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Vermont

Fishing

Baitfish Use and Restrictions

Commercially Purchased Baitfish

Anglers may not import baitfish into the State of Vermont without a Fish Importation Permit except:

  • A person may purchase baitfish from a New York baitshop for use in the Lake Champlain black-list water (as outlined in the Black-list Waters section below) or a New Hampshire baitshop for use in the Connecticut River black-list water, provided the baitshop is Vermont-licensed, and the baitfish are accompanied by a Vermont-issued baitfish transportation receipt. Baitfish purchased in New York or New Hampshire for use on Lake Champlain or the Connecticut River must also adhere to the list of approved species in Vermont. For a description of the Lake Champlain and Connecticut River black-list waters please see the Black-list Waters section below.

A person purchasing commercial baitfish must retain and show upon request a transportation receipt issued by a state-approved commercial bait dealer, authorizing transportation of baitfish overland by motorized vehicle. The receipt must contain the following information: 1) A unique receipt identification number, 2) Name/telephone number of the bait dealer, 3) date/time of sale, 4) species purchased, 5) quantity purchased, 6) baitfish zone or black-list water (limited to one) in which the baitfish will be used, and 7) the signature of purchaser.

A transportation receipt is valid for 10 days from the time and date of sale only for the baitfish zone or black-list water recorded on the receipt. For descriptions of black-list waters and baitfish zones please see the Baitfish Zones and Black-list Waters Map and the Black-list Waters and Baitfish Zones sections below.

Baitfish may be held beyond the 10-day period on the water in a pen or baitbox 25 cubic feet or less in volume. The baitbox must be marked with name, address, and telephone number of the owner and user.

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 transportation receipt:

Zoned baitfish receipt (East Zone/ West Zone)

  • May be used on multiple non-black-list waters in the same zone.
  • May be used on a black-list water in that specific zone, but once used on that water it cannot be taken off the water.
  • May not be used in a different baitfish zone other than what’s indicated on the receipt.

Black-list water baitfish receipt

  • May be used back and forth ONLY on the black-list water listed on the receipt (Note: Commercially purchased rainbow smelt may not be transported off the black-list water once brought onto the water)

A person transporting unused commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody for later use may hold 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 may not 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.

Commercially prepared and preserved baitfish and fish eggs available from retail stores may be purchased and used as bait, taken home, and kept for later use provided they are retained in the original packaging at all times.

Personal Baitfish Harvest

Personally harvested baitfish may be used on the same waterbody from which they were collected. A person may harvest and use only the following fish species (Approved Species) as bait: banded killifish, blacknose dace, bluntnose minnow, common shiner, creek chub, eastern silvery minnow, emerald shiner, fallfish, fathead minnow, golden shiner, longnose dace, longnose sucker, mimic shiner, northern redbelly dace, spottail shiner, white sucker. Rainbow smelt may be taken only by open-water/ice fishing.

Bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, and yellow perch may be taken only by open-water/ice fishing and used for bait only in those waters where taken.

On Lake Champlain, alewife and white perch may be taken only by open-water/ice fishing and used as bait in Lake Champlain; Alewife may only be used/possessed if dead.

Except in Seasonally Closed Waters, baitfish may be taken for personal use by the following methods: a) minnow traps no longer than 18 inches with an entrance not exceeding 1 inch in diameter; b) dip nets, cast nets, and umbrella nets not exceeding a total of 51 square feet of mesh, or a seine net not exceeding 25 feet in length; c) open-water fishing/ice fishing by hook and line.

In Seasonally Closed Waters, the personal harvest of baitfish is only allowed between the second Saturday in April through Oct. 31, during open season for trout, and then only by open-water fishing or the use of minnow traps no longer than 18 inches with an entrance not exceeding 1 inch in diameter. The list of Seasonally Closed Waters can be found in General Requirements, Definitions, and Prohibitions.

Anglers may hold baitfish on the water in a pen or baitbox 25 cubic feet or less in volume. All traps, nets, baitboxes or other holding receptacles capable of taking, holding or keeping live baitfish in public waters must be marked with the name, address, and telephone number of the owner and user.

The personal harvest of baitfish is prohibited on any waterbody of the state that is defined as closed to baitfish harvest. The department will maintain and make available a list of closed waters.

Creek Chub Illustration
Creek Chub

Northern Redbelly Dace Illustration
Northern Redbelly Dace

Blacknose Dace Illustration
Blacknose Dace

Common Shiner Illustration
Common Shiner

Illustrations © Joseph Tomellen

Personal Harvest of Wild Baitfish

I want to harvest and use my own wild caught baitfish. What do I need to know?

