Frequently Asked Questions about Fish Disease Regulations
Fish Disease Control Order
Angler Fact Sheet
Updated: April 2016
When did these new fish disease regulations take effect?
These regulations became effective on April 14, 2016.
Why are these regulations being put in place?
These regulations became necessary when VHS was first discovered in Michigan waters as a means to try to control the spread of this plus other diseases. With the rapid increase in fish diseases and unwanted aquatic species invading our state, it has become critical to enlist anglers as allies in this fight to protect their fishing opportunities.
Angler behaviors provide excellent pathways to move fish diseases and invasive species from waterbody to waterbody. Transmission routes include indiscriminate use of live and frozen baitfish, movement of live game fish from one waterbody to another and movement of any container of water including live wells and bilges from waterbody to waterbody. This Order is designed to provide a set of best management practices for bait collectors, bait dealers and anglers to ensure that they are not a vehicle to move diseases or unwanted species around into our waters. We do not want anyone to be a cause for fish disease outbreaks or the movement of invasive species.
How will this Order affect me as an angler?
There are several key areas that anglers will need to pay attention to:
- Personal collection of baitfish: All baitfish or fish collected for personal use as bait or cut bait shall only be used for fishing purposes in the original waters of collection.
- It shall be unlawful to place any live fish, live baitfish, or fish eggs into Michigan Public Waters without first obtaining a Fish Stocking Permit from the Department except for fish reared within a facility registered under the Aquaculture Development Act (Public Act 199 of 1996) or otherwise allowed under this Order. Fish transported for stocking outside a facility registered under the Aquaculture Development Act require a Fish Stocking Permit from the Department. If an approved Fish Stocking Permit is issued by the Department, an applicant shall carry a copy of that Fish Stocking Permit when transporting or stocking those fish or eggs. This section does not include the practice of chumming with fish eggs by an angler in the act of recreational fishing.
- A person, who catches fish in a lake, stream, Great Lake, or connecting waterway shall only release those fish in the lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish were caught, or in a connecting waterway of the lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish were caught so long as those fish can freely move between the original location of capture and the location of release.
- Baitfish shall only be used on a hook and may not be disposed of or otherwise released into Michigan Public Waters.
- It shall be unlawful to import into this state for use as baitfish any uncertified fish species that are on the List of Fish Species in Table 1. This includes live, dead, preserved, and cut baitfish.
- It shall be unlawful to transport any vessel over land without first draining all water from the live well(s) and bilge upon leaving any body of water. The vessel, trailer or any conveyance used to transport the vessel or trailer must be free of aquatic vegetation.
What is included as bait in these regulations?
This pertains to use of all personally collected bait whether live, dead or parts of fish including frozen fish used whole or as cut bait. Commercially harvested bait have specific testing requirements and can be used anywhere in Michigan where regulations allow the use of bait.
These regulations do not concern use of wigglers, leeches, or crayfish which are not covered by these regulations.
What will the receipt say and how long will it be valid?
The bait receipt regulation was removed a few years ago; therefore, anglers are no longer required to retain receipts for purchased bait.
Where can I use my purchased baitfish?
Purchased baitfish must be used on a hook and may only be used wherever baitfish use is allowed.
Where can I use baitfish that I collected?
Baitfish an angler collects may only be used in the waters where it was originally collected.
Can I move live fish from where I catch them and what about catch and release fishing such as in tournaments?
The movement of live species of fish from one waterbody to another is not permitted. Anglers are welcome to take fish home that are dead as long as it is legal to do so and possession limits are followed.
Anglers are allowed to catch and release fish. Anglers who are catching and releasing fish must release the fish back into the same water or in a connecting body of water to that water so long as those fish can freely move between the original location of capture and the location of release. There cannot be a fish barrier, such as a dam without fish passage, between where the fish was caught and where it is released.
The regulations also restrict the movement of live baitfish from one waterbody to another. All personally collected baitfish must be used in the same waterbody as collected. The movement of live fish from one waterbody to another is one of the key ways that anglers can be a significant factor in spreading fish diseases as well as unwanted aquatic invasive species. We do not want to see our fisheries resources negatively affected by major fish kills or the spread of unwanted species that could be avoided by good practices by our anglers.
What about live wells and bilge water?
All live wells and bilges must be drained when anglers or boaters leave the water. When a boat comes out of the water after a fishing or boating trip, all water must be drained from your boat when it is on the boat ramp. The regulation prohibits the movement of water in bilges or live wells once off the water and on roads. The movement of infected water from one waterbody to another is one of the key ways that anglers and boaters can be a significant factor in spreading fish diseases and aquatic invasive species.
- New provision that all personally harvested baitfish must only be used in the same water where originally collected.
- Fish eggs (roe) are no longer prohibited in the Baitfish Exclusion zones.
- The three VHS Management Area Zones (free, surveillance, and VHS positive) have been removed.
- The Susceptible Species List is now called the List of Fish Species (Table 1) and includes all species involved in importation, stocking and used as baitfish which are known to be susceptible to certain diseases. The list has been expanded to include the following new species: Atlantic salmon, black bullhead, brook trout, flathead catfish, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, lake trout, redear sunfish, warmouth, white crappie, yellow bullhead, common shiner, creek chub, fathead minnow, golden shiner, northern redbelly dace, sand shiner, and spotfin shiner.
- New provision that all commercially harvested baitfish during November 1 - December 31 must be tested and certified as disease free (all species listed in Table 1).
- New provision that a single 150 fish sample is required (for each zone) to be tested from the waters of Lake Huron, Lake Erie and connecting waters (which span over 5 zones) before the baitfish are certified disease free and lawful for sale.
- New provision that if all baitfish disease samples tested between November and December and during spring are free of disease then all baitfish are considered to be disease free with no further sampling required until the following November.
- New provision should any sample show a positive result then testing protocols would roll back to where all fish lots would again need to be tested prior to being allowed for sale.
- Status of a Facility Certification - new provision that an owner of a facility previously certified and licensed must apply in writing by September 30 for a renewal (if no changes to the facility have been made concerning the water supply) or stating that a change has been made requiring a new review (or site visit) of the facility.