06/07/2012 19:08

                Releasing bait minnows or game fish into local lakes and ponds seems to be a logical way to help feed game fish and improve fishing. Not so, explains the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Most of the time, nothing could be further from the truth. Usually these activities are destructive to fishing quality and may result in the potential spread of an exotic species or undesirable native species.”

                Destruction of the quality of game fishing through introduction of undesirable species has a ripple effect. Resource management agencies are stressed by remediation expenses, and the local economy that is supported by sports fishing faces loss of revenue. At best, it takes time to reverse the damage and, at worst, an exotic species can spread through the nation. “The only way to effectively remove undesirable species of fish from a water body is to drain it completely or use rotenone which kills all the fish, most of the time.”

                Often non-native fish are blamed for reduced fishing quality – common carp is a prime example. “However even native fish can damage fishing quality when introduced into certain situations…For example, golden shiner are a native species and popular bait minnow…Sold as 2-5 inch minnows, these fish are capable of avoiding  predators when released in lakes or ponds. They can quickly grow to 8 inches and reproduce successfully…In small lakes or ponds, they compete with bluegill for the same – usually limited – food resources, resulting in a slow growing bluegill population and the eventual demise of the bass population as well.”

                Responsible anglers never release their bait into the water but will dispose of unused bait in the trash. Being responsible also means that fisherman will only release fish back into the waters from which they were caught. Moving water – in a bait bucket or the water pump housing of a boat motor -- from one water body to another may spread microscopic forms of exotic organisms.

                Releasing pet fish into the wild may also be harmful. “Goldfish, for example, can grow to 10 to 12 inches and successfully reproduce in most water bodies. Their young compete with native fish hatchlings for food, reducing native fish survival rates. Fish, other [aquatic] animals, and even aquaria plants should never be turned loose into the wild.”

                For those who fish from a boat and move it from one good fishing place to another care must be given to thoroughly cleaning the boat before it is transported. Aquatic organisms, fish, and plants are easily transferred from one water body to another unintentionally.

                Protect the aquatic habitat at your favorite fishing spots.

                Information and quotes about best practices for anglers was taken from “Don’t Release That Fish” by Mike Mounce, Illinois DNR, Charleston, IL, in Outdoor Illinois May 2011.


Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 06/06/12 (for publication on 06/09/12 in the Journal- Standard, Freeport, Illinois)  Della can be reached at