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  • Writer's pictureMax Augliere

Spearfishing Freshwater, The Guide to Every State


Man in wetsuit holding a speared fish

Interested in spearfishing, but you're in a landlocked state? We've hunted down the laws and regulations for freshwater spearfishing in every state. Freshwater spearfishing in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs is growing in popularity, read on if you're interested!


What species can I spearfish in freshwater?

Legal species to spear in freshwater vary by state. Carp are a common species that you can spear in freshwater because they are invasive. Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and some others allow you to spearfish gamefish such as trout, bass, walleye, and more.


Many states allow freshwater spearfishing for 'nongame' fish or 'rough fish', these species are often unregulated, so it's important to know the the species and classification of the fish you intend on spearing. We've included each state's fishing regulations in this article.


Best Eating freshwater fish

Walleye, catfish, panfish (bluegill, crappie, etc), trout, bass, tilapia, and perch are the most commonly eaten freshwater fish in the United States. Though you'll find countless catch and cook videos for all kinds of species like northern pike and even carp - check out this catch and cook video on carp by Steven Rinella from Meateater.


 

legal states


Utah

Freshwater spearfishing is legal Utah depending on the lake. In legal lakes, you may spear bluegill; bullhead; channel catfish; crappie; green sunfish; largemouth bass; northern pike; Sacramento perch; smallmouth bass; striped bass, trout including rainbow, albino, cutthroat, brown, golden, brook, lake trout or mackinaw, kokanee salmon, and grayling or any hybrid of the foregoing; tiger muskellunge; walleye; white bass; whitefish; wiper; and yellow perch. Check the Utah fisheries website to ensure spearfishing is legal in a lake. Call the wildlife officers of the county you are considering spearfishing in if you have questions.


where to start

The following lakes are all open to spearfishing all species of gamefish in Utah.


  • Big Sand Wash Reservoir (Duchesne County);

  • Brown's Draw Reservoir (Duchesne County);

  • Causey Reservoir (Weber County);

  • Deer Creek Reservoir (Wasatch County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • East Canyon Reservoir (Morgan County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Echo Reservoir (Summit County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Electric Lake (Emery County);

  • Fish Lake (Sevier County), except underwater spearfishing for any game fish is closed from September 10 to the first Saturday in June the following year;

  • Flaming Gorge Reservoir (Daggett County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Grantsville Reservoir (Tooele County);

  • Jordan River, for northern pike only (Salt Lake and Utah Counties);

  • Lake Powell (Garfield, Kane and San Juan Counties), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Newcastle Reservoir (Iron County), except underwater spearfishing is closed for all species of game fish other than wipers and rainbow trout;

  • Pineview Reservoir (Weber County), except underwater spearfishing is closed for: largemouth and small mouth bass from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June; and Tiger musky year round.

  • Porcupine Reservoir (Cache County);

  • Quail Creek Reservoir, for smallmouth bass only (Washington County);

  • Recapture Reservoir (San Juan County);

  • Red Fleet Reservoir (Uintah County);

  • Rockport Reservoir (Summit County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Sand Lake (Uintah County);

  • Smith-Moorehouse Reservoir (Summit County);

  • Starvation Reservoir (Duchesne County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Steinaker Reservoir (Uintah County), except underwater spearfishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is closed from April 1 through the fourth Saturday in June;

  • Utah Lake, for northern pike and white bass only (Utah County);

  • Utah Lake tributaries, including the following tributaries, west of I-15: American Fork, Creek, Beer Creek, Dry Creek, Hobble Creek, Spanish Fork River, Spring Creek and Spring Run Creek, for northern pike only (Utah County). Spearfishing is not permitted on the Provo River or Provo River Delta;

  • Willard Bay Reservoir (Box Elder County); and

  • Yuba Reservoir (Juab and Sanpete Counties).

Arizona

It is legal to spearfish striped bass in Arizona, as well as carp, buffalofish, mullet, tilapia, goldfish and Shad. The state record striped bass by spear is 26 pounds and was shot in lake Mohave.


Where to start

Spearfish for striped bass is legal at Lake Powell; Lake Mead; Lake Mohave (between Hoover Dam and Cottonwood Landing), and Lake Pleasant. Here's a video spearfishing striper in Arizona. Arizona fishing regulations.

Nevada

Spearfishing Striped Bass is legal in Nevada. In the often-clear cold waters of Lake Mohave from Cottonwood Cove to the cable below Hoover Dam, shooting striped bass is open, and you may also spearfish striped bass in Lake Mead. You can read more about Nevada fishing regulations here.

