Few baits are better at catching fish than corn. Corn has always been a popular and cost effective fishing bait, but it seems that every fishing forum is choked with discussions on the legality of using it which leads to a lot of confusion.
Is fishing with corn actually illegal? It is perfectly legal in most states to use a hook baited with corn at locations where bait is allowed. However, while the majority of states allow corn as bait, it is not always legal to attract fish by chumming with corn.
Every state has laws that regulate the type of bait allowed and the locations where some baits are prohibited. It is every angler’s responsibility to understand and follow the rules, but our goal was to do most of the tough research for you.
We spent hours scouring through every state’s fishing regulations to come up with our best interpretations of the laws regarding fishing with corn. The resulting list answers the question for all 50 states.
Interpreting state laws
Many states have cut and dry policies regarding the use of corn as bait. Others have no mention of corn specifically, but they do list illegal fishing methods as well as definitions of bait types.
To save you the time and effort, we have created a chart listing each state’s rules on fishing and chumming with corn.
The first charts include all the states with definite “Yes” or “No” answers in the regulations.
Is it legal to use corn as bait?
|Rhode Island |
Is it legal to use corn as chum?
1 illegal to chum in Bristol Bay
1 legal in Salton Sea
2 legal in Lake Mead
3 legal in Lake Powell
The second set of tables includes the states where we were not able to find any specific information on fishing with corn. Although, with no direct mention prohibiting corn and based on each states individual “lawful” bait definitions, we were able to confidently assume the answer of yes.
|Legal to use corn as bait in…||Legal to use corn as chum in…|
*Disclaimer* These lists are based on our best interpretations of the regulations for each state. We recommend that you always check your local regulations before fishing and if in doubt, call your fish and wildlife department to confirm.
This breakdown categorizes the regulations for each state as a whole, not individual areas.
For example, chumming is allowed on Lake Powell in Utah but it is illegal to do elsewhere in the state. Therefore, Utah is listed under the “No” column since the majority of the state is not allowed.
As you can see, Rhode Island is the lone state where it remains illegal to use corn as bait on a hook.
Is corn harmful for fish
The most common misconception we hear is that corn is harmful to fish and can damage their digestive tract.
Little evidence has been shown that fish die after eating corn. It fact, according to a direct quote from the 2019 Utah Fishing Guidebook,
“Studies have shown that it has no harmful effects on fish or their digestive processes.’
Keep in mind though, fishing with corn should not be used for catch and release fishing. Trout and other fish easily swallow a hook baited with corn and trying to remove a hook from its gut will likely cause the fish to die.
As a good rule-of-thumb, you should plan on keeping fish caught with any bait, including corn, if it is legal to do so. If you plan on catch and release fishing, use barbless hooks on artificial lures only.
Is chumming with corn bad for the environment
There is no doubt that chumming with corn attracts fish to your location. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “chumming,” it means to spread large quantities of attractant in the water around your fishing spot.
You should only chum where allowed by law and only if necessary. While chumming with corn is legal in many states, it is frowned upon because it leaves unsightly litter that can take up to a month to biodegrade.
Uneaten corn can also remain behind for other animals to find and eat. For some animals corn may be a harmful food source.
We suggest that you avoid chumming with corn in most situations, especially in streams and rivers. Instead, focus your efforts on learning how to find structure and underwater topography where fish hang out and school.
What kind of fish can you catch with corn
Corn is an effective bait for many species of fish. However, some fish crave the sweet kernels more than others.
The most popular fish to use corn for are trout or panfish like crappie, perch and bluegill. The setup is simple. Use either a sliding sinker rig if you are fishing for trout from shore or a hook suspended below a bobber for shallow water panfish.
If your primary target is trout, check out our article on how to easily catch trout from shore and we can all but guarantee you will catch fish with corn this season.
Corn is also extremely effective for kokanee fishing. Most seasoned anglers use some sort of cured and dyed corn for their kokanee trolling setup and the fish go crazy for it. It does not take much to entice a bite either.
