Baitfish- What’s New

Fishing Regulations Vermont Freshwater Fishing

By Adam Miller
Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Vermont Fish & Wildlife has changed the way baitfish use is regulated to attain a better balance between protecting Vermont’s fisheries resources and providing recreational angling opportunities. Effective January 1, 2020, new baitfish regulations will provide more opportunity to Vermont anglers while also protecting the health of Vermont’s fish populations.

Why are baitfish regulations important?

Activities associated with the movement and use of baitfish are known to spread dangerous fish diseases and aquatic invasive species that can cause large scale fish die-off’s or alter our native aquatic food webs. This can negatively affect the state’s fisheries and impact Vermont’s fishing economy and public welfare. By carefully managing the movement of baitfish through regulations, anglers can slow the spread of fish disease and invasive species, thus preserving quality fishing opportunities for current and future generations of anglers.

What’s changed?

New regulations now allow for the movement of baitfish from one waterbody to another through a zone system. This is meant to provide more flexibility to anglers who might want to harvest baitfish in one waterbody and use it in another. In short, the new baitfish regulations do the following:

  • Establish an east and a west baitfish zone within which baitfish can be used (not between). To see more about the east/west boundaries, see the Map Guide on page 29.
  • Establish a list of black-list waters that have high fish disease or invasive species risk. Baitfish can be used on these waters but may not be used on other waters. Also see, Black-list Waters on
    pages 27–28.
  • Extend the time that baitfish transportation receipts are valid from 4 days to 10 days.
  • Establish new baitfish holding rules that account for baitfish zones and black-list waters.
  • Allow commercial baitshops to harvest approved wild baitfish species from a baitfish zone
    (i.e rainbow smelt, white sucker, etc.) and sell them to anglers for use in that same baitfish zone. Also see, Commercial Bait Dealers on page 28.
  • Allow anglers to harvest and move approved wild baitfish species from waterbodies through a wild baitfish endorsement that can be added at no cost to an angler’s fishing/combination license.

I buy my baitfish to go fishing, what’s changed for me?

Under the previous baitfish regulations, commercially purchased baitfish were only valid for the specific waterbody recorded on the baitfish transportation receipt. New baitfish regulations allow for the following:

  • Purchased baitfish may only be used in the baitfish zone or black-list water recorded on the baitfish transportation receipt (valid for 10 days from the time and date of sale).
  • A person may transport unused commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody and use it within 10 days in the same baitfish zone or black-list water as indicated on the receipt:
    • Zoned baitfish receipt (East Zone/West Zone)
    • Can be used on multiple non-black-list waters in the same zone.
    • Can be used on a black-list water in that zone, but once on that water it cannot be taken off the water.
    • Cannot be used in a different baitfish zone other than what’s on the receipt.
    • Black-list water baitfish receipt
    • Can be used back and forth ONLY on that black-list water (Exception: commercially purchased rainbow smelt cannot be transported off the specific black-list water once they are brought onto it).
  • A person transporting unused commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody to use later may store them in any non-black-list water within the baitfish zone listed on the baitfish transportation receipt as long as:
    • The baitfish did not come in contact with a black-list water, and
    • The baitfish cannot be stored in waters where baitfish use is prohibited.
  • A person transporting unused commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody to use later may not store them in waters of a different baitfish zone. These baitfish must be kept in a closed container isolated from any flow of lake, pond, or stream water.

Want to learn more about using baitfish?

These changes to Vermont’s baitfish regulations are meant to provide more angling opportunity to the public while still promoting healthy fish populations. Vermont Fish & Wildlife continues to work hard to ensure all anglers have the chance to make lifelong fishing memories with friends and family. Fishing
in Vermont is getting better each year, so make
sure you get out and enjoy all that Vermont fishing has to offer!

If you’d like to learn more about the baitfish regulations visit: vtfishandwildlife.com/using-baitfish-in-vermont