By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

LAWRENCE -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has taken the first step in tightening the regulations to stem the spread of aquatic nuisances species and diseases in Kansas waters.

Because of the process to establish regulations, KDWP's Jason Goeckler sought to first tackle potential problems through the sale of commercial bait.

Ultimately, the agency is expected to implement regulations governing wild-caught bait collection and transport.

The whole dilemma surfaced as problems surrounding Asian carp -- bighead and silver carp -- were being discussed. The fear is that absent regulations, the fish could be spread across the state, either through inadequate limits on what can be sold and shipped into the state or from people seining bait in one lake and using it elsewhere.

The zebra mussel and white perch, both of which can be found at Wilson Lake, are among species considered to be aquatic nuisances.

The recommendations call for listing the type of bait that can be sold in Kansas. Currently, only native or naturalized species can be sold.

"As it is now, Asian carp ... would be a naturalized species," Goeckler told the commission.

As for crawfish, he said there's still question if the limits should allow only one, commonly called the olive green variety, or all native species.

"We're starting to see some diseases starting to creep up," he said of problems involving crawfish. There's also an aggressive crawfish that could crowd out native species.

Goeckler said the new regulations would affect all of the state's 263 licensed bait dealers and the 52 licensed to import for resale purposes.

New regulations also would deal with the sale of diseased bait, forcing wholesalers to purchase only bait certified to be pathogen free.

Most bait fish in Kansas come from Arkansas, which has a program to test, he said.

Goeckler said he doesn't have the budget or the people to do certification.

Additionally, he said some bait shops operate in areas that rely on water already infested with zebra mussels.

He wants KDWP to adopt a regulation that would require equipment to exclude nuisance species or limit bait use to that body of water.

"I think that's one we'd really have to rely on the good people of the state of Kansas," Goeckler said. "I think we would have some kind of receipt that would provide information."

Commission Gerald Lauber said he thinks aquatic nuisance species are the biggest threat facing Kansas waters, but added it will require changing the way things have been done.

"I still think we're going to have to bite the bullet and deal with the more unpleasant things of preventing the spread through seine nets and buckets," he said..

"I like the general direction your proposals are going," Commission Chairman Kelly Johnson said. "With that, I guess we'll wait for the storm to hit with the rest of the proposals later on."

There was some discussion about when to implement -- either midyear or delay until the first of 2012.

"I propose we are pretty aggressive and pretty restrictive on what we propose to do," Lauber said. "I think we need to deal with the blowback from people who don't understand what we're trying to do. I think we need to move pretty fast."

"I agree with Gerald (Lauber)." Johnson said. "The quicker we can proceed with well-conceived regulations the better."