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Strict new rules now in effect for boaters, anglers to prevent spread of VHS

MADISON - New emergency rules to prevent the spread of a new deadly fish disease took effect statewide today (Friday).

The new rules mean that all boaters and anglers must drain the water from their boats, boat equipment and fishing equipment and make sure any fish they take away are dead, including bait minnows, before traveling away from any Wisconsin lake or river.

The new rule was adopted last month by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to prevent the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).

The virus, which can be spread by infected fish and by infected water, can survive in water for up to 14 days. It does not affect people, but can cause fish to bleed to death, and has caused large fish kills in Great Lakes waters.

The emergency rule will expire on March 31, 2008, but the DNR can request that the legislature extend the rule for two consecutive 60-day periods.

The emergency rule allows the approximately 90 licensed bait dealers who harvest minnows from the wild for use as bait to continue to do so from most waters under a wild bait harvest permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources.

The rule strengthens the wild bait harvest permit to require harvesters to disinfect their gear when moving between waters, and to follow state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection fish health testing requirements.

People bringing boats into the state from states where VHS is present will have to make sure that those boats and trailers or any boating or fishing equipment don't have any water in them. This includes water in any bilge or ballast tanks or in bait buckets or live wells.