Live Bait Regulations
The following sections explain which species can be used for bait, and how they can be harvested, sold and transported. Under no circumstance shall live fish or crayfish be intentionally released into Tennessee waters away from the waters from which they were harvested. These regulations do not apply to bait that is dead. Dead bait can be transported and used without restrictions.
For the purposes of these rules, a sport angler shall be defined as anyone who attempts to take, kill, injure, capture, or catch any sport fish and every act of assistance thereof. A bait dealer shall be defined as anyone engaged in the business of selling or offering for sale any legal species of live bait fish. All bait dealers must purchase a type 118 (resident) or 116 (nonresident) license annually, and make all necessary reports as required to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The harvest and use of bait fish by commercial fishers shall be regulated in the commercial fishing proclamation.
A licensed sport angler (with all required licenses and permits) can harvest game fish (including rainbow trout and sunfish) for use as bait from the wild using legal sport fishing methods. When harvesting game fish, all restrictions in the sport fishing proclamation apply (including creel and length limits, seasons, and license requirements).
Sunfishes (Bluegill, e.g.)
The following species may be 1) harvested by licensed sport anglers for use as bait; 2) imported into Tennessee or exported from Tennessee by licensed bait dealers and licensed sport anglers; 3) sold in Tennessee by licensed bait dealers. There is no possession limit for Gizzard Shad, Threadfin Shad, Fathead Minnow, Golden Shiner, and Goldfish.
Skipjack herring (creel limit of 100 per day)
Alosa chrysochloris (Rafinesque)
Dorosoma cepedianum (Lesueur)
Dorosoma petenenes (Guenether)
Pimephales promelas (Rafinesque)
Notemigonus crysoleucas (Mitchill)
Carassius auratus (Linnaeus)
Lepomis spp. (Rafinesque)
Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum)
* All species in the Genus Lepomis may be bought and/or sold subject to the following conditions:
** A licensed sport angler may possess rainbow trout 8 inches or less in length without limit for use as bait if purchased from a licensed bait dealer and accompanied by an invoice that was issued by the licensed bait dealer. Such invoices shall be consecutively numbered and must contain the name, license number, and location of the licensed bait dealer, the date of sale or delivery, the number of rainbow trout bought or delivered, and the name and address of the person receiving the rainbow trout. Any person transporting or possessing rainbow trout obtained from a licensed bait dealer for bait must have a copy of this invoice on their person. Rainbow trout larger than 8 inches in length may be purchased by sport anglers and used for bait provided compliance with all sport fishing regulations on the waters being fished (including creel and length limits, seasons, and license requirements).
The following species may be: 1) harvested by licensed sport anglers for use as bait; 2) imported into Tennessee or exported from Tennessee by licensed sport anglers for use as bait. These species shall not be sold. A licensed sport angler shall possess no more than 100 each of the following species: stonerollers (Campostoma spp.), creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus), bullhead minnow (Pimephales vigilax).
Bait fish that are not listed in Section I or II above and are not listed by proclamation as endangered, threatened, or in need of management may be harvested by licensed sport anglers for use as bait with the following restrictions: 1) they shall only be used in the water from which they were harvested; 2) they shall not be possessed away from the waters from which they were harvested; 3) they shall not be imported into Tennessee or exported from Tennessee by anyone; 4) they shall not be sold.
Only northern dusky and spotted salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus and Desmognathus conanti) and native crayfish species that are not listed by proclamation as endangered, threatened, or in need of management may be harvested without limit by licensed sport anglers for use as bait.
Amphibians and crayfish species shall not be sold or purchased for bait. Amphibians and crayfish shall not be imported into Tennessee or exported from Tennessee by anyone for bait. The harvest, use, and possession of crayfish is prohibited in the following streams, in all of their tributaries, and on all adjacent banks:
Crayfish harvested from the following streams and their tributaries shall not be possessed away from the watershed from which they were harvested:
Legal gear types for bait harvest are minnow seines, minnow traps, cast nets, shad trawls, and dip nets.
Gear types listed above are legal for licensed sport anglers to harvest bait fish (as defined in first paragraph) and crayfish (provided compliance with Section IV) for personal use.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.