Collecting in Mississippi
Posted 21 August 2006 - 09:09 AM
Posted 18 May 2017 - 12:08 AM
Minnows may be taken for bait with seines not more than 25 feet long and 4 feet wide, and with minnow traps or jars (no wings or leads) not more than 30 inches long and 12 inches in diameter with an entrance of not more than 1 inch in diameter. Shad and minnows may only be taken with the aid of dip/landing nets, cast nets, boat mounted scoops, and wire baskets by residents for personal use during sport-fishing.
Game fish can be used as bait as long as they were legally captured and possession does not exceed the daily creel limit for each species."
To reiterate, "Shad and minnows may only be taken...for personal use during sport-fishing." It seems that the word "only" negates the purpose of enjoying their beauty in an aquarium and doing that is technically illegal, but if you plan on killing them, then that's okay and perfectly legal. Hmmm.
Years ago, I spoke with the fellow in charge of the aquariums at the Museum of Natural Science (before they built the new one), and he seemed supportive of keeping native fish privately. We discussed fish species and where we had found them, and he even gave me a small, young gar from their tanks!
While collection of native fish for home aquariums is currently a legal "grey area", those people who are officially involved in conservation seem to appreciate the average citizen taking an interest in the native species, and a good relationship between responsible fishkeepers and the scientific community can only benefit the species involved, with increased awareness of the natural habitats, ranges and needs of species for all, as well as a better understanding of different species' tolerances and parameters needed for reproduction. Often, these are essential to an at-risk species' future well-being, and in many cases, those involved as "hobbyists" have been instrumental in the stabilization of wild populations via their experience in keeping and breeding certain species, even maintaining populations in captivity while their native habitats are restored to adequate requirements of the species. (This is not to say that just anyone should be allowed to capture and keep endangered species; any at-risk species caught incidentally should be immediately released and it's location reported to conservation authorities.)
I think legislation or MDWFP policy should be amended to recognize keeping native fish as a legitimate hobby, and reasonable guidelines set forth. Otherwise, those who are interested in these animals and their continued success (and availability) in their natural habitats will technically be breaking the written law by keeping them in aquariums instead of just eating them or sacrificing them as bait to catch other fish that may be eaten. It would be an odd thing, indeed, if the position of the law is that it is better to kill individual fish rather than appreciate them and provide them with a quality existence devoid of hunger and predation!
The bottom line seems to be that, until it is amended, the letter of the law says collecting native fish in Mississippi for your aquarium is not a legal purpose, but most(?) conservation officials will appreciate your interest in nature and will overlook your activity to a degree. However, to avoid possible trouble, I suggest purchasing a fishing license, just in case. Besides, that money goes toward needed conservation efforts, anyway, and that's a good thing for all of our interests.
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