Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

December 18, 2006

Committee looks at nontoxic shot regulations

From the DNR
A committee tasked with studying nontoxic shot regulations by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recommended a cautious approach to restricting the use of lead shot by hunters beyond current federal and state regulations.

The report, issued today and available online, supports the DNR’s decision to restrict lead shot on state dove fields this past season.

In addition it highlights a number of scenarios that would reduce the amount of lead used by hunters.

Fifteen states, including South Dakota and Iowa, currently have restrictions on lead shot beyond current federal regulations.

Nine states, including Minnesota, are in discussions about restrictions

“The committee agreed that it’s responsible and reasonable for hunters to reduce lead in the environment by moving toward lead shot alternatives.” said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife habitat coordinator. “The report provides critical insights on how the DNR might move in that direction while mitigating the affects on hunters, law enforcement and industry.”

The 11-member committee of sportsmen, conservationists, technical experts, industry representatives and law enforcement, met five times throughout the summer to write the 70-page report.

The committee’s findings will be presented at this year’s Fish and Wildlife roundtable discussion in early January.

“Our report indicates different ways in which the state can approach reducing the amount of lead in the environment,” said Mark Martell, director of bird conservation at Audubon Minnesota. “Clearly the goal of reducing the amount of that toxic substance is good for the entire state.”

The committee identified several principles as guidance for fish and wildlife leaders. Among them are:

• lead is toxic to humans and wildlife and restrictions on lead shot are inevitable

• any nontoxic shot requirements should phased in to allow hunters and industry time for adjustment

• recommendations in the report seek to maintain hunting in a sustainable manner.

The committee discussed alternatives only for lead shot; it didn’t discuss issues surrounding the use of lead in bullets or shotgun slugs.

Although there were divergent opinions, the committee favored three scenarios that could be implemented to reduce the use of lead shot.

• eliminating the use of lead shot for doves on all public and private lands statewide

• eliminating the use of lead shot (shotgun hunting) for all small game species hunting on public land in the farmland zone

• eliminating the use of lead shot for all small game species on all public and private land in the farmland zone.

The committee also considered, but came to no clear conclusions on the following scenarios:

• eliminating the use of lead shot on all wildlife management areas statewide

• eliminating the use of lead shot for all small game species on all lands public and private.

“The use of lead shot in small game hunting is increasingly becoming an issue as hunters become more aware of the dangers surrounding lead in the environment,” said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Minnesota hunters and the Department of Natural Resources are taking a proactive step by looking at ways to move toward lead shot alternatives.”

In recent years, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies as well as the Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society have been studying the issue and preparing position papers.

“As responsible users of our natural resources, hunters and conservationists must constantly evaluate their sport,” said Pheasants Forever Senior Field Coordinator, Matt Holland. “This report shows a proactive approach to the non-toxic shot issue and it provides a framework that the agency may use in determining if, when, and how any regulations occur.”

Following the roundtable presentation, DNR Fish and Wildlife managers will use this report in conjunction with national studies to develop a phased-in strategy to reducing lead in the environment.

In 1987, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska enacted statewide restrictions on the use of lead shot for all types of waterfowl hunting.

Nontoxic shot has been required for waterfowl hunters nationwide since 1991.

The use of nontoxic shot is also required nationwide on federal waterfowl productions areas.

The full report is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/index.htm.

Bass disease discovered in inland Minnesota lakes
From the DNR

A fish disease discovered five years ago in the Mississippi River has spread to Minnesota’s inland lakes, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV), an iridovirus, a family of virus that only affects fish, amphibians and reptiles, has been found in 20 states since its discovery in 1991.

The disease was found in five of nine metro area lakes sampled last summer.

“We need to keep a sharp eye on the presence and impacts of Largemouth Bass Virus,” said Al Stevens, DNR fisheries program consultant. “The virus has been documented to cause high mortality rates of bass caught and released in tournaments conducted in hot weather.”

The DNR is currently considering rules that could ban off-site weigh-ins at bass fishing tournaments during the hottest times of summer.

Found primarily in the southeastern United States, the disease is known to occasionally cause fish kills, generally in relation to stress from high water temperatures and from handling and transportation by anglers.

