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While many anglers buy tackle and bait from commercial dealers, others prefer to catch their own. While live bait can be extremely effective, it can also get anglers into hot water if they don’t know the bait regulations or cannot correctly identify bait species they collect from public waters.
Bait is defined as, but not limited to, minnows, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, dead gizzard shad, frogs, crayfish, salamanders and mussels. “Minnows” are a common type of bait and the term is used in reference to multiple species. Minnows can be caught with traps up to three feet with a tag showing the user’s name, a dip net up to four feet in diameter, a cast net up to 10 feet in diameter or a seine up to 20 feet in length with a minimum ¼ inch bar measure.
Minnows caught in public waters may be transported for personal use with a sport fishing license, but remember to bring your own water to transport them in. It is illegal to transport them in lake or river water due to the potential spread of aquatic invasive species.
Anglers may also use legally harvested sport fish caught on a hook and line as bait. A bait dealer license is required to sell, give or furnish bait to others.
When you're done, don't dump bait in the water, as it's tough to identify small fish and some could potentially be invasive species.
Fisheries biologist Martin Konrad says regulations prevent the introduction of invasive and undesirable species like zebra mussels and gizzard shad from establishing populations in lakes and other waters.
“Gizzard shad is a native plankton filter feeder that, if released, will outcompete native game fish like bluegill, crappie and bass, eventually leading to smaller sport fish,” says Konrad.
For additional information on bait collection, see the current Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine.