Ciscoes may be few and far between without Prairie Portage

Bait shops in northeast Minnesota may no longer be selling ciscoes in the very near future.
We’re coming into the prime time to harvest ciscoes and there’s a honey hole at Prairie Portage in the BWCA that has provided the popular bait for over 50 years.
Cold water temps and moving water along with access via motorboat made Prairie the perfect spot to harvest ciscoes. Mother Nature hasn’t changed anything but Big Brother has found a way to pull the nets.
Between the Forest Service and the Minnesota DNR, there are more rules than you can shake a fishing pole at when it comes to harvesting ciscoes.
Complicating the whole matter is Basswood Lake being listed as infested with spiny water fleas. But the Moose chain of lakes is not, so there’s another set of regulations to take water from infested waters and transport over non-infested.
Throw in the letter of the law by the Feds and whatever else the paper-pushers can come up with and hauling out ciscoes just became more time-consuming and costly than the harvest provides.
The losers in the end will be the anglers who show up at bait shops from Grand Marais to Ely to Grand Rapids to Duluth looking for ciscoes. The next closest harvesting location is in Park Rapids but it’s doubtful there will be enough supply to meet demand.
“There’s no other place to get them like this in the world,” said Jim Maki of the Great Outdoors, who noted some alarming connections.
“It’s interesting that these groups that fight copper nickel mining feel there’s no need to have a sustainable harvest of ciscoes,” said Maki. “They’re behind the towboat questioning and now bait trapping at Prairie Portage.”
In the next couple of weeks the ciscoes will make their annual journey to the east end of Basswood to spawn in the water flowing from Moose, Newfound and Sucker lakes.
And for the first time since before Richard Nixon was elected, there won’t be ciscoes harvested to supply bait shops in northeast Minnesota.
There’s a need for rules and regulations to protect our waters from invasive species. But there needs to be a way these agencies can work together to provide a sustainable harvest that has been going on for decades.