by Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters (c) 2001
Its been a great day on the water. Youve enjoyed some time with friends, caught a few fish, and now youre back on shore loading up the gear. You grab your bait bucket out of the boat and notice that there are a few minnows left. The natural thing seems to be to dump them back into the lake right?
Over the past few decades, many lakes have been damaged as a result of nonnative fish introductions. Smaller lakes are the most vulnerable to this type of bait bucket dumping dilemma.
Small fish are hard to identify, and you may not recognize the species in your bait bucket. However, not all minnows are the same. When new fish species are introduced to a lake, they become competition for native minnows, and this may have harmful effects on the sportfish in the lake. For example, many brook trout lakes have been ruined through the unintentional introduction of yellow perch. Rock bass have spread north, through central Ontario and into the northeast. Rock bass in small lakes quickly remove native prey species and destroy the natural food web, reducing the growth rate and productivity of native gamefish.
In general, lakes may only produce a certain number of pounds of fish each year. As we inadvertently introduce nonnative fish into lakes, they take up available food and habitat resources, and there is less available in the system for the production of native sportfish.
Care must also be taken to prevent the spread of exotic species such as the round goby, ruffe and rusty crayfish. All have the potential to dramatically alter the food web of inland lakes. Ruffe, for example, look very much like golden shiners and could easily find their way into your bait bucket and, as a result of dumping, could end up contaminating another lake.
Minnows can also carry disease and parasites that can also have serious consequences for gamefish.
Next time, think before you dump. Do the right thing and dispose of your unused minnows on shore, well away from the waters edge, or return unused bait to the dealer. It will help keep our lakes in their natural, healthy state.
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