Egg Sac Restriction
In the fight against Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission is turning its attention to controlling the use of potentially infested fish eggs for bait.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Executive Director, Douglas J. Austen, announced a temporary change to Pennsylvania fishing regulations effective July 7, 2008. It is unlawful to take eggs from a fish taken from waters of this Commonwealth outside the Lake Erie watershed or to possess these eggs or use them as bait. Eggs taken from lawfully harvested fish from the Lake Erie watershed may be possessed and used as bait in the Lake Erie watershed only.
That media release from the PF&BC prompted a called to Leroy Young, Director of the Bureau of Fisheries, for a clarification. Mr. Young stated, “The threat of VHS contamination and its spread via fresh fish eggs is one underlying reason for this PF&BC action. In addition, anglers in the fall have been catching brown trout on waters outside of the Lake Erie watershed, stripping eggs from the fish, and then releasing the fish. It is now illegal to possess and use fresh fish eggs as bait anywhere in the Commonwealth with the exception of the Lake Erie watershed."
The two key issues that will be called into question by this regulation change are the word fresh and the origin of the eggs. Although the definition of “treated” eggs has yet to be determined, you may legally use that type of bait on all Commonwealth waters.
This temporary modification will go into effect immediately. It will remain in effect until January 1, 2009, unless the Commission, by appropriate action, adopts the new regulation.
Here are some statements that I believe are accurate given this temporary regulation change as it pertains to Pennsylvania waters.
It is illegal to strip eggs and then release the fish - to possess or use as bait, fresh fish eggs outside of the Lake Erie Watershed - to transport legally harvested fish eggs from the Lake Erie Watershed.
It is legal to catch fish in the Lake Erie Watershed, and use their eggs as bait while fishing in the Lake Erie watershed.
Many anglers enter Erie County in the fall with treated eggs sacs in their possession. Most of those baits are Coho, Chinook, Brown Trout and Steelhead eggs legally harvested from Lakes Ontario and Erie. The eggs are treated with a variety of home brews or with some type of commercially available treatment product, and then tied into egg sacs. Erie bait shops also sell treated loose eggs and tied eggs sacs.
This temporary regulation change is sure to "muddy" Commonwealth waters and create some enforcement headaches. To read the PF&BC media release click here