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Laws Pertaining to Bait Dealers & Use of Baitfish

Importation of baitfish prohibited

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

Bait Dealer’s license

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

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.

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 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 baitfish cannot be stored please contact IFW’s Augusta Office, or visit IFW’s website:

Taking of Bait Fish for Personal Use

  • All waters are open to the taking of baitfish for personal use, including brooks, rivers and streams, unless designated “closed to the taking of live baitfish” (see special rules beginning on Southern & Eastern Counties).
  • 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
    • Creek chub
    • Fallfish
    • Bridle shiner
    • Lake chub
    • Creek chubsucker
    • Common shiner
    • Blacknose dace
    • Longnose sucker
    • Emerald shiner
    • Finescale dace
    • White sucker
    • Golden shiner
    • Longnose dace
    • Banded killifish
    • Spottail shiner
    • Northern redbelly dace
    • Mummichog
    • Eastern silvery minnow
    • Pearl dace
    • American eel
    • Fathead minnow

Preparing for a Carving

Plan ahead! Keep a soft tape measure and camera in your fishing gear. Take a few pictures of the fish to help record distinguishing characteristics and color. Measure the fish’s length (from the center of the tail to the snout) all while handling the fish out of water as little as possible. Then follow the Tips for Catching and Releasing Fish on Catching & Releasing.

The information is all that a carver needs to make a replica of the catch you made and the fish is available to be caught by another lucky angler.

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 non-sportsmen 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

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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