Want to learn more about kokanee fishing? Read our popular article about the best kokanee trolling setup.
Other species commonly fished for with corn include catfish and carp. Suspend the corn on a hook just off the bottom and you are good to go.
Best types of corn for bait
Corn kernels are available in many forms and some make better bait than others. Let’s review the various types of corn for bait so you can make the best selection for your intend fishing style.
Dry feed corn
For those who want to buy the most economical corn it does not get any cheaper. Dry feed corn needs to be boiled or soaked in water first before fishing with it. Feed corn has less scent than sweet corns so we recommend adding flavorings or scents of your own to match your target species.
This sweet corn from a can is a favorite among anglers. It is ideal for kokanee and stays on the hook nicely. A can of shoe peg corn goes a long ways since you only need a few kernels to cover the hook.
You can also buy shoepeg corn cured with dyes and scents that really drive fish wild. Some of the most effective corn on the market is made by Pautzke Bait Company. We love using Pautzke Fire Corn from Amazon. Other colors and scents are available too.
Dyed and cured corn
Plain, canned or frozen corn can catch fish fine but for added catching power, use dye-cured corn. You can make your own or buy it pre-made at a tackle shop.
Making your own cured corn is easy. Pro-Cure corn dyes and scents make turning a regular can of white shoe peg corn into awesome bait a cinch.
Sometimes finicky fish prefer one type of corn over another and having several options handy never hurts.
Other bait options
Sometimes corn is not the best option for bait. Finicky fish, that see a lot of corn tossed their way or lazy behemoths holding tight to cover, may need more encouragement to strike.
If corn does not seem to work for you, then by all means adapt to the situation and try some alternative baits.
It really does not get any better than worms as an alternative to corn. They are easy to find, cheap and the wiggle on the hook. Fish love them and we love fishing with them. Nightcrawler are the best and you can even find them in your own yard with a few essential tips that we share in our nightcrawler article.
Insects like crickets and beetles make up a large portion of a fish’s diet. A live cricket on your line is a sure fire way to entice more strikes. If catching them is too challenging, just purchase them at your local bait shop. You can even find cheap crickets at pet stores in bulk. They are intended to feed frogs or lizards but fish like them too.
Mealworms are commonly used for ice fishing but don’t let that stop you. Tip a lure or panfish jig with a couple small meal worms when things get slow. That tasty little morsel might be just the trick to turn the bite back around.
Sometimes fish want something that moves like its natural prey. What better way to get more bites than using live minnows on a hook. If it is legal to do so where you fish, use a small net to scoop up little minnows that hang around shallow structure along lake edges.
Powerbait is by for the most popular store bought bait available. It even rivals corn. It comes in a variety of colors, scents and flavors. We like to have a few jars on hand for catching stocked trout on opening day.
Cured salmon eggs
Cured salmon eggs are particularly effective for trout in steams. They mimic the natural food available to feeding trout and they are available at most stores that sell fishing tackle.
Artificial lures and flies
When scented bait is prohibited, your best bet is to use artificial lures or flies. There is an amazing variety of lure types that target everything from bass to walleye and trout.
For trout waters, our go-to lure is a 1/8th ounce black and silver Rooster tail. Rooster tails work great in lakes and streams as well.
What about goldfish as bait
You aren’t the only person to ever wonder if goldfish can be used as bait. Plenty of anglers claim that some of their biggest fish were caught with live goldfish.
Before you go out and buy a bag of goldfish from your local pet store, you need to know the laws. Take a look at our top article that answers this question: Is fishing with goldfish illegal?
In most cases, it is legal and safe to use corn for bait where bait is allowed. If you have never tried fishing with corn, give it a go. You might be surprised at just how well it works.
Just remember, always check your local regulations before you go out fishing. Rules change frequently, so stay on top of all the changes each season.