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Friday, April 20, 2012

Rules Regarding Spawn on Lake Superior

I've spent my spring Kamloops season buying spawn bags from gas stations on the North Shore of Lake Superior at astronomical prices. I recently e-mailed the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for clarification regarding the use of spawn on the Minnesota side of Lake Superior. He forwarded my e-mail to Matthew Miller from the Lake Superior Marine Unit. I asked all the tough questions and Matt answered them all. Thanks for the info Matt!

  1)      Is it the law that you buy commercially disinfected spawn due to VHS?  Due to the spread of different diseases across the country, and to attempt to prevent their spread in MN, the DNR has adopted rules that require that bait comes from certified disease-free locations or is treated by a licensed processor under DNR permit.  These types of bait then have to be labeled as such to be sold to anglers.  Page 12 of the 2012 Fishing Synopsis contains more information.  You as the angler just need to keep the label from when you purchased the bait.
2)      Is it ok to use spawn from a Kamloops Rainbow caught on Lake Superior for bait on Lake Superior?  No.  Current law prohibits the use of game fish, or any part of a game fish, for bait.  Another statute, specific to Lake Superior, specifically prohibits the taking of fish or parts of a fish for bait from the waters of Lake Superior or the St Louis River, regardless of where they are to be used.  Smelt and cisco have recently been exempted from this regulation.  There are proposals to modify these laws in relation to the use and collection of spawn, but this is where the regulations are at this time.
3)      What about buying it online from sources that claim to be disinfected?  Imported bait is fine, including from online sources, but it also has to come from a certified disease-free source or be treated by a permitted bait processor under DNR permit and labeled as such. 
4)      Can a person disinfect their own for personal use?  No, bait can only be disinfected by the holder of a DNR bait preservation permit.
5)      What does a person need to have on their person to prove their spawn is legal and disinfected?  Just retain the label containing treatment and certification information with you while in the field.  For more information on what information is required on the label, please refer to the statute language in 97C.342, sub 7 on the Revisor’s webpage (www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us). 
Please feel free to contact me at my home office (xxx)xxx-xxxx if you have any more questions or wish clarification on any of these issues.  The recent advance of invasive species and aquatic diseases has led to quite a few changes for all anglers and boaters, but hopefully I was able to help you here.
 Matthew S. Miller
Minnesota Conservation Officer
Lake Superior Marine Unit

I then called Mr. Jim Maragos from Centerpin Angling: http://centerpinangling.com, one of the largest spawn bait dealers on the web. Mr.Maragos assured me that all of the fresh spawn they sell is certified vhs free. It all comes from uncontaminated commercial sources. He informed me that he would have his IT team add the certified vhs free information to all sales receipts for Minnesota residents to carry on them while fishing.

Here is a link to the rules for using spawn on the tributaries of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.

Float Fishing for Steelhead

 A properly rigged and weighted float can deliver your offering at the precise speed of the current, allowing you to achieve a perfect drag free drift.

I like to use floats from Raven Tackle that are specifically designed with steelhead fishing in mind. They attach with surgical tubing and don’t fray your line when you’re making adjustments to depth. They are also rated by a number that lets you know how much split shot they can hold.

 The first order of business is getting down to the bottom where the fish are. You want to space your split shot in such a way that the largest weight is on top to punch through the heavy surface current, and the smallest amount is near your offering. This is known as a shirt button split shot pattern. This allows your offering to float downstream ahead of the float at the same speed as the current. I start out by placing 4 BB split shot under the float and then taper down. I pinch these split shot on by hand to not damage the line when making adjustments to depth.

Start out shallow and slide everything up after a few drifts. This avoids drudging bottom and the possibility of spooking fish. The thing about sensitive floats is they will let you know where you are in the water column. If the float points downstream you are drudging bottom. If the float points upstream you are either set too shallow or you need more weight to match the current. What you want to see is the float straight up and down and submerged to the point that only the top is visible. This lets you know that everything is set up properly and you’re on your way to a feisty steelhead.

Hydrology tells us that the current in a river is actually faster on the surface than on the bottom. It doesn't take long for the steelhead to notice when something floating by them is awry. To slow the float down, we use a technique called "trotting" or pulling back on the float slightly during your drift. This allows you to slow the float to the same speed as the current on the bottom. 

   Presentation selection can vary. It can include such things as yarn tied to mimic a fish egg, stone and hex fly imitations, pink plastic worms, night crawlers, butter worms, wax worms and spawn. I've also had success with a local fly pattern known as a Lake Superior X-Leg. These are tied by a local company called Jeff's Jigs and are available online.

Get out and chase some of the hardest fighting, most beautiful fish that Minnesota has to offer. Please remember to handle these wild fish with care.

Garett Svir
Photography by Kim Svir