The Game, Fish and Parks Commission met by teleconference on Monday to adopt an emergency rule governing the taking of bait in South Dakota waters.
The rule change closes the East Vermillion River, West Vermillion River, and Firesteel Creek below Lake Mitchell to the commercial taking of bait and taking of bait by anglers.
The change was brought to the Commission by GFP fisheries staff as another way to battle the spread of invasive aquatic nuisance species in South Dakota. Asian carp are currently present below Gavin's Point Dam on the Missouri River and are spreading throughout the James River, Big Sioux River, and Vermillion River basins.
"We understand that this action results in a loss of opportunity for people who have traditionally taken bait from the waters on the restricted list," GFP Fisheries Chief John Lott said. "However, it would be irresponsible for Game, Fish and Parks to allow the continued harvest of bait from these waters and possibly spread Asian carp in our state."
Young Asian carp are similar in appearance to gizzard shad, and while anglers may be able to identify an individual carp they can be hard to notice when included with many other shiny silver bait fish seined from a river."
Lott noted that there is already a rule in place that prohibits the transport of gizzard shad, golden shiners, emerald shiners, and spottail shiners taken as bait anywhere in South Dakota. Asian carp are listed as an aquatic nuisance species in South Dakota and live aquatic nuisance species may not be transported.
"The spillways on East Vermillion Lake and Lake Mitchell serve as effective barriers to upstream migration of Asian carp as long as people do not move them above these barriers," Lott said. "Above East Vermillion Lake is Lake Thompson and the East Vermillion River between these two lakes may be long enough for Asian carp to successfully reproduce."
In several areas of the United States where Asian carp have invaded the waters, these prolific reproducers have out-competed more desirable species by eating available zooplankton so less food and habitat is available to native and game fish, meaning fewer of these fish that hatch have enough food to survive and grow.
"This is a nationwide challenge to save our waters from these invasive species," Lott said. "In South Dakota we are committed to preserving our native and game fish by keeping Asian carp from spreading."