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Bait Dealers and Use of Bait Fish

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bait fish restrictions

The following are legal bait fish (live or dead) for fishing: smelt, lake chub, eastern silvery minnow, golden shiner, emerald shiner, bridle shiner, blacknose shiner, common shiner, spottail shiner, northern redbelly dace, finescale dace, fathead minnow, blacknose dace, longnose dace, creek chub, fallfish, pearl dace, banded killifish, mummichog, longnose sucker, white sucker, creek chub sucker and American eel. Any species of fish not listed above may not be used as bait (live or dead) for fishing in inland waters.

Bait fish traps to be marked

All bait fish traps and bait fish holding boxes must be marked with the name and address of the person who is taking or holding the bait fish.

Importation of bait fish prohibited

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

Bait Dealer’s license

It is unlawful for any person to deal in live bait fish or live smelts without first obtaining a valid dealer’s license. For further information, contact IF&W (Note: A person may take live bait fish for their own use, by the use of hook and line or bait trap only, if that person holds a valid fishing license.)

Permit to take bait fish from closed waters

Any person (except licensed bait dealers who receive a permit upon issuance of a license) who wishes to take live bait fish from inland waters which are not currently open to fishing must first obtain a written permit from regional biologist or game warden. There is no charge for this permit. (Note: No permit is required to take bait fish from inland waters open to fishing.) Issuance of a permit does not allow permittee to trespass on private property.

Checking bait fish traps

All bait fish traps must be checked at least once every 7 calendar days by the person who set them.

Storing live bait fish

Live bait fish 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 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. To obtain a list of Maine waters where bait fish cannot be stored please contact IFW’s Augusta Office, or visit IFW’s website:

Marking holes

When using drop nets to fish through the ice for bait fish/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.


Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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Conservation Partner Advertisements: The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife allows appropriate advertising in its annual regulation guides in print and online, in order to defray or eliminate expenses to the state, and support enhanced communications with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Constituents. Through a unique partnership with J.F.Griffin Publishing, LLC &, ‘Conservation Partners’ have been established that pay for advertising in support of the regulations both in print and online. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife neither endorses products or services listed or claims made; nor accepts any liability arising from the use of products or services listed. Advertisers interested in the Conservation Partners program should contact J.F.Griffin/ directly at 413-884-1001,
This is not the full law. Consult the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife for further details. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal authorities.
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