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Ask the conservation officer: What to do with leftover minnows?

The News Tribune’s Outdoors pages begins a new “Ask the C.O.” feature, in which Department of Natural Resources conservation officers answer your questions. To submit a question, send it to Your name will not be used if your question is published.

Q: What’s the best thing to do with leftover minnows when I leave a lake after fishing?

A: Most anglers have had to return to the access with a minnow bucket still partially full of live minnows at one time or another. Although live bait has become quite expensive, concerns about aquatic invasive species presenting a threat to our fish populations also have risen quickly. Live minnows and leeches can still be kept for use another day, in most circumstances, but in order to balance economics with protecting our waters it is best to buy only what you will need for a day’s fishing and dispose of the rest in the trash at the end of your outing.

If you do choose to save minnows or leeches that you purchased at the bait shop, there is a key step to take to make sure you are following Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species laws and following the recommended process to limit the spread of invasive threats to our waters.

It is illegal to transport water away from any body of water in Minnesota. If you do choose to keep your extra minnows or leeches, you will need to bring a supply of fresh water with you to replace the water in your minnow bucket or leech container before you leave the access. This does not apply when fishing through the ice, except on waters designated as infested with viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). You are required to always drain the water from your watercraft or other water-related equipment before transportation, and leave all plugs and bailers open while on the road to or from a body of water.

Matthew S. Miller is a  Minnesota conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.