By Howard Meyerson
GRAND RAPIDS — Fishing guide Steve Hutchins is pleased that anglers once again can fish with loose salmon or steelhead eggs.
State officials banned the practice in 2007 to safeguard against viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a deadly fish disease. The ban was rescinded last fall and the practice becomes legal again Sunday, April 1, the first day of the 2012 fishing license season.
“I’m pleased. It’s the right thing to do,” said Hutchins, of Cedar Springs, who opposed the 2007 ban.
“You are going to tell me throwing a handful of eggs does potential harm while 5,000 salmon are upstream dropping millions of eggs into the water?” Hutchins said.
State officials say they heard from a lot of angry bait fishermen and decided to drop the rule from the books. VHS did not show up the way they feared. The disease, however, was found in lakes Huron and St. Clair, the St Clair and Detroit Rivers, Lake Erie and its tributaries, Budd Lake in Claire County and Baseline Lake in Washtenaw County.
“There have been very low occurrences of VHS,” said Jim Dexter, acting fisheries chief for the DNR. “VHS is still out there, and we are still testing at hundreds of locations. We are not seeing it where we thought we would, and decided the restriction wasn’t necessary.”
The 2007 rule did not ban fishing with spawn. It required that eggs be attached to a hook rather than loosely tossed into a fishing hole, a practice called “chumming.”
Fish eggs were singled out in an effort to reduce the potential of disease spread, Dexter said. But, John Hojnacki, an angler from Croton, called the ban “stupid” because anglers were still allowed to fish with a skein of eggs attached to a hook.
“You could use a skein as big as a softball, but scraping three eggs off was against the law,” Hojnacki said. “That was the stupidest law I’ve ever seen.”
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