Possession and Use of Live Fish for Bait

Species Allowed for Use as Live Bait

The following species are permitted to be possessed and utilized as live fish for bait when fishing in any freshwater areas of the state:

  • Blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)
  • Common shiner (Luxilus cornutus)
  • Creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
  • Creek chubsucker (Erimyzon oblongus)
  • Emerald shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
  • Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)
  • Golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
  • Killifish/tomcod (Fundulus sp.)
  • Lake chub (Couesius plumbeus)
  • Longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
  • Longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus)
  • Northern redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos)
  • Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax)
  • Silvery minnow (Hybognathus nuchalis)
  • Spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius)

Daily Limit and Special Rules

The daily limit for bait fish for personal use is set at 2 quarts liquid measure. Special regulations apply to rainbow smelt, as outlined in the Freshwater Smelt regulations.

Additional Regulations

  • It is prohibited for any individual to possess more than one day's legal bag limit of fish.
  • Utilization of bait traps is limited to a maximum of 6 traps for gathering fishing bait. All bait traps, holding boxes, or other receptacles must be clearly marked with the name and address of the owner or user.
  • For the purpose of taking baitfish from waters not inhabited by trout, a circular drop net, not exceeding 48 inches in diameter, or a square net not over 42 inches on a side, may be employed.
  • Traps may be set for capturing baitfish in waters inhabited by trout, provided that such traps do not exceed 18 inches in length and that the aperture for fish entry does not exceed one inch in diameter.

White Suckers: Bait Collection Regulations

Methods of Collection

In addition to angling and ice fishing, white suckers can be gathered for personal use as bait through the use of traps. These traps must be constructed of wire slats, not exceeding 50 inches in length or 30 inches in width. The aperture for fish entry should be no smaller than 3 1/2 inches in diameter, unless otherwise specified in Fis 406 and Fis 407.

Usage Limits and Marking Requirements

  • A licensed angler is limited to the use of a maximum of 2 traps.
  • All bait traps, holding boxes, or other receptacles must be clearly marked with the name and address of the owner and user.

Bag Limits

There are no bag limits imposed for the collection of white suckers for bait purposes.

Importation of Finfish for Bait: Regulations

Licensed bait dealers are required to obtain a permit from the NH Fish and Game Department before importing any shipment or lot of bait fish from hatchery sources or wild stock. These permits are issued for the importation of specific species only:

  • White Sucker (Catostomus commersonii)
  • Eastern Creek Chubsucker (Erimyzon oblongus)
  • Tomcod/Killifish (Fundulus sp.)
  • Golden Shiner/Arkansas Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
  • Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus)
  • Spottail Shiner (Notropis hudsonius)
  • Eastern Silvery Minnow (Hybognathus regius)
  • Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
  • Lake Chub (Couesius plumbeus)
  • Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
  • Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)
  • Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax)

Taking of Smelt by Licensed Bait Dealers

Licensed bait dealers are permitted to take freshwater smelt for sale as bait or for personal use, adhering to the regulations outlined in Fis 400.

  • Licensed bait dealers must ensure they do not possess more than one daily limit of freshwater smelt while taking smelt for sale as bait from streams, ponds, or lakes, or when leaving such waters.

Authorized Waters and Methods

Licensed bait dealers are allowed to take freshwater smelt for sale as bait from ice-in through February 28 in specific waters, including:

  • Beech Pond (Lower), Tuftonboro
  • Cedar Pond, Milan
  • Christine Lake, Stark
  • Crystal Lake, Enfield
  • Crystal Lake, Gilmanton
  • Crystal Pond, Eaton
  • Deering Reservoir, Deering
  • Iona Lake, Albany
  • Loon Lake, Freedom
  • Loon Pond, Gilmanton
  • Manning Lake, Gilmanton
  • Pea Porridge Pond, Madison
  • Pleasant Lake, Deerfield
  • Post Pond, Lyme
  • Rust Pond, Wolfeboro
  • Sandy Pond, Richmond
  • South Pond, Stark
  • Sunapee Lake, Little, Springfield
  • Suncook Lakes, Barnstead
  • Sunset Lake, Alton/Gilmanton
  • Tewksbury Pond, Grafton
  • Webster Lake, Franklin
  • Wentworth Lake, Wolfeboro
  • White Lake, Tamworth

Permitted Equipment and Daily Limit

In the designated waterbodies listed above, licensed bait dealers may employ the following methods to take smelt:

  • Dip net held in hand
  • Drop net not exceeding 48 inches in diameter
  • Square umbrella net not exceeding 42 inches on a side

The daily limit for smelt taken from these waterbodies is 8 quarts liquid measure of whole, head and tail intact, freshwater smelt within a 24-hour period, starting from 12 noon one day to 12 noon the following day.


Crayfish may be taken for personal use with traps. The number of traps is limited to 6 per person and must have the person’s name and address attached. Persons wishing to trap and sell crayfish for bait must purchase a commercial bait dealer’s license. There are no daily bag or possession limits for crayfish. 6 trap limit does not apply to dealers.

Got Questions?

For more information about licensed bait dealer regulations, please contact the NH Fish and Game Department’s Inland Fisheries Division at (603) 271-2501 or www.wildlife.nh.gov/fishing-new-hampshire/baitfish-and-dealers-nh

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