Using Baitfish FAQs

Red belly dace male

Have questions about using baitfish? Check the FAQs below for answers to the most common inquiries.

What do baitfish transport receipts allow me to do?

Baitfish Transportation Receipts are valid for 96 hours from time and date of sale. This means when you purchase baitfish from a baitshop, you have 96 hours to transport and use those baitfish on the designated waterbody indicated on your receipt. You may not take those baitfish to any waterbody other than the one indicated on your receipt.

Can I relocate to another area on the same waterbody with my baitfish in the same day?

Yes. Anglers may transport unused commercially purchased baitfish away from a waterbody, provided they use those baitfish on the same waterbody within a 96-hour period. This would include driving to a new fishing location on the same waterbody.

Can I take my baitfish home with me at the end of my fishing day?

Yes. Anglers who have leftover commercially purchased baitfish at the end of a fishing trip may transport and store them away from the waterbody. The baitfish must be used within 96 hours from time and date of sale as indicated on the receipt and only on the designated waterbody indicated on the receipt.

Where can I store my leftover commercially purchased baitfish?

Anglers must store baitfish in closed containers isolated from waters of the state. You may not hold baitfish in any lake, pond or stream, or any waterbody that flows into waters of the state. We recommend keeping them cool in an insulated bait bucket or tub. Battery operated aerators or aquarium bubblers will also help keep your baitfish alive between fishing trips.

What if I want to fish a different waterbody?

Baitfish purchased and used on one waterbody may not be used on another waterbody. If you plan to fish a different waterbody, you must purchase new baitfish and obtain a new receipt.

If I purchase baitfish from a baitshop, why do I need to carry a receipt?

Your receipt proves the baitfish you are transporting were legally obtained from a department-authorized baitshop and not from the wild. The only way anglers can transport baitfish overland is if the baitfish were legally obtained from a baitshop and the angler is in possession of the receipt authorizing the transportation of those baitfish.

Can I store baitfish on a waterbody?

Yes. You can store your purchased or wild-harvested baitfish on a waterbody in a baitbox or cage for as long as you want. Holding boxes may not exceed 25 cubic feet in volume. Any baitbox or cage holding or keeping live baitfish in public waters must be marked with the name and address of the owner or user. Wild-harvested baitfish may only be stored on the waterbody from which they were harvested.

What should I do with my unused leftover baitfish?

The department recommends that unwanted leftover baitfish be killed and discarded on the ice or on the shore prior to leaving the waterbody.

Can I harvest my own minnows as bait?

Yes. Anglers may harvest wild baitfish for personal use, provided they use them only on the same water where harvested and only species approved for use as baitfish. Anglers may NOT transport baitfish they harvest away from that waterbody, but may store them on that waterbody indefinitely.

Can I purchase and use baitfish from New York and New Hampshire in Vermont waters?

Anglers may purchase baitfish from a New York baitshop for use on Lake Champlain only, provided the baitshop is Vermont-licensed, and the baitfish are accompanied by a Vermont-issued baitfish transportation receipt.

Anglers may purchase baitfish from a New Hampshire baitshop for use on the Connecticut River and its setbacks only, provided the baitshop is Vermont-licensed, and the baitfish are accompanied by a Vermont-issued baitfish transportation receipt. For this specific purpose, the Connecticut River is 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.

Can I purchase baitfish from any other state and use them in Vermont waters?

No, other than the exceptions listed above for New York and New Hampshire, baitfish cannot be brought into Vermont from other states without a fish importation permit.

Why are baitfish rules necessary in Vermont?

The baitfish regulation rule was implemented to prevent the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and other diseases into Vermont waters. VHS is primarily spread from fish to fish, and so moving wild fish from water to water through stocking or baitfish use can potentially introduce the disease to new waters.

An analysis of the risks surrounding fish movement with respect to fish disease determined that the harvest, movement, and use of wild fish, particularly baitfish, poses the highest risk and therefore this pathway must be controlled. Consequently, wild fish can no longer be imported into Vermont, and wild baitfish harvested from Vermont waters cannot be transported away from those waters.

Anglers harvesting wild baitfish from Vermont waters can only use them on those same waters. For more information on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, please see the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia FAQs.

Why is bait from Arkansas considered safer than our own wild minnows?

Baitfish reared on Arkansas farms are grown under the guidance and regulatory oversight of the Arkansas Agriculture Department. Baitfish farms have controlled water sources and established HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) processes that further control for other potential fish disease and invasive species risk factors.

Baitfish from approved Arkansas farms are tested multiple times per year for fish pathogens and the ponds are inspected for invasive species, following rigorous requirements stipulated by the State of Arkansas. All costs associatedwith this testing program is paid for entirely by participating farms. Arkansas farms that pass these rigorous tests for three consecutive years get "certified" as being free of fish diseases and invasive species, and receive"Arkansas Safe Bait" status.

Even with such certification, farms must continue all testing, inspection and certification requirements in order to remain certified. Only farms with this certification receive permits from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to import their baitfish into the state for sale. 

Baitfish populations in Vermont waterbodies are not protected from the many risk factors associated with the potential spread and introduction of aquatic nuisance species or fish pathogens such as Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus. Vermont’s wild baitfish come from an uncontrolled environment that is open to constant external inputs, such as anglers coming and going with boats and trailers, other watercraft users, waterfront property owners, natural fish movement, and the inflow and outflow of other connected waterbodies.

Although the department conducts disease testing of wild fish froma number of lakes and ponds around the state each year, it is simply too costly to test a suitable volume of fish from all waters on a frequent basis. Furthermore, even when fish from a specific waterbody are tested, the results only indicate the current status of the fish population.

Since natural waterbodies are open, uncontrolled environments with high risk of fish and water movement, a "disease-free" status cannot be considered reliable for the long term. Even in environments where risk factors are controlled, such as on Arkansas baitfish farms, testing must be done on a regular basis to ensure their disease and invasive species free status. This simply cannot be done in a wild, natural environment. Consequently, moving wild harvested Vermont baitfish from one waterbody to another is considered to be a high-risk activity in terms of its potential for moving fish diseases and invasive species.

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Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife
Commissioner Louis Porter

1 National Life Drive
Fish & Wildlife LogoDavis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3702

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