12 Laughable Fishing Laws You have to Read to Believe

"No Fishing" sign painted on railing
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The rule of law is the glue that holds the fabric of society together. As citizens of the United States of America, we respect the power of our judicial system and have faith that all laws will be fairly enacted and equally enforced…

And then there are laws that make us laugh out loud so hard that we suffer minor cardiac arrest. So before you try to pronounce that final “s” in Arkansas or god forbid try to sell a pickle that doesn’t bounce in Connecticut, make sure you’ve read the rule book (yes, those are real laws). The consequences range from jail and fines to embarrassment and outright confusion.

Since we are on the topic, we thought we’d cover 12 of the most outrageous, insane, and unbelievably crazy fishing laws in America. Next time you are on a trip with your buddies, make sure none of you break any of these sacred rules…

Man with big fish in his hands

#1: Indiana – No catching fish with your bare hands

With all the high-tech fishing gear available on the market these days, it’s hard to believe anyone goes handfishing anymore (Hillbilly Handfishin’ doesn’t count). Well, in the Hoosier State, they do. Fishing with your bare hands (known as noodling) is illegal. Hey, at least Indiana bans government officials from dueling!

Fish drinking wine

#2: Ohio – No giving a fish alcohol

If you bring a fish along on your next trip out on the lake, it is illegal to give him a few cold ones. In Ohio, getting a fish drunk is against the law. Looks like the term “drinks like a fish” is actually a compliment in the Buckeye State. We would like to meet the group of guys that inspired this law.

#3: Tennessee – Put that lasso down

There’s a city in Tennessee where it is illegal for a woman to ask a man on a date, but that isn’t the most outrageous law in the birthplace of rock n’ roll. The Volunteer State doesn’t allow anyone to catch a fish with a lasso. Just in case one of your pals moonlights as a rodeo clown, we thought we’d give the heads up. Let him down easy, would you?

Crawfish dinner

#4: Louisiana – Where stealing crawfish is like stealing cars

“Whoever commits the crime of theft of _______ shall be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years.”

In the State of Louisiana, you could fill in the blank with crawfish or motor vehicle and the penalty would be the same. That’s how seriously they take their crawdads down on the bayou. We can’t blame them–they taste so darn good.

Crawfish are king in Cajun cooking. We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t add in a great “mudbug” recipe to convince you to go catch some crawdads of your own. Springtime is the season to get that boil going!

Don’t believe us? Read the laws on crawfish theft and motor vehicle theft for yourself.

#5: Pennsylvania – You can’t use dynamite to catch a fish

Put away your nitroglycerin and don’t even think about ordering any clay off the web. Sorry, but you can’t use dynamite to catch fish in Pennsylvania.

You’d think that it should go without saying. The average fishermen isn’t packing a bundle of TNT.

But it was so common that the state needed to enact a law. Actually, the law is in place to prevent blast fishing. Setting off dynamite in a lake makes it easy to kill or stun fish in large quantities, but ruins the ecosystem. This common practice has been banned in most places, but PA has specific laws on the books to help catch anyone who dare tries.

Want our opinion? Don’t do it!

#6: New Jersey – Men can’t knit during fishing season

We all know how bad wives want their husbands out of the house on Sundays. Apparently, things got so bad in New Jersey that a law had to be passed that forced the men to stop knitting and get out onto the rivers and lakes of the Garden State to catch some wild game.

During fishing season, there is no knitting allowed for men. Whether this is enforced or not is an entirely different issue, so your crocheting club meetings on Tuesday are probably safe.

#7: Oregon – No chumming with canned corn

In the state of Oregon, corn only belongs in two places: on your plate or on your hook. There’s a rumor going around the web that you can’t fish using corn in Oregon. FALSE. As long as the corn is on your hook, you are well within the law (phew!).

In fact, it is only illegal if you use corn for chumming. That, my friends, is a heinous crime punishable by stringent penalties. So next time you’re with your old chums (sorry for the “corny” pun) and looking to chum up the waters, you better put that canned corn back in the cupboard and save it for later.

#8: Illinois – No fishing in your pajamas in Chicago

Listen, when a place is called “the windy city” you better dress up for the occasion. Nestled right on Lake Michigan, the game is to die for, but you have to be wearing the appropriate attire.

Legend has it that it is illegal to fish in your pajamas in Chicago. Urban fishing is taking the city by storm, with Chicagoans taking to the city’s streams, rivers, and lakes to catch some exciting game and have a great time.

Whether Chicago’s finest actually take the time to police and enforce the law is beyond our pay grade, but we don’t recommend pressing your luck.

#9: Pennsylvania – Shut your mouth (when catching fish)

The internet is full of misinformation and rumors (wow, isn’t that a surprise!). We weren’t shocked to hear that the rumor about being able to catch fish with your mouth in Pennsylvania was false.

We’ve all been inspired by images of a grizzly bear catching a salmon with its jaws, but next time you are fishing in Pennsylvania, it’s best to stick to a rod and a reel. If you do get caught using your mouth to try and snag some game, you’ll be facing a $100 fine.

#10: Louisiana – It’s illegal to chase a fish in a city park in New Orleans

“Get back here, you lousy fish!”

We aren’t sure where this law came from, but it’s fun to wonder about its origins. Did a fish snatch a woman’s purse only to never be seen again? Maybe an angry fisherman chased one into the street and caused a scuffle?

Since it’s New Orleans, chances are the fight somehow arose over seafood (did we mention how amazing that mudbug recipe we gave you was?).

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are no longer allowed to chase a fish in a city park at all–regardless of what it did to you or your family.

Bourbon Street sign in New Orleans

#11: Maine – It’s illegal to clean fish on the Kennebec River

Maine. The mere mention of it makes you think of mouthwatering lobster, fresh salmon, and savory clams. Which is why it was so strange to hear of a law that made sure your salmon were as dirty as possible.

Apparently, Kennebec River salmon were so delicious and plentiful, the government of Maine had to think quickly to make sure they all weren’t carted away to be sold in Boston.

Since the river was dirty and you had to clean fish along the riverbank, it became illegal to clean your fish there more than three times per week. It was also illegal to serve them to hired help in the logging camps more than three times per week. The government had hoped this would slow the sale and consumption of this beloved fish. It didn’t.

Even with those regulations, you can still find delicious Maine salmon from London to Lake Charles, Louisiana… thank heavens.

Honorable international mention: We know this was supposed to be about the United States, but there’s one that just has to be shared to be believed. It’s from our old friend and ally–and, at one time, ruler–Great Britain.

Various UK pound notes

#12: The United Kingdom – Her Majesty owns every dolphin and whale in UK waters

The Queen of England is a bit different from the rest of us. She could fire the Australian government if she wanted to. If she fancied the thought, she could claim every swan in the river Thames, as well.

Not only does she rule the waves, she rules everything beneath the waves as, too.

Case in point: Sturgeons, whales, and dolphins, are considered “fishes royal.” This means that any of these fish caught within three miles of British shores belong to the Crown.

This doesn’t affect anglers—usually. Fishermen don’t have to ask the queen to go fishing, but when they sell a sturgeon at port, the purchaser symbolically asks Her Majesty for approval.

If you think the British government doesn’t keep a close eye on this, think again. A Welsh fisherman felt the heavy hand of the law when he sold a rare sturgeon at auction without offering it to her majesty first.

There are some laws that forge the bonds of society, binding us all together so we can live in harmony–and then there are these dozen laughers. We don’t know who, what or even why the heck, but somehow they were signed into being. Just make sure you don’t break any of them next time you head out.

And in case you were wondering, that Connecticut pickle law is 100-percent true–check it out here.