Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia VHS

| December 1, 2011

About VHS and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has released their final version of their new Fish Disease Control Order (FO-245). Read MDNR Final Version of New Fish Disease Control Order (PDF).

The MDNR Fisheries Division must be commended for extra effort to make the new order conducive to as much present fishing activity as possible while still striving to slow down the spread of the VHS virus. Movement of live tournament fish through connected waters is still allowed with a few exceptions. Read the order carefully and check out commentary on the Conservation Forum for more details and exception areas to be aware of.

Make sure to keep up-to-date on the latest information on this important issue by periodically checking the MDNR Fisheries Division web page at: MDNR Fisheries Division Page.

What YOU can do right now to Help Prevent the Spread of VHS

  • Do not move live fish from one body of water to another, especially from the Great Lakes into inland waters!
  • Clean your boat and trailer before launching into new waters after being in infected waters. In particular, clean your bilge and livewells with bleach/water mix and rinse thoroughly.
  • Keep up-to-date on the latest and most accurate information available on the VHS virus.

PLEASE REPORT all fish kills by email to

APHIS is still involved at the federal level. It is also possible within the Great Lakes region that other states and provinces might put out their own rules for this issue that could impact some of our usual practices on the Great Lakes. Wisconsin is the state that bares watching at this time. Keep an eye on this VHS page for any updates and changes within the region. Contact TBF of Michigan Conservation Director with questions and comments.

We have a lot to learn about VHS

(This information is from the 2007 season before our MDNR helped get APHIS to change their original ruling that could have impacted tournaments on the Great Lakes.) This issue has caught many anglers, biologists, fish managers, bait dealers, fish farmers and government officials off guard. VHS is a fish killing virus that has killed walleye, muskie, bass, perch and sheephead, sometimes in large numbers, over multiple seasons. VHS fish kills have been confirmed in Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River (this is not a complete list – still being compiled).

A little-known US federal agency – APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), Veterinary Services Aquaculture, part of the United States Department of Agriculture, issued a federal order in October 2006, amended in November 2006, to make it illegal to transport any live fish of certain susceptible species (link requires Adobe PDF Reader) across any state or international border within the affected or at-risk area – U.S. States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; Canadian Provinces: Ontario, Quebec. Punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and $1,000 to $250,000 in fines according to one APHIS representative unless the fish are certified free of the VHS virus (takes about 8 weeks to test at present).

State and other agencies were caught off guard by the ruling and have since met with APHIS to discuss how to move forward. No further amendments have been issues since November, but various groups and anglers are still submitting comments hoping for clarifications and changes that may particularly help bait dealers and tournament anglers. Various states are reacting differently to this issue.


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