Many anglers use live bait like minnows, leeches, and crayfish. While these might help you catch a big fish, it can also lead to the accidental release of invasive or non-native species into new waterways. For this reason, the movement of bait in Ontario is regulated to prevent the accidental release of invasive or non-native species into new waterways.
Bait Regulation in Ontario
The province is divided into four distinct baitfish management zones (BMZs), between which live or dead baitfish and leeches may not be transported (with some exceptions).
Within their home BMZ, anglers can trap baitfish for use within that zone. To use baitfish or leeches outside of their home BMZ, anglers must purchase their bait from a licensed retailer within the BMZ they will be fishing, retain a receipt and use or dispose of their bait within two weeks from when they were purchased.
In Ontario, it is illegal to dump the contents of a bait bucket (water, soil, or other material) or live or dead bait (including fish eggs, gametes, or fish parts) either directly into the water or within 30 metres of it. This includes dumping onto the ice.
Crayfish can be used as bait, including the invasive rusty crayfish, but only on the same waterbody that they were caught in. Crayfish, dead or alive, cannot be moved across land.
For a complete list of permitted baitfish, rule exceptions, and other bait-related regulations, visit: https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-fishing-regulations-summary/bait
What You Can Do
- Learn to identify invasive species that are a threat to Ontario.
- Use local bait.
- Dispose of your bait at least 30 m away from the shore.
- Re-use or dispose of unwanted earthworms in the garbage.
If you think you’ve seen an invasive species in the wild, please contact the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or visit EDDMapS to report a sighting.