Can You Use Tadpoles As Bait?

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Fishermen and anglers alike have long been using live bait when catching fish because of how much more realistic and natural it is for frogs to chomp down on live prey.

However, while using worms and other similar baits have never really been questioned, one of the things that may be questionable is using live or dead tadpoles as bait.

Using tadpoles or polliwogs as live bait is generally illegal in some states depending on live bait laws, applicable licences, and local interpretation of tadpoles as bait or frogs. New Mexico is the only state that has expressly specified the legal use of dead Bullfrog Tadpoles as fishing bait.

If you have any doubts about the laws applicable for the use of tadpoles as live bait your State, contact your Department of Natural Resources directly.

The thing about using tadpoles as bait is that not only may it be illegal in your state, it may not even be as effective when catching fish.

Why Fishing With Live Tadpoles is a Bad Idea

Fishing using live or dead tadpoles or polliwogs is a bad idea because it may be illegal in your state and may not even be effective to catch fish. You have to catch the tadpoles, hook them correctly, and they may swim away or come apart. Frogs are also endangered or protected in some states.

Even though it may be legal to use tadpoles as live bait in your State, that does not mean that you should. Here are a few reasons why using tadpoles as live bait may not be the best idea:

Fishing CharacteristicLive TadpoleFake Lure
Legal risksYesNo
Needs to be caughtYesNo
Messy to handleYesNo
May swim awayYesNo
Will probably dieYesNo
May come apartYesNo
Protected or endangeredMaybeNo

Here are some of the things you may want to know regarding the practicality of using live tadpoles as bait.

Legal Risks of Fishing With Live Tadpoles

First off, it is important to know if it is even legal to use live bait in your State since some States do not allow the use of any kinds of live bait.

After that, you may notice that most State laws are only expressive with regards to using live bait when it comes to frogs, not their tadpoles.

Here is a list of States that prohibit the use of live bait in general:

  • Alaska: All use of live bait in freshwater is prohibited, legal in saltwater
  • Florida: Partial ban on fishing with live bait
  • Idaho: Fishing with live swimming bait is not legal
  • Montana: Very strict laws for the use of live bait
  • Nevada: Mostly prohibits the use of live bait with a few exceptions
  • Oregon: All live bait illegal

With regards to tadpoles, some states may interpret them as frog’s offspring and apply laws that are ment for frogs, where other states may apply laws related to live bait.

Some states have laws in place protecting certain frog species, and if tadpoles are considered frogs offspring, it’s important to know which species you are handling as some frog species are endangered and protected.

For example, New Mexico specifically states that the use of live Bullfrog Tadpoles is not authorized.

The risks related to using illegal bait when fishing, not having a licence or not possessing the correct licences can range from a verbal warning, or a fine, to prison time, generally for multiple offenders.

However, laws and penalties depend on states and jurisdictions. Your Department of Natural Resources will be able to answer location-specific questions on the topic.

It probably is not worth the risk. But on top of that, tadpoles do not even make the best bait for game fish in general.

If you are fishing in saltwater, do not even waste your time, the fish have never seen any tadpoles before. If you are fishing in freshwater, you may want to rethink using tadpoles as live bait.

Tadpoles Are Not the Best Bait

Other than the potential legal risks, tadpoles need to be caught before using them as bait. You could spend more time trying to catch tadpoles than fishing with them if you do not have a good strategy to catch them.

Tadpoles are also difficult to handle and can be slimmer than worms. Live tadpoles are also difficult to attach to a hook without killing them, unlike worms.

If you use a hook that is too large you will wind up splitting and killing the tadpole.

Tadpoles may also end up coming apart while you are fishing with them while you throw them into the water. None of this is clean, or fun.

Then there is also the fact that fish that are caught for sport or hobby are usually released and can still survive when handled well. However, tadpoles used for live bait will not survive because they are fragile developing frogs.

Some Frog Species Are Protected

Also consider the fact that tadpoles will eventually turn into frogs. There are plenty of frog species that struggle to maintain their numbers primarily because of habitat destruction and human intervention.

Taking future frogs out of the ecosystem is harmful (CTNF). It does not make sense to take the life of a tadpole that has the potential to become a frog and kill thousands of illness-carrying bugs, just to catch and release a fish for fun.

As such, there is no practical reason to use live tadpoles as bait instead of simply using worms or fake frog or tadpole lures that are easier to handle and better for the environment.

There Are Better Alternatives

In the past, it might have been widely accepted to use tadpoles as bait in the absence of other means of catching fish.

However, frogs are more endangered than ever due to habitat destruction, pollution, and human intervention.

There is no need to further reduce frog populations when other, just as effective fishing bait solutions already exist.

Fake Frog Lures I Use For Bass Fishing

For instance, you could use worms instead of tadpoles which are widely accessible from Tackle Shops and corner stores.

However, if you want to target a specific fish species that really loves to eat tadpoles, you can use fake tadpole baits or lures instead of using live tadpoles.

Learn more about hunting and fishing for frogs on our blog:


Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

Nevada Fishing Guide

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.