Your bait bag might be Patient Zero for the next invasive-species pandemic.
Anglers tend to be pretty environmentally conscious folks; after all, nobody likes seeing trash in the water or avoidable fish kills. But there’s an aspect of fishing that many of us probably didn’t consider, and that is the bait that we use. It would seem like a no-brainer to go ahead and dump any leftover bait from our bags into the water at the end of the day, because it’s not trash and it doesn’t seem like it could do any harm. Wildlife Forever would like to remind us that couldn’t be further from the truth; releasing leftover bait may be far worse for your favorite fishin’ hole than an empty beer can.
Releasing leftover bait into the environment can pose risk of spreading diseases and aquatic invasive species, which can have devastating effects. Parasites, bacteria and viruses are of top concern, especially VHS (viral hermorrhagic septicemia), which is a deadly fish virus first detected in the U.S. in 1988.
Another concern is the water we use to transport live bait from one waterbody to another. Anglers need to replace the water in their bait buckets with bottle or tap water when changing waterbodies. This is crucial because invasive species like spiny waterfea and zebra mussel larvae are very small and can unknowingly be transported in bait buckets.
What about worms? Surely those are safe? Not so much. Many earthworms are non-native to the U.S. and are causing serious damage to our woodland habitats. Once invaded, they alter soils and create conditions suitable for invasive plants. Dispose of unused worms in the trash, not on land.
“As an angler, I was frustrated by the lack of communication teaching anglers about the bait issue,” said Dane Huinker, Conservation Program Manager of Wildlife Forever. “By working directly with local governments and bait dealers, we’re directly reaching anglers with conservation best practices, which is the first step in changing behavior,” Dane said.
Wildlife Forever is now selling new custom bait bags and posters with the message “Don’t Let it Loose,” which give instructions about how to properly dispose of the bait in the trash or how to keep it if planning to reuse it on the next trip. You can find them here.
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