BOISE — With the warming weather, it’s time to head to the lake and catch some fish. Spring is a great time to harvest crappie, bass or trout for the dinner table. While most anglers know the bag limits for each species, some are unaware that it is illegal to transport live fish in Idaho without a permit — one that is only issued for special circumstances.

Live fish

Holding fish in a live fish while fishing is fine. Transporting live fish home is not. Fish must be released or killed before leaving the lake.

Live wells, minnow buckets and coolers can be a source of trouble for anglers who aren’t aware of the rules about moving live fish. Here are a few tips about transporting live fish to keep in mind:

  • Fish must be killed or released before leaving — Using your boat’s live well, a bucket, cooler or another container to store live fish while on the water is fine and legal. However, transporting live fish away from the lake, reservoir or another body of water when you leave is illegal. If you plan to take fish home, you must kill them first.
  • Bag/length limits apply to fish kept in a live well — Fish that don’t meet the minimum length or are not in season or otherwise cannot be possessed cannot be kept in a live well. For example, let’s say the bass rules allow a six-fish limit with 12-inch minimum length. That means an angler can’t put more than six bass in the live well or any bass less than 12 inches long. All harvest and possession rules apply to fish kept in a live well.
  • Drain your live well before leaving the lake — Draining your live well helps reduce the spread of invasive species. Unwanted invaders like milfoil, mud snails, unseen diseases or zebra mussels can ride in your live well to another lake. It’s best to drain your live well at the lake before you leave.

Many fishing boats have excellent live well systems that can help keep fish alive while on the water. However, you can be cited for transporting live fish. Besides, if you plan to keep fish for eating, the quicker they are dispatched and stored on ice, the better they taste on a plate.

The transport law is set up to discourage anglers from illegally moving unwanted fish species to new locations. Illegally introduced fish can cause major problems and can potentially ruin good fisheries for everyone. Please do your part and remember to kill or release all fish before leaving the water.

You can find more about possession and transporting fish on Page 47 of the current fishing rule book under “General Information.” Go to idfg.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/seasons-rules-fish-2019-2021-general-fish-info.pdf.

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