Golden shiners at center of bait debate in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS — A live bait favored by winter walleye anglers is at the center of an escalating policy dispute between bait shops blocked from importing the minnows and fisheries managers who say the ban is a critical defense against fish disease and invasive carp.
The Department of Natural Resources has prevailed in arguments over the ban, which prevents Minnesota bait dealers from buying golden shiners from other states, including the bountiful fish farm industry of Arkansas, the Star Tribune reported.
Republican Sen. Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point said she is convinced Arkansas minnows are “bio-secure” and worthy of Minnesota bait buckets.
“We’ll prove this is a really good idea,” said Ruud, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee. “If we want to expand and support fishing in Minnesota, we have to do a better job.”
The department’s commissioner, Tom Landwehr, cited the minnow controversy in a letter to Senate leaders last week as one of several “problematic policy items” that deserves its own debate. He said it shouldn’t be part of the state’s budget bill.
Landwehr wrote that allowing the importation of golden shiner minnows “will present a serious risk of introductions of environmentally devastating invasive species.”
Demand for golden shiners by ice anglers far outweighs the annual supply that Minnesota residents raise in state-approved rearing ponds, said Marshall Koep, who operates Urbank Live Bait Co. in Clitherall.
“My father used to rear in 200 minnow ponds, now we’re down to 60,” Koep said. “And we have a short growing season compared with 10 months of growing in Arkansas.”
Koep said bait dealers appreciate Ruud’s support and they hope to meet soon with a representative of Gov. Mark Dayton to ask for the governor’s support.
Ruud’s golden shiner proposal is now included in the omnibus environment bill in the Senate, which has yet to reach Senate floor, she said. There’s also a companion bill in the House.