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Using Baitfish in Vermont

Baitfish regulations are designed to prevent the introduction of fish diseases like Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemiaand other aquatic invasive species, so the health of Vermont’s fish populations and fishing opportunities remain for future generations to enjoy.

Regulations governing the use of baitfish in Vermont have recently changed. These are the first changes in baitfish regulations since the rule was implemented in 2008.

What’s New?
The primary changes to the regulation include:

  • Adding pumpkinseed, bluegill, rock bass, and banded killifish to the statewide approved baitfish list.
  • Creating a list of approved baitfish for Lake Champlain that includes alewife and white perch.
  • Allowing anglers to transport commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody and bring the same bait back to the same waterbody within the 96-hour period shown on their receipt.

These changes are designed to give anglers more flexibility in transporting baitfish and more options for the fish species they can use as bait, without significantly compromising the regulation’s effectiveness in protecting Vermont’s fish populations.

Under the previous rule, anglers were required to dispose of unused baitfish at the end of a fishing trip, and couldn’t take them off the ice or water due to concerns about potential cross-contamination and exposure to fish diseases and invasive species.

With the new revisions, anglers will now have four days to move their store-bought baitfish back and forth between their home or camp and a single lake indicated on their baitfish receipt when they bought them.  Anglers wishing to go to a different lake in that time period will have to buy new baitfish and get a new receipt.

Details on the amendments to the baitfish regulation can be found here.
This document will show you the text that was added (blue underline) and removed (red-strikethrough) .

Baitfish Regulation Background
In 2005, a fish disease known as Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) was discovered in Lake Ontario, following a fish kill involving thousands of sportfish.  In just a few years, the VHS virus spread rapidly through all five Great Lakes, and into numerous inland waters (waters without any direct connection to the Great Lakes) in Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and Ohio, killing hundreds of thousands of fish. 

Unfortunately, there is no vaccination or treatment for the disease. It cannot be controlled or cured - only contained. It is widely accepted that the movement of live fish from one waterbody to another is the leading cause of the spread of this disease. Containing VHS requires restricting the movement of live fish and implementing fish disease testing and surveillance programs. VHS has not been found anywhere in Vermont at this time. However, the virus can be difficult to detect, and other states have sometimes documented multiple fish kills from VHS but been unable to detect the virus in the years between the outbreaks that caused the fish kills. For this reason we cannot simply wait until the disease is detected before taking steps to prevent the movement of fish from one lake to another.

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