The biggest myth about catfish baits

myth about catfish baits
Jason Wolfe of Wolfe's Guide Service often uses live and cut bait for catfish on numerous lakes and rivers in the Carolinas.

This myth about catfish baits gets you tossed under the jailhouse

I’ve heard this popular myth about catfish baits since I was a kid. I still hear it all the time now, especially when we run catfish articles and we mention using bream — either live or cut up — as bait. Spoiler alert: it’s perfectly legal to use bream (alive or dead) as bait in both North and South Carolina.

Last week, we ran an article and shared a video from Carolina All Out. In the video, host Chris Douglas talks about how he and Phil Elam of E & E Guide Service caught some bream one afternoon to use as catfish bait that night. I was ready for some hate mail, and it came my way.

“You’re encouraging people to break the law! I’m canceling my subscription because you’re showing people breaking the law! The game warden will throw you under the jail for using bream as catfish bait! You’re getting a lot of people in a heap of trouble showing them how to break the law!” etc, etc.

I’m not sure where this myth comes from. Or why it is so hard to put to rest. Perhaps it comes from the fact that it is illegal in the Carolinas to keep any gamefish caught in a cast net. Many people do use cast nets to catch catfish bait. So that may contribute to the rumor.

It is also illegal in North Carolina to use live bait on trot lines, set hooks, and jug hooks. However it is perfectly legal when using rod-and-reel.

So, what does the law say?

But, as shown in the video, Douglas and Elam caught their bream with hook and line. They also did not exceed their daily limit of bream. So according to the SCDNR and the NCWRC, they were completely within the law.

It’s also worth noting that using redbreast sunfish, which are commonly lumped into the bream category, as bait, is indeed illegal in South Carolina. 

The NCWRC’s regulation booklet puts it this way:

  • Inland game fish may be used as bait if they are legally taken and meet the size and creel limits of the waters being fished and other regulations.

South Carolina is a little more strict with most species of gamefish. But they clearly state using bream for bait is legal. SCDNR’s regulation booklet states this:

  • No game fish may be used as bait to catch fish recreationally except for bream (excluding redbreast). Trout may be used as bait only on Lakes Hartwell, Russell, Thurmond, Tugaloo, Yonah, Stevens Creek Reservoir and the Savannah River. When using game fish as bait to catch fish recreationally they must be included in the daily creel limit.

Please, help us put this myth about catfish baits to rest. And don’t fret over anyone getting tossed under the jailhouse for using bream as bait.

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About Brian Cope 1922 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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