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Laws Pertaining to Bait Dealers & 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

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 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 rules beginning on Fishing Rules: Southern & Eastern Counties and Fishing Rules: Northern & Western 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

Bridle shiner

Common shiner

Emerald shiner

Golden shiner

Spottail shiner

Blacknose dace

Finescale dace

Longnose dace

Northern redbelly dace

Pearl dace

Creek chub

Lake chub

Eastern silvery minnow

Fathead minnow


Longnose sucker

White sucker

Creek chubsucker

Banded killifish


American eel

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

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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