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Goldfish as Bait – Why They Are Illegal and How They Affect the Ecosystem

Here at That Fish Place – That Pet Place we are doing our best to educate our customers on the dangers and risks of using goldfish as bait. In addition to offering an extreme risk to native species, anglers also face steep fines if they are caught in possession of goldfish for bait.  In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, where we are located, there are several bait and tackle shops that offer better alternatives for fishing.


History of Goldfish in the US

A western aquarium of the 1850s

A western aquarium of the 1850s illustration from Shirley Hibber, The Book of the Aquarium and Water Cabinet

Goldfish are freshwater members of the carp and minnow family.   While many of us admire them from the view of our tank, they are actually one of the first aquatic invasive species to reach North America.  How did the goldfish go from being the cute googly eyed fish you would feed after school, to being such a widespread risk to native plants and species?

Goldfish began to come to the America’s in the 1600s as ornamental fish for aquariums and water gardens. If the fish became too large for their surroundings, or the owner became tired of it, they simply got rid of it in the closest freshwater source.  Today, goldfish are becoming reintroduced as livebait.  Pennsylvania has stepped in, as well as many other states to make it illegal to use goldfish as live bait.


The Real Issues


Goldfish (Carassius auratus) photo by Ontario Streams

Goldfish will typically eat their own eggs when held in captivity, so breeding is not a large issue for most hobbyists unless they are intentionally breeding their goldfish.  Given the right conditions, goldfish can spawn several times a season.  A lot of the eggs will get eaten by the adult goldfish once they are laid, but several hundred eggs are produced at each spawning.  With only a few eggs eaten, and fry hatching within 48-72 hours, you can imagine how just a few goldfish can turn into a large problem rather quickly.

Often referred to as the “little piggies” of the aquarium, goldfish are opportunistic feeders and will not stop eating of their own accord.  While goldfish typically feed off of crustaceans, insects, and various plant matter; when this food is scarce they will eat eggs from native species nests.  The native egg-laying species populations have now been disrupted, and due to that, the population has declined and disrupted other wildlife food chains.


Law on the Books

downloadIt is unlawful to use or possess goldfish, comets, koi and common carp as bait fish while fishing in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are caught fishing with feeder goldfish or any other illegal bait fish there is a minimum $120.50 fine, and you can be fined an additional $20.00 – $50.00 per illegal bait fish.  Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission wants you to know that you aren’t off scot-free just yet.  Law enforcement also has the authority to confiscate or seize, any fishing equipment as evidence of your violation of the law.  The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission may, upon proper notice, suspend or revoke your fishing privileges, boating privileges or other permits of any person convicted (or acknowledging guilt) of a violation of the Fish and Boat Code or Fish & Boat Commission regulations.  That would also include your naive fishing buddy.  Should multiple violations occur within a 12-month period you will be given a fine of $200 in addition to the previously mentioned summary offenses.  That $0.10 feeder fish now cost you a fishing license, a fishing rod, fishing equipment, a whole lot of cash, a boat, and a fishing buddy. The consequences per state will vary, so check with your local Fish & Boat Commission for more information.

The employees at That Fish Place – That Pet Place are all avid hobbyists, and a lot of us live in the local river towns where fishing is just a way of life.  We don’t want to ruin the sport for other enthusiasts, just as much as we don’t want others to ruin the sport for us.  We will always strive to do our best when it comes to conservation efforts, and want to encourage others to do the same.  Thank you for reading!



Crayfish Ban – New Regulations Halt Sale and Transport in Pennsylvania

Crayfish have long been popular among aquarists as well as fishermen and naturalists alike.  But non-native species have taken their toll on native populations. The fight against invasive species has intensified in the waters of the Keystone State. To counteract the effects of invasive crayfish species on the animals living in and around the waterways of Pennsylvania, new regulations have gone into effect starting on January 1st, 2015.

Some Backstory


The Rusty Crayfish, the invader that started it all (Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, via flickr)

The Rusty Crayfish, the invader that started it all (Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, via flickr)

Crayfish are common enough and well-known to most of us who have spent some time in the waterways around Pennsylvania. I remember hunting under rocks for crayfish in the Swatara and Quittapahilla Creek close to my home when I was young.  Many, many years ago, I even had a pet crayfish for awhile that I “adopted” from a feeder tank at a local pet store. Pennsylvanians don’t eat crayfish nearly as much as some of our southern neighbors, but they have been a common bait to catch bigger fish.


Crayfish populations have been on the decline however. There are several species of crayfish that aren’t native to our waters that have been overtaking native populations or that have been spreading from their own local regions to new waters. The Kingpin of Crayfish Crime, the Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), is the largest and most notorious of these and can be found in mind-blowing densities in some areas. Rusty Crayfish can grow almost twice as large as some other native crayfish and are much more aggressive.  This can lead to the smaller species being preyed upon or out-competed for food, the eggs and young of other aquatic life being preyed upon, and predators that may feed on other crayfish can’t feed on the larger and more aggressive Rusty’s. Researchers have concluded that crayfish released by irresponsible aquarium owners along with fishermen and boat owners have contributed in part to this invasion.


