General Information

Fishing Regulations Ohio Freshwater Fishing

  • It is unlawful to buy or sell any fish taken by sport fishing, including angling, bankline, setline, floatline, and trotline, from any water area in the state.
  • It is unlawful for the public to tag and release fish into any public water area.
  • It is unlawful for any person to possess a fish in any form or condition other than whole while on or when unloading the fish from a boat, while wading, or while fishing from shore on any waters in this state where a fishing license is required.
  • It is unlawful to transport and introduce any aquatic species (fish, invertebrate, plant) from one body of water to another.
  • Fillets must be kept whole until an angler reaches their permanent residence, or until the fish are prepared for immediate consumption. This does not apply to anglers with a receipt from a fish cleaning house or charter captain which states the date, number, and type of fish possessed. Fish must be transported whole or as a complete fillet while returning from the Lake Erie islands on a commercial ferry boat.

Clams, Mussels, & Mussel Shells

Clams, mussels, or mussel shells may not be taken, possessed, or collected for any purpose.

Ice Anglers

Ice anglers may use holes no larger than 12 inches in diameter. In Lake Erie, ice anglers may use holes no larger than 12 inches in width. Ice anglers may not use more than six tip-ups and two rods per person. All shelters and tip-ups must display the name and address or customer identification number of the owner or user.

A tip-up means a device consisting of a hook and line attached to a spring or other device which is capable of raising a small flag or other signaling device when a fish is biting or is hooked.

Archery Anglers

Archery anglers may use bows of any draw weight. A fishing license is required. Archery equipment may be used to take bullfrogs, green frogs, and forage fish.


It is unlawful for any person except licensed bait dealers to possess more than 100 crayfish, or in combination 500 crayfish, minnows, and other baitfish. A bait dealer’s permit is required of persons buying or selling minnows, crayfish, and hellgrammites. This permit may be obtained at wildohio.gov.

It is unlawful to release any baitfish or minnow into waters of the state from which it did not originate.

Fishing Lines

Anglers may not use more than two fishing lines, whether fastened to a pole, a rod and reel, or hand-held. Anglers may use up to three hooks on each line, except as provided in the Ohio Administrative Code.


Snagging with a hook to pierce and hook a fish in a part of the body other than the inside of the mouth is illegal for all fish except forage fish. In Lake Erie, it is also illegal to snag freshwater drum. Snagging any species of fish is illegal from September 1 to April 30 in the Ashtabula River, Chagrin River, Grand River, Rocky River, Vermilion River, Arcola Creek, Conneaut Creek, Cowles Creek, Euclid Creek, Indian Creek, Turkey Creek, and Wheeler Creek. It is illegal to snag any species of fish during any time of the year in the Ohio River. Snagging is prohibited within 1,000 feet downstream of any dam on the Muskingum River. Snagging is prohibited within 1,000 feet downstream of a dam where signs are posted. Hooks used for snagging may not be larger than 5/8 inch from shank to point.

Minnow or BaitFish Traps

It is illegal for anglers to possess or use a minnow or baitfish trap larger than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in width. Additionally, possessing or using a minnow or baitfish trap with an opening larger than 1 inch is illegal. A tag must be attached to the trap(s) with the owner’s name and address, or the customer identification number.

Forage Fish

Forage fish means freshwater drum (sheepshead), common carp, grass carp (in waters not stocked by the ODNR Division of Wildlife for vegetation control, as indicated by signs), bighead carp, silver carp, black carp, quillback, suckers, bowfin, gar, buffalo, gizzard shad, and goldfish. These species may be taken by any method except by means of explosives, poisons, firearms, electricity, chemicals, nets (except cast nets), seines, traps, or by snagging within 1,000 feet downstream of a dam. Gizzard shad and rainbow smelt may be taken with a minnow seine, minnow dip net, or hand landing net.

Cast Nets

Forage fish and minnows may be taken with cast nets. It is unlawful to use a cast net with a square mesh less than ¼ inch or larger than 1 inch on a side, or with a diameter greater than 10 feet. It is illegal to use a cast net within a distance of 1,000 feet downstream from any dam posted with ODNR Division of Wildlife signs indicating cast net use is prohibited.

Minnow Seines and Dip NetS

Square mesh must not be larger than ½ inch on a side.

