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A Michigan agency has imposed new fishing rules to stop the spread of fish diseases.

The regulations approved by the state Natural Resources Commission April 14 center on the collection and use of bait. Among the rules: bait can only be used in the same waterway it was collected, and all bait that was commercially harvested in November and December must be tested to ensure it’s free of disease.

The commission is especially concerned about the spread of diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS. VHS was discovered in the Great Lakes in 2005 and contributed to large-scale fish kills.

Emerald shiners and white suckers, which are commonly used as live bait, are susceptible to VHS, said state officials.

The new rules take effective immediately.

The changes drew a mixed response from fishermen and bait shop owners.

Brett Kosinski, a weekend angler from Taylor, said he liked several changes that seemed to be a relaxing of the rules. Among them: A restriction on the use of fish eggs has been lifted. Also, the state’s surveillance zones have been removed.

“It’s probably a good thing,” Kosinski said about the overall changes. “I’m not really concerned about it.”

But others wondered how they would be impacted by the changes. Brian King, owner of Brian’s Blue Water Bait shop in Ira Township, atop Lake St. Clair, wondered who would pay for the testing of the bait in November and December.

State officials weren’t immediately available to answer the question.

King said the state already tests local waterways for other things so should test it for VHS. “They should know by now whether the areas are free of VHS,” he said.

Others said they were glad the state was monitoring for diseases but didn’t want the restrictions to be too tight.

Fisherman Dan Flanagan of Oak Park said he didn’t want to see a repeat of the fish kills from a decade ago. “We see what happens what they don’t do anything,” he said, referring to Flint’s water problems, which resulted from lax regulation from state and federal officials.

In another rule change, bait that is commercially harvested in five zones of the Huron-Erie Corridor in spring must be tested, according to the commission. The commission also has updated and expanded its list of fish species that are susceptible to VHS.

More information about the changes can be found in the 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide at Michigan.gov/fishingguide.

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