Wyoming

Freshwater spearfishing for gamefish is legal in Wyoming and mimics their laws for angling. You can legally spear in Wyoming for the same species you can rod and reel fish for, such as trout, bass, walleye, and more. For walleye, you are allowed to spearfish 2 per person per day versus for anglers are allowed to keep 6. Read more about Wyoming fishing regulations here.


Where to go

Lake DeSmet, Boysen Resovoir, Glendo Reservoir and other lakes in Wyoming are good places to start , walleye being the premier target for eating. Alpine lakes can hold clearer water, as well as non-native trout, here's an article about spearfishing trout in Wyoming. Here's a PDF of the Wyoming fishing regulations.

New Mexico

Freshwater spearfishing is legal in New Mexico, bag and size limits for spearfishing are the same as for angling. You may not spearfish in rivers, streams, special trout water, or trophy bass water water, however, Carp may be taken in any area that allows for angling unless that specific body of water has special regulations. The state record Walleye taken was 16 lbs, and the state record striped bass is a whopping 52 lbs. Read more regulations for New Mexico here.


Where to go

  • Ute Late

  • Elephant Butte,

  • Navajo Reservoir

  • Conchas Reservoir


Montana

Freshwater spearfishing in Montana is legal for non gamefish in all waters open to angling. In many lakes, you are also allowed to spearfish northern pike. And, in some lakes such as Lake Elwell aka Tiber Reservoir and Lake Frances, you may spearfish for walleye, and burbot. You may read more about Montana spearfishing regulations here.

Idaho

Freshwater spearfishing is legal for non-game fish during game fish season. Here are the gamefish species in Idaho: Brook, Brown, Bull, Cutthroat, Golden, Lake (Mackinaw), Rainbow (including Steelhead), Splake and Sunapee Trout; trout hybrids (e.g. Tiger Trout); Atlantic, Chinook, Coho, Kokanee, and Sockeye Salmon; Arctic Grayling; Whitefish; Cisco; Crappie; Perch; Bass; Catfish; Bullhead; Sunfish; White Sturgeon; Northern Pike; Tiger Muskie; Walleye and Sauger; and Burbot (Ling). Crayfish are also defined as game fish. Here are the Idaho fishing regulations.


MichigaN

Spearfishing in freshwater has recently been made legal in some areas of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron for walleye, pike, and lake trout as well. Other legal species of fish include Bowfin, Bullheads, Burbot, Carp, Catfish, Cisco, Drum, Gizzard Shad, Goldfish, Grass Carp, Longnose Gar, Smelt, Suckers, and Whitefish.



In Lake Michigan it's now legal to spearfish waters south of the southernmost pier at Grand Haven for lake trout, walleye, and nothern pike, in addition to Bowfin, Bullheads, Burbot, Carp, Catfish, Drum, Gizzard Shad, Goldfish, Grass Carp, Cisco (Lake Herring), Longnose Gar, Smelt, Suckers (See Note 2), and Whitefish.


In Lake Huron it's now legal to spearfish lake trout, northern pike, and walleye south of the southernmost pier of the Thunder Bay River, extending south to the mouth of the St. Clair River (Fort Gratiot Light). You may also spear Bowfin, Bullheads, Burbot, Carp, Catfish, Drum, Gizzard Shad, Goldfish, Grass Carp, Cisco (Lake Herring), Longnose Gar, Smelt, Suckers (See Note 2), and Whitefish.


The new spearfishing regulations for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron can be found here in fisheries order 219.23. The full Michigan fisheries regulations can be found here.


where to go

  • Tawas Bay

  • Thunderbay

  • Saginaw bay

  • Petowski

  • Little Traverse Bay


Illinois

Spearfishing is legal in Illinois for nongamefish species such as alligator gar, bigmouth buffalo, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, freshwater drum, tilapia, and others. Some specific areas may have special restrictions, so please refer to the Illinois Fishing Regulations here.


where to go

Mautino State Wildlife area often has clear water. Mazonia Lakes and Ponds, Rice Lake s another spot that produces fish.


Nebraska

Spearfishing is legal in Nebraska for gamefish such as walleye, bass, and all species of trout from July 1st - December 31st in certain lakes. Bag and possession limits are the same as hook and line. You are allowed to spear nongame fish year-round. The state record walleye was speared in Lake McConaughy and weighed a whopping 14 pounds. For more information, always check the official fisheries regulations.

