Is It Illegal to Fish with Goldfish? Important Facts Anglers Should Know

Before you go use that goldfish as bait, ask yourself:

Is it illegal to fish with goldfish?

You see, anglers are quite resourceful folks, and they like to use a wide range of lures and baits to catch their game. No wonder there are some who think about using goldfish as bait because not only is it easy to get one but it is sold for cheap at a pet store.

If you are just as intrigued about this idea as we are, let us delve into this question and unearth the facts that can help you know for sure if it’s okay to use live bait as goldfish or not.

The last thing you want to happen is to get in trouble with authorities for using something illegal as bait, so it’s smart to be in the know before you jump into conclusions without getting your facts straight.

Features of a Goldfish

Before we dive deep into the legalities, let’s take a look at what a goldfish is like and learn more about its features and anatomy.

Goldfish is quite a fascinating fish with its unusual body form and fascinating colors. They have bulging eyes and distinct qualities to their tails. Their body is quite robust and with that noticeable lateral compression.

They come in different color combinations. Some are olive-brown while others have that yellow-white and bronze-gold colors in their lateral or ventral portions.

As for the rest of their body, you can find them in different colors such as pink, red, white, orange, black, and gold. There are serrated spinous rays on the anal and dorsal fins, which set them apart from minnows. Their dorsal fin is also longer with 15 soft rays to up to 19. On their pelvic fins, there are typically 9 soft rays to be found.

Why Anglers Use Goldfish as Bait

Now that you know more about the unique features of a goldfish, let’s address this key question:

Why do some anglers prefer to use goldfish as bait?

There are a few reasons:

1. Cheap

It is true that goldfish are not that expensive. You should be able to find a store that sells $3 for a dozen goldfish. While it is not exactly the cheapest option, considering there are other cheaper live baits, it is definitely affordable for most anglers.

2. Easy to Find

Just go to any tackle shop, and you may not have quite an easy time finding a great live bait. But if you just check out a pet store or even a large shopping chain, there are many types of goldfish you can find. It is too easy to buy goldfish, making them quite appealing to anglers in search of a decent live bait to use.

3. Bright, Attractive Colors

As we have mentioned earlier, goldfish come in a variety of colors. This makes them quite attractive and appealing to big predators. With their enticing yellow or bright orange bodies, they are impossible to miss. Another thing – they offer great action when placed on the hook, as well as those common minnow baits.

4. They last for a long time.

No matter what form of stress or condition, goldfish can handle it all pretty well. As long as you keep them well-fed in the bait bucket, though should be good to go. Even on a hook, they can sustain stress. Live minnows, on the other hand, don’t last too long.

The Downsides of Using Goldfish as Live Bait

We covered the pros, now let’s talk about the cons. Why is it not good to use live goldfish as bait?

First, they tend to harbor diseases and parasites that may wipe out other fish species who cannot tolerate these nasties. This makes them quite complex to use, which would require better care to make sure your goldfish do not have any illnesses.

Certain states impose laws that prohibit anglers from using goldfish as bait. Other states have special conditions if you decide to use goldfish, so it is best to know what these are to not get into conflict with the law. We will touch more on that in a few minutes.

Read More: What Happens If You Fish Without A License? Everything You Should Know

But first, check out this video to learn more about using goldfish as bait:

Type of Fish to Catch with Goldfish

So now that you know more about the good and bad side of using goldfish as bait, let us discuss the types of fish you are likely to catch with your live goldfish bait.

Basically, you can catch many fish species with this bait. But the most popular ones include Trout, Crappie, Bass, Walleye, and Catfish. You should have better luck at catching these species with a 2 to 3-inch goldfish on your hook.

Is It Illegal to Fish with Goldfish?

Yes, it is.

Well, in some states, that is. For instance, goldfish as live bait is illegal in:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

But in some states, it is legal to use goldfish as bait such as in Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

In West Virginia, you can use goldfish as bait, as long as it is dead.

In Pennsylvania, you are subject to a minimum fine of $120 if you are caught using goldfish as bait. You may also end up having to give up your fishing equipment to a law enforcer who catches you doing this illegal activity. To make things worse, your fishing license may also be suspended, as well as your fishing and boating privileges may be revoked.


There are certain debates on whether or not you should use goldfish as live bait. After learning more about these straight facts, you should be able to decide what to do best and go for the right thing to do that will help you with your angling experience without any legal issues stepped on.

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