Baitfish Use and Restrictions
If you use live baitfish in Vermont you need to follow our baitfish regulations by keeping a receipt, making sure not to transport your baitfish illegally, and displaying a current Wild Baitfish Endorsement if you harvest your own bait. Full details on Vermont’s baitfish regulations are available on the department’s website. If you have questions that this FAQ does not answer, play it safe and check online before moving baitfish between waterbodies. Our fisheries will thank you!
Why Do We Have Baitfish Regulations?
- Baitfish regulations reduce the risk of spreading invasive species or diseases while fishing with live bait
- These regulations cover the purchase, commercial harvest and personal harvest of baitfish. For more information on the commercial harvest of baitfish visit vtfishandwildlife.com.
Where Do the Baitfish Regulations Apply?
- Vermont is divided into an Eastern Zone and a Western Zone
- You may purchase or harvest baitfish and use them in multiple waterbodies within the same zone
Why Are Some Waterbodies Restricted?
- Restricted waterbodies have one or more invasive species in them and may be a higher risk for having fish diseases
- Baitfish used or harvested in these waterbodies may NOT be transported to or used in a different waterbody
- Connecticut River (R–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 Hartland 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 (R–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 (R)
- Lake Carmi (R) including the outflow to the top of Mill Pond Dam in the town of Franklin
- Lake Memphremagog (R–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 (R) Including Lilly Pond and Little Lake
- Batten Kill (R–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
Where do you want to fish?
- Purchase baitfish from a shop authorized to sell in the specific Restricted Water you want to fish, a shop authorized to sell in the zone that includes the Restricted Water, or a statewide shop
- If your receipt lists a specific zone, you may use your baitfish in a Restricted Water that is within that zone but you MAY NOT transport the baitfish away from that Restricted Water
- If your receipt lists a specific Restricted Water, you may ONLY use those baitfish on that waterbody but MAY transport the baitfish on and off the water
- Purchase baitfish at a shop authorized to sell baitfish in the Eastern Zone or statewide
- You can use and transport your baitfish between any non-Restricted Waterbodies in the Eastern Zone
- Purchase baitfish at a shop authorized to sell baitfish in the Western Zone or statewide
- You can use and transport your baitfish between any non-Restricted Waterbodies in the Western Zone
Harvesting Wild Baitfish?
Where do you want to harvest baitfish?
- Baitfish harvested from a Restricted Water MAY NOT be transported away from the waterbody, even to use it on the same Restricted Water on another day
- Baitfish harvested in the Eastern Zone can be used in any waterbody in that zone OR in a Restricted Water in that zone
- Any baitfish used on a Restricted Water MAY NOT be transported off that waterbody
- Baitfish harvested in the Western Zone can be used in any waterbody in that zone OR in a Restricted Water in that zone
- Any baitfish used on a Restricted Water MAY NOT be transported off that waterbody
Prior to harvesting baitfish, you must take the Wild Baitfish Endorsement Quiz. When you pass the quiz, you may add the Wild Baitfish Endorsement to your fishing license.
Why Do I Need a Receipt if I Purchase Baitfish?
- The receipt will indicate where you can use your baitfish, which can be sold for use in either Zone or for use in specific Restricted Waters.
- If you purchase baitfish for use on a Restricted Water like Lake Champlain, your receipt will indicate that this is the only waterbody the bait can be used on, but having the receipt will allow you to take the bait off the lake at the end of your fishing trip.
- If you buy baitfish for a specific Zone and then use them on a Restricted Waterbody you may not transport that baitfish off the Restricted Waterbody or use them in another waterbody.
- Your receipt is valid for 10 days after purchase. After that time you may no longer use any baitfish purchased under that receipt.
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.
Vermont’s wild baitfish endorsement operates on a 3-year cycle, with the current endorsement covering 2023, 2024, and 2025. To receive your 2023–2025 endorsement please complete the free online certification course below.
To learn more and acquire your wild baitfish endorsement please visit: