Why Is Live Bait Illegal?

When it comes to fishing, you want to find the best method for attracting the kind of fish you want to catch. Using live bait is one of the most appealing methods as it can seem more enticing to the fish, but is it legal to use live bait?

It is illegal to use live bait in most states to prevent the damage of native ecosystems. Live bait, especially from other states, can invade the local waters and damage the already living and forming habitats. This law is one way in which the state can help protect their ecosystems.  

In this article, we will look further into the reasoning behind these laws, how laws can be different for various states, and other resources that are made available for you to use. 

What Is Considered Live Bait?

For the purpose of this article, live bait is considered any living species used to entice fish. Anglers place live bait on a hook, which is then placed in the water for the fish to smell or taste. Anglers most commonly use worms or small minnows as they are more effective and easier to obtain. 

Some examples of live bait include nongame fish, freshwater shrimp, crayfish, or frogs. However, some examples of what you can’t use as live bait include common carp, live bait taken from public waters and transported to other states (this is a big “no, no”), and game fish.

We should note that you are able to use live bait, like minnows, from your region. As long as you catch them yourself from the freshwater you are fishing from, you can use those you catch in the same location. 

In some states, you have a daily limit of the amount of live bait you can use. In other states, you aren’t allowed to use live bait at all.  

Rules and Regulations of Fishing in Regards to Live Bait

It is important to know the different rules and regulations regarding the use of live bait. In most states, using live bait is illegal for a number of reasons

First, you don’t want a new species to invade the water that you are already fishing from. If this were to happen, it could harm the native ecosystems that are already inhabited by other species. 

Second, if a new species invaded the water, there could be transmittable diseases. These diseases will lead to a population decline not only in the recreational area that you would be fishing from, but it can also lead to the devastation of commercial businesses that operate by providing fish to the public. The impact would be two-fold. 

With the knowledge of these effects, each state has indicated in their laws the guidelines that anglers need to follow to keep the natural state’s ecosystem safe. This means limiting the number of bait you use daily, limiting the length of the bait you use, knowing which seasons some bait can be used (or not), and knowing the rules for using seines, poles and lines, or throw nets while fishing. 

Other Reasons Not to Use Live Bait

We have already discussed why using live bait is illegal. However, there are other reasons that anglers and non-fishers have used to question the use of live bait. The question that stands out the most is—would using live bait be cruel? 

While there is no simple answer to that question, many have deemed the use of live bait cruel due to the pain that they would endure. It’s true that any living being will feel pain, right? 

Of course, this concern could also be turned the other way. For instance, would the fish that you are looking to catch be victims of pain as well? Sure they would. They are also living beings. 

One can find many arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of using live bait, but the moral is that it is deemed illegal, which is important to understand. 

What Other Options Are Available?

You might be looking for an alternative that works the best for you. There are many alternatives available to using live bait. These options will catch fish just as well, if not better. 

Continue reading below to see some of the best baits that will save you a hassle and give you what you need when out fishing. 


This option might seem a bit deceiving, as we had just discussed that live bait is illegal. However, you can use once living species that are now dead as a bait. Keep in mind that there are still limitations in each state and season for these options as well. 

Also, you can use certain living species as bait. Some of our favorites include: 

  • Worms: They are cheap, easy, and loved by many species of fish. Worms are one of the best options available for you to use. Just make sure to bring extra because some worms can get loose and fall off the hook. 
  • Leeches: Tiny like a worm, easy to find, and they are more likely to stay on the hook. It sounds like a win-win situation!
  • Minnows: These little guys come in all types of sizes. You can find them at almost any local bait shop, or you can use a trap to catch them yourself. They are ideal bait for many fish species as well. 


Artificial bait can be extremely effective for your fishing trip. They are more likely to catch many species of fish, reduce the likelihood of your fish to get “gut-hooked,” they are better for casting as they can go farther, and they are much less messy compared to live bait. Below we have created a list of some of the best artificial bait you can use.

  • Jigs: Jigs are great for enticing many kinds of fish. The best part is that they are made with a weighted head, so they can sink easier. This also means that they are great for getting bottom-feeders, compared to other types. 
  • Plugs: Plugs are made to imitate other species like frogs, crickets, goldfish, or other prey. Each one is designed differently, but depending on what you are looking for, you will find some can dive deep while others can float. They are typically made out of a solid or hollow piece of plastic or wood. They also have multiple treble hooks. 
  • Spinners: If you are wondering where to start when looking for bait, spinners are probably your best bet. They are very beginner-friendly. Spinners are designed with a hook on the side and one or more blades to spin like a propeller. As it spins underneath the water, the blades create a vibration to be noticed by the fish. Spinners are also one of the best to use if the water is murky. 
  • Soft plastics: These baits are flexible, rubbery, and sometimes are coated in scents, all to make them more appealing to the fish. They are mostly molded into shapes that resemble other species. 

Other Options

Finally, there are some options for bait that some are not aware of. They are able to attract fish just as well and are typically cheaper options. Two common options include bread crumbs and corn. These can be bought in bulk and require very limited interaction. 


The laws in place to prevent the use of live bait are for the safety of the natural ecosystem of the water and the natural habitat. While this may seem limiting in what you can use for fishing, there are actually plenty of options available for you to use.

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