries and there are many invasive species that easily can be introduced to new waters through baitfish collection. Species like rusty crayfish and round goby have been spread by anglers collecting their own bait for use in a different location.
For more information on Michigan’s baitfish regulations, visit Michigan.gov/fishingguide.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go towww.michigan.gov/dnr.