Bait Dealers and Use of Baitfish

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Importation of Baitfish Prohibited

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

Bait Dealer's License

Licenses expire on December 31st of the calendar year for which they were issued.

It is unlawful for any person to deal in live baitfish or live smelts without first obtaining a valid dealer's license.

Bait Retail License

This license permits the sale only of live baitfish and live smelts from one location. For application and laws, see information below.

Note: If you plan to sell baitfish or smelts from more than one location, each additional location must be licensed by a Live Bait Retailer's license.

More information:

Bait Wholesale License

This license permits the taking from the wild, wholesale and retail sale of live baitfish only. Does not include smelts.

More information:

Smelt Wholesale License

This license permits the taking from the wild, wholesale and retail sale of live smelts only.

More information:

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Marking Holes

When using drop nets to fish through the ice for baitfish/smelts, all holes made in the ice must be marked either by evergreen boughs placed around the hole, or by suspending at least 1 strand of fluorescent biodegradable tape at least 3 feet above the ice around the entire perimeter of the hole so that the tape is visible from all sides.

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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 ice fishing season or the entire open water fishing season. This includes waters restricted to the use of artificial lures only, waters restricted to fly fishing, and where there are other prohibitions on the use of live fish as bait. See list of waters where it is illegal to store or hold live bait at any time (PDF).

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Taking of Baitfish for Personal Use

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

  • Any person with a valid Maine fishing license may take baitfish for their personal use.
  • Baitfish taken are for personal use only and may not be sold without a bait dealers license.
  • All baitfish traps and holding cages must be labeled with the owner's name and address.
  • Baitfish traps may not exceed 50 cubic feet in volume.
  • Baitfish traps must be tended at least once every 7 days by the person who set them.

The following species are considered legal baitfish. Any species of fish not listed below, except smelt, may not be used as bait (live or dead) for fishing in inland waters. All other fish species must be immediately released alive into the water where they were captured.

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

Always seek landowner permission before crossing private land to trap baitfish.

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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) In-State

(207) 287-6057 Out-of-State

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