Whether you’re selling bait you caught on your own with a tiny string tied to a stick or have a full-scale, multi-person bait fishing operation, you need a dealer’s license. This license to sell fish is required of even the tiniest bait stand because it helps manage natural resources and local fish populations. The requirements are often extremely specific and vary from state to state, so it’s important to research exactly what your state requires before you apply.

Why Do I Need A License To Sell Fish Bait Anyway?

You might be surprised to find out that selling bait or selling worm castings for profit can actually be harmful to native wildlife. It really depends on exactly the type of bait you’re using, but the wrong kind can bring harmful infections to an existing fish population. This means your bait is likely subject to a number of health and location certifications. It depends on the state.

For example, in 2007, New York State adopted certain restrictions about selling bait to prevent the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia and other fish diseases. If you’re in New York and personally harvest bait from inland waters, you must only use that bait in the same body of water where it was caught. If you caught it in the Hudson, you can only use that bait in the Hudson. If you caught it in the Marine District, you must use it in the Marine District (with the exception of the Hudson River downstream of the Troy Federal Dam).

Bait Transport Is Also Heavily Regulated

Bait transportation is also heavily regulated and you need to know your state's regulations in order to lawfully sign off on your bait dealer's license application. For example, in New York, you can’t transport most bait in a motorized vehicle aside from smelt, suckers, alewives, angling and blueback herring from specific bodies of water (New York state lists the specific bodies on their website).

Overall, your dealer’s license is the way that your state ensures that you understand the limitations within selling bait and will not put the local wildlife at risk. It also ensures that you adhere to fish health and the body of water certifications often required for both live and dead bait.

Contact The State To Get Your Dealer License

In order to get your dealer license, you’re going to have to contact your state’s fish and wildlife department. This department can go by a number of names including the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Each department has tight restrictions about where bait can be sold, the type of bait that can be sold, the type of bait that can be caught and how bait can be captured. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling worm castings for profit or live smelt.

Prepare The Documentation

You’re going to have to fill out an application that requires information like your Social Security number and address. You might also be asked to attach documents to prove this information like a driver’s license or Social Security card.

Pay The Fee

The application cost for a bait dealer’s license varies from state to state. For example, it costs $63 in Connecticut, but if you want to also be able to fish for bait, you’ll also have to file an application for a bait fishing license which costs an additional $100. In Texas, the same license costs $38. In New York state, you can get a combination bait selling and bait fishing license that varies depending on the way you want to fish and sell bait. The charges go as follows:

  • $2 to sell bait fish.
  • $2 to sell and harvest aquatic insects for bait (think: selling worm castings for profit).
  • $10 for the first 50 feet of seine net you use.
  • $3 for each minnow trap.
  • $10 to be able to use a cast net.
  • $3 for each fyke net you use.

These charges triple if you’re not a resident. Once you place your application and pay the required fee, the state will decide whether or not to issue you a dealer’s license. It can take more than a month to review and process your application, so be patient.