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2018 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: Making Sense of Bait Regulations  (Read 96 times)

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  • Manatee
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March 1, 2018

Question: Is it legal to catch sunfish and use them as live bait for bigger fish? What kind of live bait can you use in freshwater? (Anonymous)

Answer: Those are seemingly simple questions, but the answers are complicated and detailed. The basic answer is: it depends. It depends on the California Sport Fishing District where you will be fishing, the individual body of water you plan to fish and the species of live bait you intend to use. For starters, review the “Bait Regulations for Inland Waters” published in the 2017-2018 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations. On page 2 of the regulations booklet, you’ll find a map of the seven different California Sport Fishing Districts. Each sport fishing district will have its own additional regulations on what kind of live bait is allowed along with water-specific, area-specific and bait-specific regulations. There are variables between districts to authorize or prohibit movement of live fish from the location where captured so pay close attention. In the Valley Sport Fishing District, for example, which covers all or parts of 25 counties in the middle part of the state, live or dead fin fish (which includes sunfish) generally cannot be used as bait (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.20). However, there are exceptions to the general prohibition, and certain waters where live fin fish lawfully caught can be used for live bait in the waters where they were caught (CCR Title 14, section 4.20(a)-(f)). In the Southern Sport Fishing District, by contrast, which covers all or part of seven Southern California counties, sunfish may never be used as live bait though some other fish species may be used (CCR Title 14, section 4.10). So it’s imperative to check the Bait Fish Use regulations in the sport fishing district you plan to fish before using any live bait. All of these regulations are available in the 2017-2018 California Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


  • Sea Lion
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The people who wrote these regulations must be world-class fizzbin players.
I got blisters on my fingers!