Are Bait Cannons Legal

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts, and welcome to my post where we will take a look at the use of bait cannons for fishing and ask if they are in fact legal. You see this is another posts that has been promoted by a real life experience when I was walking on the beach the other day and came across a couple who were, shall I say, less than impressed with a guy fishing further along.

“It has to be illegal”, they said as they walked past. “Someone could get hurt”. As I wandered further down the beach, I heard a loud ‘pfffttt’ and noticed he was shooting his bait out into the ocean via an air cannon. I thought these things were just for potatoes (and potato guns are illegal here in the part of Australia that I live in) but he was shooting a ball of live bait out of it instead.

Hence, the question asked by the cranky couple walking the other way – are bait cannons legal? Let’s check it all out.

What are bait cannons?

Bait cannons can come in many shapes and forms but in essence, they are a used to ‘shoot’ objects out of a barrel at a great rate of knots. The most common options here that I have seen are the potato gun model where the cannon is created with conduit with a small firelighter spark device at the end. Aerosol is sprayed into the end and once ignited by the spark it builds enough pressure to shoot the potato (or orange) out of it.

For fishing, you simply replace the potato with a big hunk of bait attached to the hook (obviously) and once the cannon is ignited, it shoots it all out into the water. The process is designed to get your bait out further past the breakers to chase whatever is lurking out there with some capable of reaching distances of over 300 meters (980ft)

This of course can also be carried out via the use of a drone, however this option will obviously work as well.

are bait cannons legal - man with large fish

Do they work for fishing?

I am going to answer this question without the influence of any legal ramifications that we will discuss below but yes, they work and work well. You see in many areas – including my local beach – there are reefs and gullies out past the shore break that you simply can’t get to by casting.

So if this is the case, then you have some options to get your bait out there:

  1. A kayak/boat – you can get into an ocean kayak and take your bait out there.
  2. A drone – if you have a decent drone, you can attach your bait to it and fly it out.
  3. A Slingshot – yep you can slingshot your bait out there too.
  4. A bait launcher/cannon – you can shoot it out there as above.

And as we are discussing option 3 here then the answer is absolutely they do. In fact, the guy on the beach above was landing his bait onto the little reef with ease every time.

There are some issues to consider of course such as ensuring your bait stays intact (most use frozen bait balls) and the line doesn’t get caught or tangled as the cannon is fired but at the end of the day, they can be a very effective tool for surf fishing for sure.

What is the problem?

Let’s start here with the issue my friends on the beach had the other day – “what if he misses and hits someone?”. We will discuss this first.

You see at the end of the day, as its name suggests, a bait cannon is shooting an object at great speed that if misfired, can seriously hurt or even kill somebody. This is the exact reason that potato guns are illegal in this country and heavily regulated in many others.

The second issue here is also that in many cases, they are home made meaning that there is the obvious margin for error on construction as well. Add this to the fact that you are essentially mimicking an internal combustion engine inside a bit of home made plastic pipe hence there is a big chance that the whole thing can simply explode in your hands.

However, there is a possible solution here in that some companies are actually professionally manufacturing bait launchers that are propelled by compressed air rather than the ignition method. There is still the obvious risk of shooting someone however the chances of having the whole thing blow your hands off are all but removed.

are bait cannons legal - fisher with large catch

So, are bait cannons legal?

Now, at the risk of having made you read all of this only to get to the end without a clear answer, it really does depend on where you are. From what I could find, they are definitely not legal in Australia but in most other countries (or states in the U.S.) they are usually designated as firearms meaning:

  • You will generally need a license to own or operate one
  • There are strict regulations on where they can be used
  • They must be used, carried and stored in accordance with local firearms regulations

In some areas, air propelled launchers may also be categorised under the same legislation as air rifles or hunting bows etc. as well.

But in general, before you go out and purchase yourself one of these (I really don’t recommend trying to make your own) then check out the regulations in your local area in respect to firearms, hunting or air powered weapons. They may very well be legal but you may need to register it and get licensed first.


So there it is, my answer to the question as to whether bait cannons are legal. I hope it was helpful and as always, let me know of your experiences here.

Until next time

Have fun


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2 thoughts on “Are Bait Cannons Legal”

  1. Actually pretty useless. Opinion, mostly not backed by regulation and based on incomplete info. Air cannons are not classed as guns…no explosive propellant

    • It is certainly an interesting subject. If you do any base searches most results will say they are illegal however there was a case here in Australia where a judge designated that they are not considered a firearm (I am talking about home made ‘spud’ guns here).

      From what I could find it does comes down to as you say – propellant. Anything that is propelled with an aerosol and a sparking device (must like an internal combustion engine) tends to get thrown into the air gun category from what I have found. Regardless, in the U.S, there are many states that do not class them as illegal, as long as you get a permit – much like a drone or trolling motor I guess


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.