Is it Illegal to Fish With Bait in Rivers in Oregon?

by Jack Spencer
Fishing remains a popular pastime that requires regulation to ensure the preservation of fish stocks.

Fishing remains a popular pastime that requires regulation to ensure the preservation of fish stocks.

Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images

State and federal environmental regulatory agencies face the difficult task of balancing public access to recreation and sport fishing with the conservation of fish stocks. As part of this role, Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) continues to struggle with enforcing state bans on chumming and the use of certain types of bait.

Bait Terminology

Not all artificial devices used to entice fish are classified as lures. Oregon defines bait as any item used to attract fish that is not otherwise classified as a lure or artificial fly. Oregon includes organic bait, soft plastic and rubber imitation molds, and artificial flies under its definition of bait.

Prohibited Bait

Under Oregon law, it is illegal to transport, possess, release or attempt to release live fish into any waterway under state jurisdiction. Live fish may only be transported with a valid transport permit. Unless covered by the exceptions below, fishers may not possess or use live bait on Oregon's rivers. Moreover, lamprey, goldfish and live crayfish are prohibited as bait. The practice of chumming is also prohibited in Oregon waterways. Chumming is defined as depositing any substance into the water that is not attached to a hook and intended to attract fish. The use of corn, while permissible in other states, is thus illegal in Oregon.

Permissible Bait

Oregon provides one exception to its above restriction on live bait. If the fish used for bait is not classified as a game fish, it may be used only in the waterway in which it is caught. Dead fish, roe and fish are permissible baits for Oregon's rivers. Synthetic bait as defined above is also permissible. For more information on Oregon's classification of fish species and restrictions on fishing equipment, refer to the 2011 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations website.

Consequences of Live Bait

Restrictions on the use of live bait have been developed in an attempt to prevent the spread of invasive fish species that threaten to diminish native Oregon fish stocks and otherwise negatively impact the local environment. The dumping of live fish after a party finishes its fishing expedition is considered a primary mechanism for the introduction of these species. The ODFW has thus made the education and enforcement of bait restrictions a primary goal for its 25-year plan.

Photo Credits

  • Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images