Where to go

  • Lake McConaughy

  • Lake Ogallala

  • Lake Minatare

  • Box Butte reservoir (opens June 1st)

  • Lewis and Clark Lake

  • Harlan County Reservoir

  • Enders Reservoir, Elwood Reservoir

  • Red willow Reservoir

  • Medicine Creek

  • Sutherland Reservoir

  • Maloney Reservoir

  • Jeffrey Reservoir

  • Johnson Reservoir

  • Sherman Reservoir

  • Swanson reservoir

  • Merrit Reservoir

  • Calamus Reservoir.


Kansas

You are allowed to spearfish in Kansas for nonsport fish in waters open to "scuba and skindiving". Sportfish in Kansas are Northern Pike, walleye, sauger, saugeye, yellow perch, striped bass, white bass, wiper (white bass/striped bass hybrid), black bass (largemouth, spotted and smallmouth), trout, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, paddlefish, and panfish (bullhead, black and white crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish, warmouth and rock bass).


Oklahoma

Spearfishing is legal in Oklahoma for white bass and nongame fish. Oklahoma has 91 documented species of nongame fish, so there is ample opportunity, now you just have to figure out which ones you want to eat, catfish is where we'd recommend starting, but folks eat Buffalo fish, Suckers, and many other freshwater nongame fish. Read the Oklahoma fishing regulations PDF here.

Oregon

Oregon allows for spearfishing nongame fish. Nonfame fish in Oregon include suckers, pikeminnow, carp, chub, sculpin, and others. While other states may consider fish like catfish a nongame fish, in Oregen they are illegal to spear. Read more about Oregon spearfishing regulations here. Oregon has a bounty program for the nothern pikeminnow, where the state government will pay between $6.00 and $10.00 per pikeminnow, and $500.00 for special tagged fish. The top 20 anglers in 2022 all received more than $20,000.00 and the highest-paid angler received $61,409.00. You may read more about the program here. Since spearfishing Pikeminnow is legal, we think this is a cool opportunity.


South Dakota

Spearfishing is legal in South Dakota for gamefish like walleye, northern pike, trout, and even Salmon. The regulations for bag limits and length are the same as angling. Here is the South Dakota PDF of fishing regulations.



North Dakota

Spearfishing is legal in North Dakota for many game fish including chinook salmon, trout, crappie, walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and more. Nongame fish are all open for spearing. The following species may not be taken with spear muskellunge, paddlefish, smallmouth bass and sturgeon. All other species are legal. For a full list of legal species to spear here is the North Dakota fishing regulations PDF.


Arkansas

Spearfishing gamefish is legal in Arkansas such as trout, walleye, and bass is legal from June 15-March 15 from sunrise to sunset in the following waters: Beaver, Blue Mountain, Bull Shoals, Catherine, Conway, DeGray, DeQueen, Dierks, Erling, Gillham, Greers Ferry, Greeson, Hamilton, Harris Brake, Millwood, Nimrod, Norfork, Ouachita, and Table Rock lakes, and all impoundments created by the locks and dams on the Arkansas River. Arkansas fishing regulations PDF.


Texas

You may spearfish in freshwater in Texas for nongame fish only. Freshwater nongame fish include bullhead catfish, pirate perch, sunfish, drum, and more.


Missouri

Freshwater spearfishing is legal in Missouri for nongame fish only. https://mdc.mo.gov/fishing/regulations


Iowa

Freshwater spearfishing is legal in Iowa for nongame fish. Here are the nongame fish you are allowed to take by spear; Common Carp, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, Black Carp, Bigmouth Buffalo, Smallmouth Buffalo, Black Buffalo, Quillback, Highfin Carpsucker, River Carpsucker, Spotted Sucker, White Sucker, Shorthead Redhorse, Golden Redhorse, Silver Redhorse, Freshwater Drum, Shortnose Gar, Longnose Gar, Bowfin, Gizzard Shad and Goldfish.


Minnesota

Freshwater is spearfishing in Minnesota for nongame fish only. Nongame fish species include carp, buffalo, freshwater drum, quilback, and more. https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/fishing/fishing_regs.pdf?v=2024.03.21-12.52.07


Kentucky

Underwater spearing of rough fish with hand-held or mechanically propelled spear is permitted year-round, but only in lakes having 1,000 surface acres or more. You can refer to this list for all game fish.


Ohio


Alabama

Spearfishing in fresh water is legal for commercial or nongame fish. These fish include; drum, buffalo, channel catfish and all members of the catfish family and the spotted sucker and all members of the sucker family, including the species known as red horse and black horse. Fisheries regulations here.

West Virginia

Nongame fish may be taken by spearfishing from July 1 – September 30 during daylight hours only. Gamefish are not permitted to be taken while spear fishing. A complete list of gamefish is on the back cover of the regulations. West Virginia fishing regulations.










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Apr 29

This was me after reading this


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