Rules and Regulations


The Regulations on crayfish collection and commerce are nothing new to Pennsylvania. It has been against the law for anyone to sell or transport Rusty Crayfish since 2005 and the enforcement of the ban has been getting more and more stringent ever since. The new regulation that went into effect on January 1 adds all native and non-native crayfish to that restriction. No crayfish, native or otherwise, can be possessed, sold or transported, including some popular aquarium species like the Electric Blue Crayfish (Procambarus paeninsulanus) and the Mexican Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus patzcuarensis). With the proper license, up to fifty crayfish can be harvested per angler per day from Pennsylvania water but only after the head has been removed behind the eyes. Crayfish can still be used as bait, but only in the immediate water where they were taken from (for example, a crayfish from the Swatara Creek in Lebanon county can’t be taken and used as bait in the Susquehanna River in Dauphin County). Restaurants and research facilities have strict guidelines that allow them to have live crayfish for their specific use.


Even aquarium species like this Electric Blue Crayfish are affected by and restricted under Pennsylvania's new regulations.

Even aquarium species like this Electric Blue Crayfish are affected by and restricted under Pennsylvania’s new regulations.

What Does This Mean For You?


For readers of this blog, this means that the days of keeping a pet crayfish are coming to a close in many areas. Keeping any crayfish species in an aquarium (or bait bucket) in Pennsylvania can land you in some hot water (pun intended). If you are reading this from somewhere outside of Pennsylvania, check your local regulations. Many other states and some parts of Canada have similar regulations in effect or in the works. All of these restrictions are for the Greater Good of our waterways and ecosystems and the loss of an aquarium hobby niche is a small price to pay. Even if your area isn’t affected by crayfish invasions or regulations, there are other invasive species that affect different areas; always practice responsible pet-keeping and never release any of your plants or animals into the wild.


Further Reading:

Lionfish Banned in Florida

lionfish-invasionFlorida has stepped up its game in recent months, in an effort to combat their serious problem with invasive lionfish.  Some of which has a direct impact on the aquarium hobby in the state of Florida.  In what seems like a very short amount of time, the problem has gone from rumors and possible sightings, to a full out invasion.  Lionfish populations have exploded and now are affecting the entire state of Florida, and neighboring areas of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and The U.S. East Coast.

This story has been one of particular interest for us here at That Fish Blog, and we have covered the topic in detail in past entries from 20072008 ,2010  again in 2013



It has only taken about 30 years for these predators to establish themselves, and spread like wildfire.

In a unanimous vote by the commissioners of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the State has adopted several measures to help fight against the invasive fish.

  1. Complete import ban of all Pterios genus Lionfish into the state of Florida.  No more mail order lionfish, and no more imported lionfish in Florida pet stores.
  2. Divers are authorized to use rebreathers, in the capture and harvest of Lionfish.  This enables divers to dive longer, deeper and quieter while hunting lionfish.  Use of rebreathers is otherwise prohibited for spear fishing in Florida.
  3. Authorizes the Executive Director to issue permits for spear fishing tournament in waters that would otherwise be off limits to spear fishing.

0630_Lionfish1These new regulations will go into Effect on Aug 1, 2014.  Already in place in the state of Florida are regulations that promote and encourage fisherman to hunt and remove Lionfish, which is the only viable option for hoping to control their growth.  There are no minimum size limits, closed seasons or bag limits for recreational or commercial harvest, and a recreational fishing license is not required to harvest lionfish when using dip nets, pole spears, Hawaiian slings or any spearing device designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish.

Reporting Lionfish sightings is now easier than ever, there is an app for that!  Anglers can report lionfish sightings by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”

Try a new adventure, and get involved with efforts to remove lionfish.  Fishing Tournaments, charter fishing, or just recreational fishing is both fun and can serve a good purpose as well.

Thanks for reading,


Dangerous Beauty – The Ongoing Threat of Invasive Lionfish Along the East Coast

Caught in the Virgin IslandsHow can something be so beautiful and yet so dangerous and destructive? Invasive lionfish are making headlines again, continuing their viral spread in the Atlantic and decimating native species as they explode in population. Lionfish are quickly becoming the poster species for the horrible things that can happen when a non-native species is introduced to a new region or habitat, left without predators to keep populations in check.

This isn’t a new story, just a continuing saga conveying the sad consequences of accidental or intentional introduction of non-native species. The story is believed to have begun sometime in the 80’s with lionfish being sighted between Florida and the Caribbean. Within 15-20 years the population exploded and at this point any hope of stopping the invasion has all but fizzled.  No one will ever know how they were introduced or where to place the blame. Some believe careless aquarists are at fault, releasing the fish into waterways if they became to large or otherwise unable to be kept. One popular theory is that the fish made their way into the Atlantic after a coastal hurricane destroyed a home or homes with aquariums that contained the Indo-Pacific natives, which miraculously found their way safely into east coast waters. Others believe it’s possible that juvenile or larval lions hitched a ride in ship ballast waters as other species have before, finding themselves in a new world when the waters were pumped out. Regardless, lions are here and here to stay, with only we humans as their predators. Read More »

Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails

Aquarium SnailOutbreaks of nuisance snails are one of the most common problems encountered in planted aquariums. Though much maligned, snails are perfectly normal in tanks with live plants and can even help with algae control. The problems occur when the snails reproduce and become out of control. Throughout our blog posts, we’ve gone over a number of methods of controlling snails through predators and removal methods, but as with any problems, the problem can be avoided with preventative measures.

A common way of cutting down snail populations is to dip new plants, killing snails and snail eggs before they enter your aquarium. We have here a few different “recipes” for these dips. Keep in mind that while these have been used successfully by many aquarists, sensitive plants may still be damaged. You can try your chosen method on one plant before using it on all of your new plants. These are also all solutions that are to be utilized in a separate bucket, tub or sink – NOT in the aquarium! Read More »