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Wild bait harvest permits

Fishing Wisconsin

The material contained on this page is mainly aimed at those licensed bait dealers who harvest live bait from state waters for sale to retail or wholesale distributors. If you collect minnows for your own use or crayfish for consumption, you can do this without a permit, as long as the minnows are only used on the water where they were collected and are never moved live from the harvesting water. You may also preserve minnows you collect as dead bait for use in other lakes. In doing this, you must also comply with all rules that were adopted in the fall of 2007 prohibiting the movement of live fish and/or water from all waters in Wisconsin.

Information concerning harvest, permits and testing

Provided below are the wild bait harvest application and permit and a joint letter from the DNR and DATCP to the wild bait dealers along with some other materials useful to wild bait harvesters.

Tips for completing the application and permit

  • First fill out all information that will not change (name, address, contact info, etc),
  • Then make multiple copies so that you do not have to write so much.
  • Be sure to fill out information pertaining to targeted species and estimate the number of minnows you will be harvesting over the month, and
  • Last, before you send in your application, fill in the waterbody information, including the specific county, township name, township #, range #, and section #.
  • If you know you will be harvesting on specific water for an extended time period, fill out an application and leave the requested start date blank, then make copies.
  • Include the name of the waterbody you are applying for in the blank provided.
  • Please print legibly so that we can return permits to you as quickly as possible.
  • If you have questions, please feel free to call, as this will speed the application process along.

Frequently asked questions

  • Can I submit more permits for more than one time period at the same time?
    • No, permits may be submitted no more than 30 days in advance of the requested start date.
  • What information do I need to indicate a waterbody location?
    • For lakes, we need the county and the lake name. If there is more than one lake with that name in the county, a township and range is also necessary.
    • For rivers and streams, we need the county, township and range along with the section numbers where you will be harvesting. Multiple sections on a permit are permissible, but you must submit a new permit for each unique township and range combination.
    • Locations can be found from plat books, available at local courthouses, libraries, and DNR Service Centers or you can use some commercially available map books.
  • I have valid oversize gear permits, do I really need the wild bait harvest permit?
    • Yes, these permits are necessary in addition to the oversize gear permits. The permits are used for tracking who is harvesting from which waters so that we can keep track of where minnows are going if we do find a VHS infected water.
  • The permit application asks for my Bait Dealer License Number, what if I do not remember that number?
    • The number can be found on your current DNR license(s).
  • Is there a simple way to disinfect my equipment so that I don't transmit harmful organisms?
    • To prevent the possible spread of VHS from your equipment, a simple disinfection technique can be used by mixing 1/3 cup bleach with 5 gallons of water and applying this solution to your equipment. Let your equipment soak for 5 minutes before rinsing.

Frequently asked questions - new rules

  • Can I harvest minnows with my bait dealer license and then use them on other lakes?
    • If you have a bait dealer’s license and a current wild bait harvest permit and are not in VHS waters, you may collect minnow species other than the VHS-susceptible species (bluntnose minnow, emerald shiner, and spottail shiner) and may distribute them or use them personally on other waters without a fish health test.
  • If I have a bait dealer license and wild bait harvest permit, can I take minnows away from a waterbody after I have used them as bait?
    • No, when you are fishing (or in possession of hook and line fishing gear) you are considered an angler, not a bait dealer, and the wild bait harvest permit authorities do not apply. The permit is only valid if you are actively harvesting or moving newly harvested minnows to a holding area where they will be inspected by a qualified fish health inspector before they are distributed or used by any person for fishing.
  • What does condition 1 on the wild bait harvest permit mean for my bait harvest?
    • This condition of a wild bait harvest permit means that only susceptible minnow species (bluntnose minnow, emerald shiner, and spottail shiner) harvested under this permit must be inspected by a qualified fish health inspector before they are distributed or used as fishing bait. Those species identified as VHS susceptible must be tested and found to be free of VHS before they can be distributed or used.