Seine and net size limits and places where they may be used are as follows:




Minnow Seine: Inland 4 feet x 8 feet Streams only, 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Minnow Seine: Lake Erie * None No Limit
Minnow Dip Net: Inland 4 feet, each side All public fishing waters
Minnow Dip Net: Lake Erie * 6 feet, each side All public fishing waters
*Including East and West harbors in Ottawa County, and waters where fishing with nets is licensed by law.

Fish Ohio Award

Applications for the Fish Ohio pin are accepted at fishohio.gov.

Anglers will receive a Fish Ohio pin for their first entry each year, and a Master Angler pin for qualifying entries in four different species categories in the same year.

Fish must be taken by legal angling and not from pay lakes. Deadline for online application entry is Dec. 31.

Possible state-record fish must be kept frozen for verification by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. For more information, go to outdoorwritersofohio.org.



Qualifying sizes below apply to all Ohio waters.



Blue Catfish 35 inches
Brown Trout 20 inches


23 inches


14 inches
Carp 28 inches
Channel Catfish 26 inches
Crappie 13 inches
Flathead Catfish 35 inches
Hybrid-Striped Bass 21 inches
Largemouth Bass 20 inches

Longnose Gar

34 inches
Muskellunge 40 inches
Northern Pike 32 inches
Rainbow Trout 28 inches
Rock Bass 9 inches
Sauger 16 inches
Saugeye 21 inches


20 inches

Spotted Bass

15 inches
Sunfish 9 inches

Qualifying sizes below apply to

inland lakes or reservoirs; the Ohio River;

private ponds; inland rivers or streams.



Freshwater Drum 20 inches
Smallmouth Bass 18 inches
Walleye 25 inches
White Bass 14 inches
Yellow Perch 12 inches

Qualifying sizes below

apply to Lake Erie

and its tributaries.



Freshwater Drum 24 inches
Smallmouth Bass 20 inches
Walleye 28 inches
White Bass 15 inches
Yellow Perch 13 inches

Fish Tagging Programs

OHIO River anglers!

The ODNR Division of Wildlife is conducting tagging studies on blue catfish, flathead catfish, and sauger in the Ohio River to research movement, catch rates, and harvest rates. Some of the tagged blue catfish and flathead catfish also contain an internal transmitter that provides movement information. Please report any tagged catfish or sauger using the toll-free phone number printed on the tag or at wildohio.gov. Report the unique number on the tag and where you caught the fish. Monetary rewards on specially-marked tags are being offered for reports. Tags will be located near the dorsal fin.

 If you catch and release one of these tagged fish, please do not remove the tag.

 If you catch and keep a tagged blue catfish or flathead catfish that contains an internal transmitter, please remove the transmitter and rinse with water. Store the transmitter at room temperature.


Lake Erie anglers!

To increase our knowledge on walleye movement and better manage the fishery, a study is being conducted at Lake Erie. Each tagged Lake Erie walleye will have up to two external tags and one internal transmitter. A $100 reward is offered for information on the external tag and transmitter in the event that you catch and keep a tagged walleye.

If you catch and keep a tagged walleye, please:

  • Record when and where you caught the fish.
  • Remove the internal transmitter and external tag, and rinse with water. Store the transmitter at room temperature. You may keep the fish.
  • Call the number printed on the transmitter or tag, or call (419) 625-8062.
  • You can also report a tagged fish at wildohio.gov.

Fish for Your Health

Most Ohio sport fishes are low in fat, high in protein, and can be part of a healthy diet. The Ohio Department of Health recommends limiting fish consumption to one meal per week, unless a specific advisory is listed for a water body or type of fish.

Ohio anglers typically eat two or fewer meals per month of wild-caught fishes. The greatest amount of fish eaten in Ohio come from Lake Erie, where both sport and commercial fisheries operate. Current Lake Erie advisories indicate that it is safe to eat one meal per week of walleye, and two meals per week of yellow perch.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lists current guidance on safe consumption of wild-caught fish in Ohio for specific waters and fishes at epa.ohio.gov.

Anglers can minimize exposure to contaminants with a few simple steps.

  • Discard the organs (do not eat).
  • Remove skin from fillets or steaks.
  • Trim away fatty areas near the belly, back, and sides.
  • Broil, bake, or grill on a rack, or poach and discard the liquid.
  • Broil, bake, grill, or poach before adding to a soup or chowder.
  • If deep-frying, discard oil after use.
  • Pan frying removes few, if any, contaminants.