Isle Royale Bans Bait

dweller - April 23, 2008

Isle Royale National Park bans bait in Lake Superior

John Myers

Duluth News Tribune

Published Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Isle Royale National Park announced an immediate ban Tuesday on all organic bait in the waters of Lake Superior near the big island.

The ban includes all live and dead minnows, fish parts, worms or other organic bait unless they were taken from the same water.

The ban makes it illegal to possess any fish or fish parts for bait that don’t come from the park waters of the lake. Organic bait already had been banned in waters on the island.

The park’s jurisdiction on Lake Superior reaches 4.5 miles out from the outermost land in the 30-mile-long Isle Royale archipelago — home to some of the best lake trout fishing on the Great Lakes.

While most anglers troll with spoons and other artificial lures, surveys show about 25 percent to 30 percent of anglers use organic bait, said Phyllis Green, Isle Royale superintendent. But the bait most commonly used is a chunk of belly meat from a recently caught lake trout. That still would be allowed if the trout came from the same area, Green said.

The move is another in a growing number of restrictions on anglers and boaters in an effort to thwart the expansion of exotic species such as the fish-killing VHS virus.

“Our fishermen are some of the best stewards of the park and they want to protect the fishery,’’ Green said. “It might be an inconvenience, but VHS could wipe out the trout, and nobody wants that.’’

It’s believed bait, bait buckets, live wells and bilges on recreational boats are a likely pathway for some exotic species such as VHS to reach park waters — moved unknowingly by anglers and boaters from other parts of the Great Lakes or infected inland lakes.

Isle Royale is about 15 miles off Minnesota’s North Shore but is part of Michigan. Park Service officials said Michigan regulations so far are not restrictive enough to prevent exotic species from moving into park waters. VHS already has killed about 32 species of fish in the eastern Great Lakes but has not been found in Lake Superior.

In addition to the bait ban, Isle Royale is requiring any watercraft transported to the island for recreational use, such as kayaks or fishing boats that move to the island on the ferry Ranger III, to be washed or disinfected. Boats that travel to the island on their own power are not covered by the disinfection rule but are asked to voluntarily make sure they are not moving any water or organisms from other lakes.

In September, Isle Royale banned ships from releasing any ballast water in park waters, and the Park Service’s Ranger III became the first vessel in the Great Lakes to regularly treat its ballast water to kill any living organisms inside.

Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, recently implemented a similar ban on all organic bait. And Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has banned organic bait for fishing on waters on the islands, but not Lake Superior. Apostle Island National Lakeshore has only one-quarter mile jurisdiction on waters near islands.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore also is requiring all boats launching from park land into Lake Superior to be decontaminated to prevent the spread of VHS and other species such as zebra mussels.