The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is heading to lakes in our region to protect them from invasive species.

From January to March, more anglers fish the waters of Lake Simcoe than the rest of the year combined. That’s why Wil Wegman from the MNR was out on the lake on Thursday. He wasn’t checking what fish anglers caught but rather what bait they were using to catch the fish, where it was purchased and making sure when anglers are done fishing for the day the bait is not dumped in the lake.

“That used to be a common practice but we realize now that could spread invasive species or disease like Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia or VHS.” says Wegman.

This is all part of Operation Bait Bucket – a program that guards against disease in Ontario Lakes. Bait purchased from other lakes may carry the VHS strain – which is harmless to humans but can be deadly to fish.

Angler Julio Melo is aware of VHS and never dumps his old bait into the lake.

“I take it home, put it my cold room and I use it the next day. That way I save money and don’t dump it in the lake because we have to keep our lakes clean.”

Some fish in Lake Simcoe are infected with VHS, that’s why the first quest bait provider Thomas Brittain always asks is “Where are you heading to fish today?”

Brittain has been an avid fisherman for decades and he understands how important it is to keep the lakes healthy. He only buys his bait from a supplier that has been certified virus free.

“Which means my customers can take those minnows outside of VHS management zones around Lake Simcoe; they can go to all points with them.

You can learn about Ontario’s invading species awareness program by clicking here.