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-ALERTUS (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 on page 5), with the following conditions:

  • Legal species only – See page 54 for list of fish legal to use and harvest as bait. All other fish must be immediately released alive into the water from which they were taken.
  • Fishing license required – You must have a valid Maine fishing license to harvest baitfish for personal use. Baitfish may not be sold or harvested with the intent to sell without a bait dealer’s license.
  • Label and tend your traps – Baitfish traps and holding cages must be labeled with the owner’s name and address, and must be tended at least once every 7 days by the person who set them.
  • Trap specifications apply – Baitfish traps may not exceed 50 cubic feet in volume and must be fitted with rigid entrance or exit holes.

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Baitfish Importation Prohibited

It is unlawful to import any live baitfish or smelts into the State of Maine. This law helps keep Maine’s waters healthy by limiting the introduction of foreign fish diseases and parasites, exotic fish species, invasive plants, and other undesirable aquatic life that can irreversibly damage Maine’s natural resources. Do your part by only using locally caught legal baitfish species when fishing in Maine.

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Storing Live Baitfish

You may not store or hold live baitfish in 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, and waters 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 live baitfish and smelts for sale, or to buy and resell them, you must possess a valid bait dealer’s license (Bait Retail License, Bait Wholesale License, or Smelt Wholesale License). For more information on license requirements or how to obtain a license, contact MDIFW at (207) 287-8000 or visit the Bait Dealer's License page.

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Be on the Lookout for Aquatic Invaders

Maine Law prohibits the transport or possession of any invasive plant or plant parts on watercraft or equipment (including baitfish traps and nets) that could cause the plant or plant parts to enter waters of the state. It’s up to you to inspect boats and equipment and ensure Maine’s waters are free from all aquatic invaders, including invasive plants. Failure to clean your equipment between waters puts you subject to financial penalties and loss of equipment. Learn more!