Protect Our Fishing Waters

PLEASE DON’T DUMP BAIT…..Bait and nonnative plants and animals hitchhiking in bait buckets can harm our lakes and rivers!

Protecting these resources is an important part of our overall enjoyment. A concern we must all address is the spreading of harmful plants, animals and other organisms. These aquatic nuisance species can hitch a ride on our clothing, boats, and items used in the water. When we go to another lake or stream, the nuisance species can be released. And, if the conditions are right, these introduced species can become established and create drastic results.

  • Drain and remove all water, mud, plants and animals from all equipment before leaving the shore.
  • Wash and dry anything that comes in contact with the water-boats, trailers, tackle, cloths, pets.
  • Don’t dump bait! Dispose of bait and bait water in the trash or on the ground far from shore, better yet…..take them home and freeze them for a future trip.
  • Never put plants or animals in a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.

The introduction of an invasive species can occur simply by dumping minnows into a lake, river, creek or pond. Yes, when minnows are collected for bait shops, some invasive species like Asian carp do get mixed in with other minnows commonly used for bait. This may have happened in Lake Michigan.

Illinois DNR Assistant Director John Rogner said this about a report submitted on the bighead carp that was captured alive in Lake Calumet in June. “While this report does not have all the answers, it does suggest to us that the fish caught in Lake Calumet may have been put there by humans, perhaps as a ritual cultural release or through bait bucket transfer.”

So what can we do to help the cause? There used to be a big push to have anglers dispose of unused live minnow baits on the banks or in garbage cans instead of into the water. That works, but I’m not into that. We have enough problems with people leaving refuse on the banks,  and a dead fish in a garbage can really stinks. Why not recycle them? Leftover minnows can  be frozen and and used later for catfish bait or for ice fishing. Place them in a baggie filled with water and then freeze them. Freezing the bait in a plastic bag full of water keeps the fish solid and easy to manage. If they were placed in a bag without the liquid, they would all be stuck together and get ripped apart when trying to put one on a hook. When you go fishing, keep the frozen bags of bait in a cooler and just pull one out at a time to thaw as you need them.

Another solution that works well is to salt the minnows to cure them, then freeze the baits.

Use a baking tray that’s a couple inches deep and fill it up with salt. Table salt is fine. Spread the minnows out and cover them with the salt. Let the bait cure in the salt for a few hours to a full day. Check on them occasionally and when the minnows look dry, shake off most of the salt then place in a plastic bag and freeze.

A lot of fisherman probably never considered recycling their bait, but now you know that doing so will help preserve our fishery.

Don’t ever dump your leftover bait into any body of water!


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