Baitfish Information

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The only fish that may be used as bait, dead or alive

The following are the only fish species that may be used as bait (dead or alive) for fishing in inland waters of Maine:

  • Common Shiner
  • Golden Shiner
  • Blacknose Dace
  • Finescale Dace
  • Northern Redbelly Dace
  • Pearl Dace
  • Creek Chub
  • Lake Chub
  • Eastern Silvery Minnow
  • Fathead Minnow
  • Fallfish
  • Smelt
  • Longnose Sucker
  • White Sucker
  • Banded Killifish
  • Mummichog
  • American Eel

Tips on Identifying Common Legal Baitfish

images of baitfish to identify legal and illegal baitfishimages of baitfish to identify legal and illegal baitfish

Trouble by the Bucketful

That's what the illegal introduction of exotic species brings to Maine's waters.

Some thoughtless individuals are attempting to destroy the future of Maine's native fisheries. These nonsportsmen illegally stock the type of fish they prefer to catch, without regard for the environmental havoc they inflict on the resource. Illegal stocking selfishly denies the people of Maine the right to decide what is best for our waters.

Please help fight this serious problem.

  • It is illegal to transport live fish without a permit except legal baitfish or smelts.
  • It is illegal to dump unused baitfish into any waterway.
  • There is a $10,000 fine for a conviction of illegal stocking.
  • Always keep your ears and eyes open for those who are committing these senseless acts.
  • If convicted, the license revocation has increased from 1 to 5 years.

To report information about an illegal introduction please call: 1-800-ALERT-US (253-7887)

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Harvesting Baitfish for Personal Use

All inland waters (including rivers, streams and brooks) are open to the taking of baitfish for personal use unless designated "closed to the taking of live baitfish" (see Special Fishing Laws).

  • See list of only legal fish that may be used or harvested as bait. All other fish species must be immedi-ately released alive into the water from which they were taken.
  • Any person with a valid Maine fishing license may take baitfish for their personal use only and may not be sold without a bait dealer's license.
  • All baitfish traps and holding cages must be labeled with the owner’s name and address.
  • Always seek landowner permission before crossing private land to trap baitfish.
  • Baitfish traps may not exceed 50 cubic feet in volume and must be fitted with rigid entrance or exit holes.
  • Baitfish traps must be tended at least once every 7 days by the person who set them.

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Importation of Baitfish Prohibited

It is unlawful to import any live baitfish or smelts into the State of Maine.

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Storing Live Baitfish

Live baitfish may not be stored or held in any waters where the use or possession of live fish as bait is prohibited during the entire fishing season. This includes waters restricted to the use of artificial lures only, waters restricted to fly fishing only, and where there are other prohibitions on the use of live fish as bait.

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Commercial Bait Dealer's License

In order to harvest for sale or purchase and sell live baitfish or live smelts you must possess a valid bait dealer's license (Bait Retail License, Bait Wholesale License, or Smelt Wholesale License). For further information on license requirement or how to obtain a license, contact MDIFW at (207) 287-8000 or visit the Bait Dealer's License page.

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