New Law Means Anglers Will Have To Empty Water From Bait Buckets

Here’s a story I wrote that appeared Sunday in the Duluth News Tribune about new rules that will affect how boaters and anglers move from lake to lake in Minnesota.

By Sam Cook

Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota anglers will have to change the way they manage their minnows as the result of an aquatic invasive species law passed by the Minnesota Legislature this year. The law is now in effect.

“The big issue is the bait bucket issue,” said Mike Scott, a Duluth conservation officer who specializes in invasive species enforcement.

Under the law, anglers must drain the water from their minnow buckets before leaving any body of water, Scott said. To take the minnows with them upon leaving a lake, anglers must replace the water in their minnow buckets, once on shore, with tap water or spring water. They cannot take that tap water or spring water with them in the boat while fishing, however. It must be kept in their vehicle on shore, Scott said.

The purpose of the law is to prevent the accidental spread of invasive species in bait containers.

If anglers want to dispose of leftover minnows upon leaving a lake, they cannot be dumped into the lake, Scott said. They must be thrown in a trash receptacle or taken home. They cannot be dumped on the ground at the boat access.

The minnow transportation rule applies not only when anglers transport minnows on roads and highways. It applies anywhere in the state, and that includes portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Scott said. That means a minnow container must be drained before the angler makes a portage from one lake to another. A minnow container does not have to be drained if the person can go from one lake to another in the Boundary Waters on a connecting body of water, without portaging.

Minnows may be taken from one lake to another in the Boundary Waters, Scott said, but the water cannot be moved. The rule also specifies that minnows cannot be transported over portages in oxygen packs from bait shops, Scott said.

Already, the bait bucket issue is having an effect on bait dealers.

Clinton Christensen at Fisherman’s Corner in Pike Lake said anglers are asking a lot of questions about the new rules. Minnow sales are down, Christensen said.

“They (anglers) aren’t buying as much,” he said. “They’re buying half the minnows they normally would.”

At Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle north of Duluth, Sue Chalstrom says the shop is getting lots of questions from anglers about the minnow transportation law.

“It’s confusing,” Chalstrom said. “We’re getting lots of calls. We wonder what it will do to our business, too. Will they be asking for half a dozen chubs? You don’t want to waste.”

Most anglers already are accustomed to pulling drain plugs in their boats and removing water from live wells before leaving lakes. That law was in effect previously.

The new law clarifies the drain-plug rule: A drain plug must be removed upon leaving a landing, before traveling down a road, Scott said. And it must remain out until the angler reaches the next lake he or she plans to fish.

“It must remain out any time you’re transporting the boat,” Scott said.