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:

  • baitfish
  • leeches
  • crayfish
  • 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:

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:

Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary

Catch/purchase limits

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?

  • Minnows:
    • blacknose shiner
    • blackchin shiner
    • bluntnose minnow
    • brassy minnow
    • central stoneroller
    • common shiner
    • creek chub
    • eastern blacknose dace
    • emerald shiner
    • fallfish
    • 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
  • Suckers:
    • longnose sucker
    • northern hog sucker
    • shorthead redhorse
    • silver redhorse
    • white sucker
  • Sticklebacks:
    • brook stickleback
    • ninespine stickleback
    • threespine stickleback
  • Sculpins:
    • 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
    • logperch
  • Others:
    • central mudminnow
    • lake herring (cisco)
    • trout-perch

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.

Dip net

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)

Bait-fish trap

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:

  • lake
  • river
  • stream
  • within 30 metres of any waterbody
Updated: June 01, 2021
Published: April 29, 2014