The disease may spread by either transporting fish or water from infected lakes.

“Anglers should always drain their live wells when leaving lakes,” Steven said. “By taking this action, we can slow the spread of diseases like LMBV as well a number of other invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil.”

The DNR partnered with the Minnesota Bass Federation to collect samples following bass fishing tournaments at nine metro area lakes known to receive high fishing pressure.

The disease was discovered at Green Lake (Chisago County), Prior Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Rush Lake and Forest Lake. Lakes sampled that were negative for LMBV are Clearwater Lake, North/South Center Lake, Whitefish Lake and Green Lake (Kandiyohi County).

So far, the disease has proved fatal only in largemouth bass.

LMBV attacks the swim bladder and may cause largemouth bass to appear bloated.

The disease also affects their ability to control their buoyancy and maintain their position in the water column.

Infected, normal looking largemouth bass can be affected by all kinds of stressors including high temperatures and lower oxygen levels.

Other members of the sunfish family known to become infected with the virus include spotted bass, Suwanee bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, white crappie and black crappie.

Fish infected with LMBV are safe to handle and eat.

The virus is not known to infect any warm-blooded animals, including humans.

The DNR is considering additional monitoring next summer to better determine the current distribution of the disease in Minnesota and assess its spread over time.

Tips for anglers.

Anglers can help prevent the spread of Largemouth Bass Virus and as well as other fish diseases and the spread of exotic species by taking the following steps:

• do not move live fish or fish parts from one body of water to another and do not release live bait into any body of water; a permit is required to transport and stock live fish in Minnesota

• remove any visible plants and animals from boats, trailers, and other boating equipment before leaving any water body

• drain water from the motor, live well, bilge and transom wells at the ramp access before leaving any water body

• properly dispose of unwanted minnows and leeches on shore; never release live bait into a water body, or release aquatic animals from one water body into another

• minimize targeting of largemouth bass from mid-July to mid-August, especially during exceptionally hot weather conditions

• wash/dry boats and other boating equipment that normally get wet to kill exotics/pathogens that were not visible at the boat launch; recent research has determined that LMBV can live for several days in water, confirming the importance of this practice

• report dead or dying adult largemouth bass to the local DNR fisheries office (office locations and telephone numbers are listed in the Fishing Regulations Handbook).

Important rule changes for Minnesota anglers who spear fish
From the DNR

December 1, 2006, brought some important rule changes for Minnesota anglers who spear fish.

Under the new law a person may not take fish by angling or use tip-ups while spearing fish in a dark house, except that a person may take fish by angling if only one angling line is in use and any fish caught by angling is immediately released to the water or placed on the ice.

That specific requirement is limited to fish taken by angling. The new rules apply to rough fish, catfish, lake whitefish and northern pike taken by spearing.

While spearing, can you use a tip-up?

Yes. While spearing, a person may use one angling line or one tip-up.

The angling line or tip-up may be inside the house or outside the house.

Is it permissible to jig or use a spoon in the same hole used for spearing?

Yes. A person may angle and spear at the same time in the same hole.

Is it permissible to have a hook embedded in a sucker being used as bait?

Yes. A person may angle and spear at the same time, a sucker minnow may be used as bait for angling.

If a sucker, being used as spearing decoy, has a hook in it, that sucker/hook will constitute the one angling line which can be used while spearing.

Can the fish be in a bucket that’s on the ice on the ice, on the floor of the house, or in a cooler?

The purpose of this requirement is to prevent leaving game fish on the angling line in the water serving as bait.

“On the ice” means not in the water, and can reasonably include being in a bucket, cooler, or on the house floor.

The fish can be placed either inside or outside of the house.

Is it permissible to have more than one spear or one angling line in the house at the same time?

Each person may use one angling line while spearing.

If two people are in a house and only one of them is spearing, the person spearing may use one angling line, and the person not spearing may use two angling lines.

It is also permissible to have additional spears and angling equipment in possession in the house provided such equipment is not in use.

The open season for spearing through the ice in Minnesota is Friday, Dec. 1, 2006 to Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007.

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