Chumming, the practice of luring or attracting fish with bait mixes that can include corn, rice, noodles, fish eggs, or different types of meat, has been legal in Michigan for years. The DNR doesn’t consider chumming a threat to the fish population, however, the practice and regulation of this activity has been discussed multiple times by the DNR since at least the late 1990’s. The Natural Resources Commission may take action at prohibiting chumming on certain waters as soon as their next meeting on June 9, 2016 at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Gaylord.
When Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHS), was identified in the Great Lake waters 2005, there was talk of regulating chumming due to the possible spread of VHS through eggs. The virus does not have any impact on humans, through direct contact or via fish consumption, but it quickly spreads through the fish population, and could easily wipe out an entire species. There are currently 28 species of fish that are recognized as susceptible to the Great Lakes strain of VHS including 19 sportfish. Infected fish shed the virus in their urine and reproductive fluids, and fish eggs are known to spread some strains of the disease.
In 2007, Fisheries Order 245 was enacted, prohibiting the use of fish eggs as chum in Michigan waters to prevent the spread of VHS. In 2012, the strain of VHS present in the Great Lakes was found not to be transmittable through fish eggs, and the order was modified to allow fish eggs to be used again.
While chumming hasn’t caused any negative biological effects, there have been complaints from mostly commercial fishing guides fishing heavily chummed areas about high amounts of fish egg material and decreased catch rates. Those who don’t use chumming are upset and think the fishing experience has been diminished. As a result of this input and a request from the Natural Resources Commission, the Fisheries Division has developed addition regulatory options in regards to chumming. Earlier this month, Fisheries Order 200.16A laid out the possible changes in regulations for chumming with three different options.
- leave chumming regulations as they are, and have no changes. Anglers wouldn’t have to learn new restrictions, but the social issue will not be addressed and could grow worse.
- prohibit chumming with organic material in all Type 3 streams. It would be easy to understand and reinforce, however, those who wish to chum with organic material could move to other rivers, spreading or increasing the perceived problem there.
- prohibit chumming with organic material in Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4 streams. This regulation would also be easy to understand and reinforce, but anglers who prefer to fish with chum would be impacted.
However, after public testimony and further discussion among the NRC, the NRC has called for a more “surgical” approach of just regulating certain waters experiencing the most social conflict due to chumming. The revised order would prohibit chumming with organic materials on the following waters:
- Muskegon River from Croton Dam downstream to Muskegon Lake (Muskegon and Newaygo Counties)
- Manistee River from Tippy Dam downstream to Manistee Lake (Manistee County)
- Pere Marquette River mainstem from M-37 downstream to Pere Marquette Lake (Lake and Mason Counties)
This new order has been submitted for consideration, and will be eligible for approval by the NRC on June 9th, 2016 (see full NRC agenda here). To stay informed on this possible action, please attend the NRC meeting on June 9th in Gaylord or join MUCC on Facebook that afternoon to a link to our live streaming video. If you have thoughts on this possible regulation, be sure to provide comments to the NRC Commissioners.
Want to help stop the spread of VHS and other possible threats like invasive species within Michigan waters? Don’t forget to remove all visible plants from your boat and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Also, empty, rinse and dry boats or other recreational equipment before transporting them to another body of water.