Can You Fish for Bass out of Season?

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Bass fishing is a favorite with anglers in the US. According to a 2013 survey by the US Fishing and Wildlife Service, we spend 170 million days a year on bass fishing. Amazing, right? Considering these figures, it is important to ask, “Can you fish for bass out of season?”

Considering the statistics, one would think you could fish for bass all year round. The answer is No. Should you fish for Bass out of season? No. Should you fish for any species during the closed season? No. Why not? You would be breaking fishing regulations if you did. Even the famous novelist, Mark Twain knew this:

Once, after a three-week fishing trip in Maine, a trip that took place long after the state’s fishing season had closed, Twain related tales of his angling adventures to a fellow passenger on the train. The stranger didn’t seem impressed. In fact, he seemed downright perturbed.

fish for bass out of season

“By the way, who are you, sir?” Twain finally inquired.

“I’m the state game warden”, the man snarled. “Who are you?”

Twain nearly swallowed his cigar. “Well, to be a perfectly truthful warden,” he answered, “I’m the biggest damn liar in the whole United States!”

Though fishing seasons vary across states, it is illegal to fish for bass, or any other species, outside their seasons. In Minnesota for example, you would be asking for trouble, angling for bass any time before May 25th. According to the DEC regulations, “intentionally fishing for a species during its closed season” is against the law. Doing this could attract a fine, or jail time.

How Do We Define ‘Intentionally’?

What if you cast your line innocently and a largemouth bass bit the bait; could you get ticketed for that?

Intentional angling would include:

Fishing Seasons for the Various States

Below are the on-seasons for bass fishing in selected states:

Minnesota Smallmouth and Largemouth bass 05/11/19 – 02/23/20
  Smallmouth bass 05/25/19 – 09/08/19
  Largemouth bass 05/25/19 – 02/23/20
Florida All year round


Small and Largemouth bass May 25th-Dec 31

Why Fishing Seasons?

The silver trout was a very rare species. It previously inhabited a few waters in New Hampshire. It is documented to have been a foot long, and olive green in color. The silver trout came to be in New Hampshire by accident. It was trapped by changed drainage systems in two New Hampshire lakes. Cut off from other species, it had no natural predators.

Late in the 19th century, this position changed. With recreational fishing and new species, the silver trout became threatened. Finally, in 1939, a biological survey yielded nothing. The silver trout had gone extinct.

A fishing season is a period when it is legal to fish for a particular species. Why are they necessary? Imagine if it were legal to fish for sturgeon all year round- they’d have become extinct a long time ago. Fishing seasons are a way to make sure that aquatic resources do not all get used up and extinct. For this reason, various regulations have been set up. If bass were harvested during the spawning season, there wouldn’t be enough left to replenish the population. As a result, they could become extinct.

Are Bass Endangered Species?

Although bass is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species, their conservation is important.

Black bass fishing is the most popular type of fishing in the United States. Spread over a wide area of North America, they are highly sought game fish. They are not just sought as gaming fish though. Bass meat could also make a wonderful dinner, being edible and firm.

Some bass could grow to sizes of about a meter. Currently, there are 14 recognized species of black bass. From Shoal bass to Florida bass, Largemouth bass to spotted bass, there is a variety to choose from.

What Should You Do if You Mistakenly Catch Bass Out of Season?

You cannot stop the wrong fish from biting the bait. But, you can keep it from getting bagged.

Release out of season bass if you happen to catch them. But, It’s not just enough to release them. This should be done as quickly as possible. Stories abound of anglers posing for photos with catch, and releasing them near dead. It is important to release them with littlest possible damage. We wouldn’t want injured fish floating around, would we?

The Catch and Release- What’s the Catch?


“You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don’t want to eat fish. They just want to make it late for something.”

Mitch Herdberg.

We might not entirely agree with this quote, but it’s a lot like it.

If you’re looking to fish for sport, this is your thing. Here, angling is done just for the fun of it. Fish caught are quickly measured and returned into the water. The pros: it’s great for the conservation of fish. Also, it caters to those needing to fish out of season. No harm was done, right?

Not entirely. Most anglers do not follow the right methods, endangering fish. To do a proper catch and release, you should:

  • Use artificial lures. This way, the hook won’t go down deep.
  • Use barbless hooks. Results in less injury to the fish.
  • Not overplay with the fish. They could get exhausted, reducing survival chances.
  • Not take the fish out of water. Depending on how long, this might damage the fish.
  • Avoid squeezing.
  • Steer clear of the gills.
  • Hold the fish until they’re revived before releasing.

(Culled from the US National Park Service website)

Done the right way, catch and release could be a fair compromise for anglers and conservationists.

Penalties for Fishing Out of Season

Fishing out of season comes with grave consequences. From fines to jail time, penalties are no child’s play. According to Minnesota statutes, ”A person convicted of violating a provision of the game and fish laws that is defined as a gross misdemeanor is subject to a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $3,000 and imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 90 days or more than one year.”

The penalties are to discourage out of season fishing.

Related Questions

Q: What is the best month to fish for bass?

A: It’s a good idea to fish for bass before spawning season. This is in the spring. Then, water temperatures are about 48-55 degrees. Bass feed heavily in pre-spawn season, majorly on a high protein diet. This would give your lure more chances of getting bitten. At this time also, bass begins to migrate to their spawning areas. (Bass are particularly fond of flat places. Think Northern banks; they would be much warmer and will attract bass.

Q: What is the best bait for bass?

A: Jigs are known to be great for baiting bass. From swim jigs to flipping jigs, there are jigs for every circumstance. A strong advantage is that they can go where other lures cannot. Also, they are great for catching larger fish.

You could also consider plastic worms. Usually, bass will hold on tight to plastic worms when they bite. Also, they are a nice option when you don’t need to pretend weeds.

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