Any person who wants to use, sell, or transport personally harvested wild baitfish beyond the waterbody in which they were harvested must have a wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license. To obtain this FREE endorsement, anglers must successfully complete a wild baitfish certification course. The online course, provided at no charge, instructs anglers wanting to use wild harvested baitfish not only the legal requirements of personally harvesting baitfish but also the risks associated with moving baitfish and the potential to spread fish diseases and aquatic invasive species.

Why do I need a wild baitfish endorsement?

The FREE wild baitfish endorsement course educates anglers on risks associated with the movement and use of baitfish. Moving wild caught baitfish increases the risk of spreading fish diseases and aquatic invasive species that can cause large scale fish die-off's or alter our native food web. This can negatively affect the state's fisheries and impact Vermont's fishing economy and public welfare. When an angler catches and transports personally harvested wild baitfish to another waterbody, they must accept increased personal responsibility in slowing the spread of fish disease and aquatic invasive species by taking proper precautions. The wild baitfish endorsement is a means of educating anglers who want to catch and use personally harvested baitfish on the potential risks of moving baitfish to reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species and fish diseases.

How do I get a wild baitfish endorsement?

In short here's what you need to do to get a FREE wild baitfish endorsement so you can catch and use your own wild baitfish.

  • Go to www.vtfishandwildlife.com/wild-baitfish to review the wild baitfish certification course materials and learn the rules and regulations regarding harvesting and moving personally harvested wild baitfish.
  • Successfully complete the wild baitfish certification quiz to be eligible to receive a wild baitfish endorsement.
  • Once you've successfully completed the certification, go online to www.vtfishandwildlife.com to update your fishing or combination license to include your wild baitfish endorsement. This endorsement is a free add-on that you must have on your license.
  • You're now ready to personally harvest and use wild baitfish! Be sure to have your fishing or combination license with your wild baitfish endorsement with you while you harvest, transport, or use personally harvested wild caught baitfish and be sure to follow all other pertinent baitfish rules.
To learn more about rules associated with catching and using your own wild baitfish and the endorsement course, please go to: www.vtfishandwildlife.com/wild-baitfish.


Personal Baitfish Harvest – Movement/Transport

Personally harvested baitfish taken from black-list waters may not be transported away or used on any other waterbody. For a list and description of black-list waters please see the Baitfish Zones and Black-list Waters Map and the Black-list Waters section below.

Anglers who wish to use, sell, or transport personally harvested wild baitfish outside of the waterbody in which they were harvested must possess and show upon request a wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license. To obtain this wild baitfish endorsement, anglers must successfully complete a wild baitfish endorsement course online. To learn more about the rules associated with catching and using your own wild baitfish and to learn about the wild baitfish endorsement course please go to www.vtfishandwildlife.com/wild-baitfish and refer to the full baitfish regulation (10 V.S.A App.§141).

Anglers who possess a valid wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license may transport personally harvested baitfish away from a non-black-list water and use it in the same baitfish zone it was harvested in as long as the use of baitfish is allowed on that water. Refer to the Baitfish Zones and Black-list Waters Map.

Anglers who possess a valid wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license may hold personally harvested baitfish in any non-black-list water within the baitfish zone they were harvested in as long as:

  • The baitfish did not come in contact with a black-list water, AND
  • The baitfish may not be stored in waters where baitfish use is prohibited.

Anglers who possess a valid wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license may hold personally harvested baitfish in a different baitfish zone if the baitfish are kept in a container isolated from any flow of lake, pond, or stream water or outflows to such waters of the state.

Fish eggs may be collected from legally harvested fish from a Vermont water and used immediately as bait on that water unless that waterbody is closed to baitfish collection. Personally harvested fish eggs must not be transported and used in any other waterbody. It is illegal to transport fish eggs back and forth from the same waterbody for use as bait unless they have been processed in a manner approved by the department.

Personally Harvested Baitfish Sale

It is illegal for an angler to sell personally harvested baitfish except:

  • Anglers may sell personally harvested baitfish to another angler while on the same waterbody where the baitfish were personally harvested.
  • Anglers who possess a valid wild baitfish endorsement on their fishing/combination license may sell personally harvested rainbow smelt from a non-black-list water to a licensed commercial baitfish dealer as long as:
    • The dealer possesses a valid zone-specific commercial baitfish dealers permit for the same baitfish zone the rainbow smelt were harvested in.
    • The angler must complete and sign an affidavit specifying the waterbody where the personally harvested rainbow smelt were harvested from. This form will be provided from the department to the commercial baitfish dealer.

Approved Species of Fish for Use as Bait

  • Banded killifish
  • Blacknose dace
  • Bluntnose minnow
  • Common shiner
  • Creek chub
  • Eastern silvery minnow
  • Emerald shiner
  • Fallfish
  • Fathead minnow
  • Golden shiner
  • Longnose dace
  • Longnose sucker
  • Mimic shiner
  • Northern redbelly dace
  • Spottail shiner
  • White sucker
  • Rainbow smelt may be taken only by open-water/ice fishing and may be commercially sold as bait.
  • Bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, yellow perch may only be taken by open-water/ice fishing and used for bait only in those waters where taken and shall not be transported alive from waters where caught.

On Lake Champlain bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, yellow perch and white perch may be taken by open-water fishing or ice fishing, may not be transported alive, may only be used for bait on Lake Champlain, and may not be commercially harvested or sold as bait. Alewife may only be used/possessed if dead.

All other species of fish are prohibited for use as bait.

Baitfish Zones

Baitfish Zone Dividing Line – A line extending from the Massachusetts border following Route 8A north to Route 112, north on Route 112 to Route 100 in Whitingham, north on Route 100 to East Jamaica, northwest on Route 30/100 to Rawsonville, north on Route 100 to Ludlow, north on Route 103/100 to Grahamville, north on Route 100 to Route 4/100, west on Route 4/100 to Killington, north on Route 100 to Morrisville, west on Route 15/100 to Hyde Park, north on Route 100 to Troy, north on Route 101 to Route 105, north on Route 105 to Route 243 in North Troy, north on Route 243 to the Canadian border.

Eastern Baitfish Zone – The baitfish zone including waters lying east of the Baitfish Zone Dividing Line.

Western Baitfish Zone – The baitfish zone including waters lying west of the Baitfish Zone Dividing Line.

Refer to the Baitfish Zones and Black-list Waters Map.

Black-list Waters

  • Connecticut River (B–CT) defined as all waters of the river including the bays, setbacks, and tributaries, only to the first highway bridge crossing said tributaries on the Vermont side. Also including the following tributaries to the following boundaries:
    • Ottauquechee River to the top of the North Harland Dam in the town of Hartland
    • West River to the Interstate 91 highway bridge in the town of Brattleboro
      • Including Retreat Meadows, Brattleboro
  • Lake Champlain (B–LC) (see 10 App. §122 Section 7.0) including setbacks at the same level and tributaries to the following boundaries:
    • Dead Creek to Panton Road bridge in Panton
    • East Creek to the falls in Orwell (downstream of Mount Independence Road)
    • Lamoille River to the top of the first dam (Peterson Dam) in Milton
    • LaPlatte River to the falls in Shelburne (under Falls Road bridge)
    • Lewis Creek to falls in North Ferrisburgh (just upstream of Old Hollow Road)
    • Little Otter Creek to falls in Ferrisburgh Center (downstream of Little Chicago Road)
    • Malletts Creek to the first falls upstream of Roosevelt Highway (US 2 and US 7) in Colchester
    • Mill River in Georgia to the falls in Georgia (just upstream of Georgia Shore Road bridge)
    • Missisquoi River to the top of Swanton Dam in the Village of Swanton
    • Mud Creek to the dam in Alburg (just upstream of Route 78 bridge)
    • Otter Creek to the top of the dam in the city of Vergennes
    • Poultney River to Central Vermont Power Dam at Carver Falls in West Haven
      • Including Coggman Pond, West Haven
    • Rock River to the first Canadian border crossing
    • Winooski River to the Winooski One hydropower dam west of Main Street (US 7) in Winooski and Burlington
  • Lake Bomoseen (B)
  • Lake Carmi (B) including the outflow to the top of Mill Pond Dam in the town of Franklin
  • Lake Memphremagog (B–M) including the following tributaries:
    • Clyde River to the top of the abandoned Mill Dam immediately upstream of the Number 1, 2, 3 hydroelectric powerhouse in Newport City
    • Barton River to the downstream side of the US Route 5 bridge southernmost and closest to the village of Barton
    • Johns River to the downstream edge of the bridge on Beebe Road (TH #3) in the town of Derby
    • Halls Creek to the headwaters
    • Black River to the top of the falls at Old Harmon Mill in the town of Coventry
  • Lake St. Catherine (B) Including Lilly Pond and Little Lake
  • Batten Kill (B–BK) and its associated tributaries including but not limited to:
    • Bourn Brook
    • Bromley Brook
    • Chunks Brook
    • Dry Brook
    • Green River
    • Lye Brook
    • Mad Tom Brook
    • Mill Brook
    • Roaring Branch
    • Warm Brook
    • West Branch Batten Kill
    • White Creek

Commercial Bait Dealers

Only persons operating a place of business and offering baitfish for sale to the public may apply for and hold a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit. Any person who buys baitfish for resale or sells baitfish is required to obtain a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit from the commissioner except:

  • A person who only sells commercially preserved baitfish which are chemically treated in a manner approved by the department and then packaged for retail sale does not require a permit.
  • A person is selling personally harvested baitfish as outlined in the Personally Harvested Baitfish Sale section above does not require a permit.

Commercial bait dealers may sell the following fish species as bait: banded killifish, blacknose dace, bluntnose minnow, common shiner, creek chub, eastern silvery minnow, emerald shiner, fallfish, fathead minnow, golden shiner, longnose dace, longnose sucker, mimic shiner, northern redbelly dace, spottail shiner, and white sucker.

Commercial bait dealers may also sell rainbow smelt as bait, provided they are obtained from a fish hatchery approved by the commissioner or harvested and sold following the below conditions for either a waterbody-specific bait dealer or a zone-specific bait dealer.

Commercial bait dealers must declare in their permit application if they will be a statewide baitfish dealer, waterbody-specific baitfish dealer, or a zone-specific baitfish dealer (limited to one).

Statewide baitfish dealers are prohibited from possessing, buying, or selling wild caught baitfish.

  • Baitfish sold by statewide baitfish dealers must originate from a fish hatchery approved by the commissioner and must hold or keep baitfish in waters drawn from a secure well, a municipal water source, or other water source approved by the Fish & Wildlife Department.
  • Baitfish sold by statewide baitfish dealers may be used in waters throughout the state, except those waters listed as closed to baitfish use.

Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers must declare on their permit application the black-list water on which they are located.

  • Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers may harvest wild baitfish only from the declared black-list water and offer them for sale and use only on that black-list water.
  • Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers must have baitfish holding facilities that discharge only to their declared black-list waterbody and no other waters of the state.

Zone-specific baitfish dealers must declare on their permit application the non-black-list water and baitfish zone on which they are located.

  • Zone-specific baitfish dealers may harvest and purchase wild baitfish only from non-black-list waters from the declared baitfish zone and offer them for sale and use only in that baitfish zone or black-list water within that baitfish zone, except those waters listed as closed to baitfish use.
  • Zone-specific baitfish dealers must be located in the baitfish zone which they intend to harvest, purchase, hold, and sell baitfish unless otherwise permitted for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit.
  • Zone-specific baitfish dealers may purchase personally harvested wild rainbow smelt as outlined in the Personally Harvested Baitfish Sale section above provided they maintain a list of smelt purchases which include the name, address, telephone number, and signature of the angler who sold the smelt to the dealer, date of sale, quantity of smelt purchased, and waterbody of origin. Such a form will be provided by the Fish & Wildlife Department to the Commercial Bait Dealer.
  • Zone-specific baitfish dealers are prohibited from harvesting or purchasing wild baitfish which have come into contact with a black-list water. Dealers are also prohibited from holding or keeping baitfish in water drawn from a black-list water.
  • Zone-specific baitfish dealers must have baitfish holding facilities that discharge only to their declared baitfish zone unless other permitted for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit.

Commercial baitfish dealers which harvest wild baitfish must not operate dip nets, cast nets, or umbrella nets exceeding 51 square feet of mesh, or a seine net exceeding 125 feet in length, for the purposes of taking fish for bait, unless otherwise permitted for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit. Baitfish netting is prohibited in all seasonally closed waters, unless otherwise provided for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit.

All traps, nets, baitboxes, or other holding receptacles capable of taking, holding, or keeping live baitfish in public waters must be marked with the name, address, and telephone number of the owner and user.

The commercial harvest of baitfish is prohibited on any waterbody of the state that is defined as closed to baitfish harvest. The department will maintain and make available a list of closed waters.

A commercial bait dealer must provide to each customer at the point of sale a copy of a transportation receipt containing the following information: 1) A unique receipt identification number, 2) The name and telephone number of the bait dealer, 3) time and date of sale, 4) species purchased, 5) quantity purchased, 6) baitfish zone or black-list water (limited to one) in which the baitfish will be used, and 7) the signature of purchaser.

A transportation receipt is valid for 10 days from time and date of sale.

A Commercial Bait Dealer must keep receipts or records for each lot of wholesaled hatchery-raised or wild-caught baitfish introduced into their shop. Records must include name, address and telephone number of seller (for wholesaled baitfish), and date received, species identification, and quantity purchased or harvested, for wholesaled and wild-caught baitfish. The permit holder must retain the receipts and records for at least one year after the date of sale or harvest. Receipts or records must be provided to the department immediately upon request.

Use of Imported Commercially Prepared Baitfish and Fish Eggs

Before being imported into Vermont, dead baitfish or fish eggs must be commercially processed in a manner that allows the product to be stored without refrigeration or freezing to maintain the unopened product. Imported dead baitfish or fish eggs must be retained in the original package at all times during importation and transportation.