Bait preservation permits

To help prevent the spread of the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) in Minnesota waters, anglers cannot use cisco, smelt, or other VHSV-susceptible species as bait in any waterbody except Lake Superior.

This bait may be used in other waters if:

  • It was harvested from a waterbody that tested negative for presence of the VHSV within the past year; or
  • It has been preserved by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources permit holder using accepted methods known to make the virus inactive.

The regulation was enacted to protect Minnesota's inland waters from VHSV, which is present in Lake Superior.

When fishing using preserved cisco or rainbow smelt as bait, anglers must have in their possession the label from the batch of bait being used. The label must contain the bait processor's DNR permit number, the lot number, and the date of processing.

It remains legal to harvest cisco and rainbow smelt for personal consumption in Lake Superior and Minnesota's inland waters. VHSV does not have any impact on humans through direct contact or via fish consumption.

A person must have a commercial license to apply for a bait preservation permit. Bait preservation permits are available to persons who hold one of the following commercial licenses: minnow dealer, minnow retailer, aquatic farm, private fish hatchery, commercial netting of fish, fish packer or Lake Superior fishing guide license.

Questions? Contact Sean Sisler, fisheries program consultant.

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