Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia or VHS is the newest, and possibly most serious non-native invader into our great waters. This page is dedicated to providing you the most accurate and helpful information on this critical issue that may be with us a long time.

MDNR Releases New Fish Disease Control Order, Final Version FO-245  (5/17/07)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has released their final version of their new Fish Disease Control Order (FO-245). Click this link to go directly to the (new Adobe PDF Reader) final order: 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 Main Page. Please remember to also consider that APHIS is still involved and will be putting out a final rule, possibly later this year. It is also possible within the Great Lakes region that other states and provinces might put out their own rules for this issue that might still 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, and use the contact information at the bottom of this page if you have questions or find out about an issue not listed yet.


WASHINGTON, May 4, 2007–The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service revised today its Federal Order on viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a highly contagious disease of some fresh and saltwater fish, to allow for catch-and-release fishing activities because they do not unduly increase the risk of introduction and spread of VHS.

The October 2006 Federal Order was established to prohibit the importation of 37 species of live fish from two Canadian provinces into the United States and the interstate movement of the same species from the eight states bordering the Great Lakes. Today’s revision of the Federal Order will allow for the catch-and-release of VHS-susceptible fish in waters that cross state and international boundaries. These activities include, recreational fishing, tournaments, competitions, fishing derbies or other types of contests where individuals catch, compare and release live VHS-susceptible fish. Catch-and-release fishing activities do not include the movement of VHS-susceptible fish intended to be used as live bait.

Read the entire news release here.

(Need Adobe PDF Reader to open)
Amendment Source


We have a lot to learn about the VHS virus and the 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 sheepshead (drum), sometimes in large numbers, over the past two 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 (link requires Adobe PDF Reader) to this issue. See links below.

What can you do right now?

  • 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.

Here are some important links regarding this issue:

-USDA APHIS – Veterinary Services Aquaculture
APHIS VHS News and Information Page
Tournament Fishing REVISION to VHS FEDERAL ORDER May 4, 2007 (need Adobe PDF Reader to open)
APHIS VHS FAQ sheet (need Adobe PDF Reader to open)

-Michigan MDNR Main Fishing Page
MDNR Final Version of New Fish Disease Control Order (PDF)
MDNR VHS Information Page
Fish Disease Halts Walleye, Pike and Muskellunge Production and Stocking

Contact: Kelley Smith or Gary Whelan 517-373-3375 or 517-373-6948, April 3, 2007*

The rapidly increasing distribution of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSv) in Michigan waters is forcing the Department of Natural Resources to place a one-year moratorium on walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge production and stocking ensure the disease is not inadvertently spread by DNR activities, and to protect the state’s fish hatchery system.

“All of the DNR’s egg sources for walleye and one key source for northern pike are from Great Lakes waters that are, or are highly likely to be, infected with VHSv,” said Kelley Smith, chief of the DNR Fisheries Division. “Muskellunge egg sources, as well as two other sources for northern pike are located in ve<span style=”ry high risk waters, based on our understanding of the movement of bait fish around the state, as well as the amount of recreational and angler boat traffic between those waters and the Great Lakes.” (click the link above to read the full release)

*Kelley Smith has since retired, replaced by Jim Dexter. Phone numbers have changed since this article was written too as the MDNR has moved to a new location.

New! Anglers and Boaters: You are an important partner in preventing the spread of fish diseases and other aquatic nuisance species
Michigan DNR Fish Disease Information
MDNR Confirms Spread of VHS in Great Lakes
MDNR VHS Briefing Paper Feb 2, 2007 (need Adobe PDF Reader to open)
Please report all fish kills by email to
MDNR VHS in Muskie Confirmation Jan 24, 2006 (need Adobe PDF Reader to open)
-USFWS: National Fish Hatchery Addressing VHS
-DEC Confirms Virus in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River Fish
-Great Lakes Fish Health

Questions or Comments?

Contact:  Dan Kimmel, 810-433-BASS (2277) or email:

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