Fishing with live bait
The rules on fishing with live bait (e.g., baitfish, leeches, crayfish, frogs) in Ontario.
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New bait rules are coming
The harvest, movement and use of bait pose a risk to Ontario’s fisheries and biodiversity.
In July 2020, we released Ontario’s Sustainable Bait Management Strategy, which describes Ontario’s new approach to managing baitfish and leeches. Our new approach aims to support the use of bait while reducing the ecological risks associated with the use and movement of bait in Ontario.
The new rules will be implemented through amendments to the Ontario Fishery Regulations under the Federal Fisheries Act, and Ontario 664/98 (Fish Licensing) under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
We will continue to work with industry on the new rules, and we expect it will take a few years for all new rules to be fully implemented.
By law, you need a valid fishing licence (e.g., sport or conservation) to catch your own live:
- northern leopard frogs
With a fishing licence, you cannot:
- sell baitfish and leeches — unless you have a valid commercial bait licence
- import live fish, crayfish, live leeches or salamanders
- capture, import or use salamanders as bait
In Ontario, the fishing regulations control live bait to prevent the spread of:
- infectious fish diseases (e.g., viral hemorrhagic septicemia)
- unwanted fish species
- invasive species
Can I bait my hook with eggs from the fish I catch?
- You may strip fish roe (eggs) from your catch as long as:
- you catch the fish legally
- you do not discard or waste the fish after taking the roe
- You may:
- use fish roe anywhere organic bait is permitted
- share fish roe with other anglers
- Not sell, trade or barter fish roe
Can I dump my bait bucket into the lake?
- It’s illegal to empty your bait bucket, drain the water or release live baitfish into a lake, river or other waters.
- Instead, you must:
- drain your bucket onshore (30 metres from the water)
- freeze the excess minnows for another day
- catch your own bait from the lake you fish in
In some areas of Ontario and many individual waterbodies, you cannot use or possess any kind of live bait. You can find a complete set of provincial rules, including restrictions on fishing with live bait in the:
You can catch or buy baitfish and leeches, up to the possession limit.
You can catch crayfish or frogs but you cannot buy them.
You cannot have in your possession more than:
- 120 baitfish
- 120 leeches
- 36 crayfish
- 12 northern leopard frogs
Baitfish you can catch
Know your baitfish — it’s your responsibility to use the right kind.
Currently in Ontario, you can only catch 48 species of baitfish, including some species from the following groups:
What kinds of baitfish can I use as live bait?
- blacknose shiner
- blackchin shiner
- bluntnose minnow
- brassy minnow
- central stoneroller
- common shiner
- creek chub
- eastern blacknose dace
- emerald shiner
- fathead minnow
- finescale dace
- golden shiner
- hornyhead chub
- lake chub
- longnose dace
- mimic shiner
- northern redbelly dace
- pearl dace
- redfin shiner
- river chub
- rosyface shiner
- sand shiner
- spotfin shiner
- spottail shiner
- striped shiner
- longnose sucker
- northern hog sucker
- shorthead redhorse
- silver redhorse
- white sucker
- brook stickleback
- ninespine stickleback
- threespine stickleback
- mottled sculpin
- slimy sculpin
- Darters and logperch:
- blackside darter
- fantail darter
- Iowa darter
- Johnny darter
- least darter
- rainbow darter
- river darter (only Northwestern Ontario populations)
- tessellated darter
- central mudminnow
- lake herring (cisco)
How to catch baitfish
Only resident anglers can capture baitfish. You can use a dip net or baitfish trap to catch baitfish anywhere in Ontario except in Algonquin Park.
You can only use 1 dip net to catch baitfish. Your dip net:
- may be up to 183 centimetres (6 ft.) on each side, if square
- may be up to 183 centimetres (6 ft.) across, if circular
- must be used during daylight hours only (after sunrise and before sunset)
You can only use 1 bait-fish trap to catch baitfish. Your bait-fish trap:
- may be up to 51 centimetres (20 inches) long
- may be up to 31 centimetres (12.2 inches) wide
- must be clearly marked with the licence holder’s name and address
How to catch leeches
You can only use 1 leech trap to catch leeches. Your trap:
- may be up to 45 centimetres (17.7 inches) in any dimension
- must be clearly marked with the licence holder’s name
How to catch crayfish
You can catch crayfish using the same methods that are used for catching baitfish. You must:
- use crayfish where you caught them
- not transport them over land
How to catch northern leopard frogs
The only frog species you can capture for bait is the northern leopard frog. There are no specific rules on how to capture them for bait.
How to release live bait
You cannot release live bait or dump the contents of a bait bucket, including the water in the bucket, into a:
- within 30 metres of any waterbody