Cut bait is chopped-up pieces of a fish used to attract predator sport fish. Typically, anglers will obtain non-game fish, like carp, freshwater drum, or bluegill, as bait in hopes of catching a more desirable trophy-sized fish. Anglers catch these baitfish using alternative methods, like cast nets. Although common baitfish work well for luring in catfish and other sport, one question may occupy many anglers’ minds. This question is, “can you use game fish as cut bait?”

Fishing FAQ: Can You Use Game Fish as Cut Bait?

So, you want to know if you can use game fish, like bass or catfish, as cut bait? The answer is: it varies from state to state. Although some states may allow it, others may not because they feel it is unsportsmanlike or outright sacrilegious.

The Ethics of Using Sport Fish as Cut Bait

Many anglers might feel if they caught their game fish using legal methods, why should any entities have a say in what they do with it. Some even argue using cut-up pieces of sport fish doesn’t disrupt the ecosystem and that it’s the way of life in a fish-eat-fish world. So, why does it matter what species they use as cut bait?

Here are some reasons why people consider the use of sport fish as cut bait unethical:

  1. If you don’t plan on eating it after harvest, you deny other anglers a chance of catching it.
  2. Some people might use it as an excuse to dump guts and carcasses into the water. Improper dumping of dead fish, especially near boat ramps, can be unsightly to non-anglers and will likely attract unwanted wildlife.
  3. Fishing with the innards of certain sport fish could spread disease amongst the ecosystem. For example, if you were to use pieces of trout as bait in waters where Whirling disease is present. Whirling disease is a parasitic infection that infected trout can transmit to other fish in the trout and salmon families.

What Happens If You’re Caught Illegally Using Game Fish as Cut Bait?

If you’re found guilty of breaking any fishing regulations, here is a list of penalties you could face:

  • A DNR officer will write you a citation for violating a fishing law.
  • You could end up paying a hefty fine for your violation.
  • You may have to attend a court hearing.
  • The DNR could suspend your recreational or commercial fishing license. Or worse, your licenses could get revoked.

Thus, the lesson here is, never break fishing laws unless you’re willing to lose your angling privileges.

What Species Can You Use as Cut Bait?

Generally, non-game fish, like carp or shad, can be used as cut bait in most states. Some non-game fish are even invasive, which is why the regulations on them are more relaxed. However, when in doubt, always refer back to your state’s handbook.

Advantages of Using Cut Bait

There are many benefits for using cut bait to target sport fish like catfish or walleye, such as:

  • You don’t have to worry about keeping them alive.
  • You can control what size pieces you’re casting out.
  • The stench of dead fish will help attract feeding predators.
  • It’s a readily available bait, especially in the wintertime when it’s harder to harvest live fish.
  • It’s easy to rig on a hook.
  • Cut bait stays on your hook longer than manufactured ones.

Do You Enjoy Using Cut Bait for Fishing?

To sum everything up, if you plan on using cut bait on your next fishing trip, make sure the species you’re using is legal. What fish you can and cannot use as bait will vary from state to state. So, ensure you read up on the regulations for your local waters. Using game fish in some states is illegal, and you could find yourself paying a fine or having your license revoked.

Anyways, let us know what you enjoy most about fishing with cut bait in the comments below. Or, if you would like to support us, please give this article a share.