Just what we need after a successful steelhead season - drama! Impending doom! This article was recently published in the News-Herald - a Lake County fish wrap about the Ohio Department of Agriculture decision to ban the use of salmon and trout eggs south of I-90 effectively. This latest round to stem the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) which was first discovered in 2006 when large numbers of sheephead in Lake Erie died. At first they banned the shipment of baitfish from other Lake Erie states. This meant the end of the monster emerald shiners from the Niagara. These shiners were exceptional large and larger steelhead often had a hankering from them as three of the five largest steelhead I've caught to date came of those shiners. This was done to further protect the state's aquaculture industry (I didn't even know Ohio had one???)
When the virus was first detected, many here in Ohio were worried that the state's steelhead program was in jeopardy as several states banned the movement of fish across state lines. Luckily the steelhead eggs from Michigan were deemed free of the virus and the program continued as long as the eggs were inspected and treated. Sadly, myself and others witnessed the end of those "super sized" emerald shiners from New York and we had to settle for the wee ones from the lake. Our precious eggs were safe for the time and many felt there was no way that the state would ban them.
As expected the news wasn't that well received on several fishing forums from the egg heads. Then of course the lame "bait vs fly" bullshit started. Personally I'm not thrilled about the ban, but I don't think the sky is falling either. I find it somewhat puzzling about the timing considering VHS was first detected three years ago and the department of agriculture could of imposed the ban that encompassed both bait fish and eggs. The whole I-90 boundary is stupid as fish routinely move up and down stream whether it's steelhead, bass, carp or suckers. The boundary should be the first impassable barrier.
Until the ODNR puts something in their regulations, it's very unlikely to be regulated and enforced. Currently enforcement is the state agricultural department responsibility and I can't see any of their personnel hiding in up in trees with binoculars looking for the illegal use of eggs. Since the state is almost broke, I'm sure the ODNR isn't going to set-up check points to see if anglers are honoring the ban (bar codes for VHS free sacs?) As for other fishermen calling the authorities - good luck. I don't know how many times I've called the poacher's hot line calling about snagging and people walking out with 6 fish and I've yet to see one person fined. In reality this ban will be almost impossible to enforce.
Some including myself feel this is a knee jerk reaction as I would of like to see some studies done before this ban went into effect. For example would cured eggs be free of the virus? This whole thing is like closing the gate long after the herd left.
Of course this isn't the end of the world as the ban is south of I-90 and there is plenty of water to fish north of it. I still have jigs, plastics and flies at my disposable, but eggs come in handy especially when the water is dirty. Hopefully Ohio will adopt Michigan's regulations allowing the use of roe as long as it's been certified VHS free. I heard those orange gummy bears work pretty well..........