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DNR going overboard on VHS rules, lawmakers complain

At least two legislators say the Department of Natural Resources is going overboard with its statewide rules to keep the fish-killing VHS virus from spreading.

Aides to Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, and Rep. Dan LeMahieu, R-Cascade, say they'll fight efforts to make emergency rules passed last fall permanent.

Fish experts will discuss the matter with lawmakers on Thursday.

The current rules prohibit the transfers of fish and live bait and they make boaters dump out their water every time they leave a lake.

At first, the Natural Resources Board only adopted those rules where VHS was found in the Great Lakes and the Lake Winnebago chain.

Last fall, the board decided to expand them statewide. Because they'll expire soon, DNR staffers want the Legislature's rules committee to extend them at least until May.

LeMahieu co-chairs that panel. Before acting on the extension, he wants to see how willing the DNR is to scale back its limits.

His aide says there's no need to panic anglers statewide because the virus has only been found in a couple places.

A Gunderson aide says the rules might scare anglers away from Wisconsin, thus hurting the state's multi-million dollar fishing industry.

Christine Thomas, Natural Resources board chair, says the virus poses a big threat, too, and the state must take a comprehensive approach to fighting it.