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Lawful Methods

Fishing Regulations Michigan Freshwater Fishing

Bait: Any fish and frogs may be used as bait when legally taken and possessed, EXCEPT lampreys, live carp, goldfish, or live gobies. Wigglers (mayfly nymphs) and other aquatic nymphs and larvae also may be used for bait, but may not be taken from any trout stream except for personal use on the same stream. Crayfish may be taken for bait and personal use (see below). See exceptions on the Michigan-Wisconsin Boundary Water Regulations. To help reduce the spread of invasive species, anglers are reminded to properly dispose of all bait containers including worms and soil, crayfish and minnows in a trash receptacle.

Bow Fishing: Bow and arrow and crossbow may be used on certain waters for certain species. See Table 3, Bow & Spear Fishing Regulations.

Crayfish: Native crayfish may be harvested in all waters as long as the water body is open to fishing. In designated trout waters, crayfish may only be taken during the fishing season for trout. Anglers may use traps, nets, hook-and-line or hands to harvest crayfish. All crayfish traps must bear the owners name and address. There is no minimum size limit or possession limit. Crayfish species not native to Michigan waters, which include (but are not limited to) red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), may not be used for bait, whether alive or dead, on any waters of this state whether those waters are public or private. Rusty crayfish may be harvested for consumptive purposes. Crayfish may not be possessed or used for bait, whether alive or dead, on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters.

Dip Nets: Dip nets may be used for bowfin, carp, gar, smelt and suckers in non-trout streams. A permit is required if equipment is to be left overnight. See Table 5, General Netting Regulations.

Drop-shotting: The practice of having a weight suspended below a hook that is tied directly to the main fishing line is lawful on inland lakes, Great Lakes and Great Lakes Connecting Waters only. This gear may not be used on rivers, streams or drowned river mouth lakes.

Gaffs: Gaffs may be used to help land lawfully hooked fish on all waters EXCEPT on a designated trout stream. Gaffs are not recommended for use on fish that are not legal to harvest or fish you plan to release. For more information see Bow & Spear Fishing Regulations.

Hand Nets: Hand nets may be used to help land lawfully hooked fish. During Apr., May and Jun., hand nets larger than 5 ½ feet in circumference or having a handle exceeding 14″ may NOT be used or possessed on designated trout streams EXCEPT as provided in Table 5 General Netting Regulations. Hand nets may also be used to take bowfin, carp, gar, smelt and suckers.

Hook-and-Line Fishing: Fish taken must be hooked in the mouth. Fish not hooked in the mouth must be returned to the water immediately. No more than 3 lines per person (including tip-ups) nor more than 6 hooks or lures may be used. All hooks attached to an artificial bait or “night crawler harness” are counted as 1 hook (note: for crappie/perch rigs and umbrella rigs each hook is counted as part of total allowed). Hooks must be baited or attached to an artificial bait. Any number of hooks may be used on 1 line for taking smelt in recognized smelt waters (visit All tip-ups and other similar devices must be marked with the name and address of the owner in legible English, either directly on the object or securely fastened to it by a plate or tag. All lines must be under immediate control. Hook and size regulations exist on certain streams (see Exceptions to General Regulations by County).

Hoop Nets: May be used for burbot only on certain waters Dec. 15 – last day of Feb. A permit is required through a local DNR office. See Table 5, Exceptions to General Regulations by County.

Minnows for Personal Use: Minnows for personal use only may be taken with hook-and- line, seines, dip nets, hand nets and traps with a valid fishing license. In trout streams, minnows may only be taken during the open season for trout by hook-and-line or minnow traps. Minnows may not be taken from LEELANAU: Hatlem’s Cr., LIVINGSTON and OAKLAND: Kent L. including the Huron R. upstream to the Hubbell Millpond Dam in Milford, OCEANA: Silver L. and all tributaries. Gear restrictions are as follows: seines must not be over 12 feet by 4 feet; hand nets not over 8 square feet and without sides or walls; and minnow traps not over 24″ long. Minnow traps must bear the owners name and address. Cast nets (not exceeding 8 feet in diameter without walls or sides) may be used to take minnows, alewife, smelt and shad in the Great Lakes, L. St. Clair, and the Detroit R., St. Clair R., and St. Mary’s R.

Spearing: Hand, rubber or spring-propelled spears may be used for certain species. See Table 3, Bow & Spear Fishing Regulations.