1. Bait Fish and Commercial Bait Fish::
(a) "Bait Fish" are defined as only the following species: American eel, banded killifish, bluntnose minnow, creek chubsucker, emerald shiner, fallfish, fathead minnow, golden shiner, mummichog, pumpkinseed, rainbow smelt (subject to restrictions; see below), spottail shiner, white sucker, and yellow perch. A person shall not use as bait any fish, alive or dead, including parts thereof, except those 15 fish listed in this paragraph. Herring may be used as bait in the Connecticut River, Merrimack River, or other coastal rivers and streams, in accordance with the regulations of The Division of Marine Fisheries, but may not be possessed or used as bait in other rivers and streams, or in lakes, ponds, or reservoirs.
(b) "Commercial Bait Fish" are defined as only the following species: bluntnose minnow, emerald shiner, fallfish, fathead minnow, golden shiner, mummichog, spottail shiner, and white sucker.
2. Seasons: There are no closed seasons for the taking of bait fish, except for rainbow smelt which may only be taken or used as bait during the period from May 16 to the last day of February.
3. Zones: Bait fish and commercial bait fish may be taken in inland waters statewide, except that commercial bait fish may not be taken in great ponds or in waters which are in whole or in part held under lease or license as public fishing grounds.
4. Licenses and Permits: A resident fisherman needs a resident fishing or sporting license to take bait fish for personal use. A non-resident fisherman needs a non-resident fishing license to take bait fish for personal use. Such licensed fishermen do not additionally need any other permit to take bait fish for personal use. A resident licensed fisherman may take and sell commercial bait fish when such fisherman also possesses a current and valid "Permit to Take Shiners for Bait". Non-resident fisherman may not take commercial bait fish for sale.
5. Sale of Commercial Bait Fish: A resident licensed fisherman may sell commercial bait fish as provided for in #4 above. Additionally a licensed Class 6 dealer, or a licensed Class 3 aquaculturist may sell commercial bait fish. Dealers may sell, but not propagate, commercial bait fish. Bait fish, other than those designated as commercial bait fish, may not be sold.
6. Importation of Live Fish: Only commercial bait fish may be imported by any dealer. No such fish may be imported unless the dealer first obtains an importation permit from MassWildlife. Such permit shall be valid for a period not to exceed one calendar year and each permit is restricted to importations of a single commercial bait fish species from a single dealer or distributor.
7. Methods of Taking: Licensed fishermen may take bait fish for personal use only by angling, or by means of a single fish trap with openings of not more than 1 inch or by means of a circular or hoop throw net not exceeding six feet in diameter, or by means of a rectangular net containing not more than 36 square feet of net surface. Resident licensed fishermen who also possess a current and valid permit to take shiners for bait may take commercial bait fish for purposes of sale by means of not more than 10 fish traps with openings not over 1 inch, or by means of a single circular or hoop throw net not exceeding six feet in diameter, or by means of a net containing not more than 200 square feet of net surface. Any fish taken in traps by fishermen, other than bait fish, shall be immediately returned to the waters whence they came. Individual fish may also be taken by angling and immediately used as bait at the site where caught.
8. Prohibited: The taking of sticklebacks for purposes of bait is prohibited in the inland waters of Massachusetts.
9. Definitions: There are technical definitions of certain terms, including "dealer", "licensed fisherman", "resident licensed fisherman", "sell" and "shiner permit". These terms are formally defined in 321 CMR 4.01(1).
This is not the entire law, and is subject to change. Refer to provisions of M.G.L. c. 131, §§ 19, 23, and 52 and to the "Importation" and "Taking of Certain Fish" regulations, 321 CMR 2.15 and 4.01(8).
Last Revised: 10-20-06.