Recreational Fishing Laws

Dayana Moreno

Recreational fishing is something enjoyed by many in Canada. But regardless of whether you are fishing in British Columbia or Nova Scotia, it is the responsibility of the angler to ensure they fish within the law.  The Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary outlines the recreational fishing laws in Canada. Here are some of the highlights:

Other than your rod and some bait, another important item anglers must have in order to go fishing, is a license. Remember to always carry your license with you. As a resident of Canada, your Outdoors Card must have a fishing license tag attached to it in order to be a valid license.

18 to 65 year old Canadian residents may apply for this non-transferable card by requesting an application form that will be mailed to you after phoning the Outdoors Card Centre from anywhere in Canada at 1-800-387-7011. The card is good for three years.   

If you do not live in Canada, you need a non-resident license to fish in Ontario.

Open Seasons
Fishing season opening and closing dates vary depending on the species and the area. It is illegal to attempt to catch fish for which the season is closed, even if you are going to release them. Closed seasons protect fish at vulnerable times of the year, especially when they are spawning or protecting their young. There are however, some species that have a year-round open season.

Catch and Possession Limits
Fishery laws limit the number of fish you may catch or possess. The number depends on the type of license you hold, the species, where they are caught and, in some cases, their size. If you catch a fish after reaching the daily catch and retain or possession limit for that species, the fish must be released immediately back to the water.

Size Limits
A variety of size restrictions apply to some species and waterbodies. Unless otherwise stated, size limits refer to total length, which is a measure from the tip of the mouth with the jaws closed to the tip of the tail, with the tail fin lobes compressed to give the maximum possible length.

Packaging, Transporting
Many anglers travel long distances or cross international borders to enjoy the adventure of fishing in Ontario. If you are packaging fish for the trip home, you must follow numerous strict guidelines.

When you are exporting, transporting or storing fish, you must ensure that the fish can be easily identified and counted. And no live fish or live spawn may be transferred from one body of water to another without the authorization of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Gear Restrictions
An angler may use only one line (except when it comes to ice fishing).

A fishing line must not have more than four hooks. Where an artificial lure is used, each double or treble hook attached to it is considered to be one hook. In all other situations, a double hook counts as two hooks; and a treble hook counts as three hooks.

In most waters where barbless hooks are required, a line must have no more than one barbless hook attached to it. Usually this will be either a single, double or triple pointed hook. Any extra hooks must be removed from lures.

Use of Bait
In most areas of Ontario, only the following fish may be used as bait:

        Minnow family (except carp, goldfish, cutlips minnow, redside dace, lake         chubsucker, and gravel chub).
        Mudminnows, white sucker, sticklebacks, darters (except eastern sand darter),
        trout-perch and sculpins.
        Lake herring.

Leeches, worms, northern leopard frogs may also be used as bait. Although salamanders may not be used as bait in Ontario, artificial salamander lures may be used.

If you are planning on capturing your own bait keep in mind that only resident anglers with a valid Ontario fishing license may capture their own bait-fish for personal use, using a bait-fish trap or dip net. They may have no more than 120 bait-fish caught under the authority of a valid fishing license in their possession at any time.

Non-resident anglers cannot take bait-fish for personal use by any means.
Only resident anglers with a valid fishing license may capture their own leeches (no more than 120) for personal use.

Resident and non-resident anglers with a valid fishing license may capture in one day or at any time possess no more than 12 northern leopard frogs for their own use. They may catch and retain bullfrogs and snapping turtles during open seasons but Blanchard's cricket frog, Fowlers toad, and the gray tree frog are specially protected amphibians in Ontario and may not be captured or used as bait.

There are no restrictions on the capture of worms for use as bait.

It is illegal to bring live fish, leeches, crayfish or salamanders into Ontario for use as bait. And anglers must remember NOT release live bait into waters other than the waterbody where the bait was originally captured.

The Law and Penalties
According to the Ministry of Natural resources "Both federal and provincial laws regulate fishing in Ontario. The main federal law with respect to fishing is the Fisheries Act, which protects and conserves fish and fish habitat. The Fisheries Act also regulates such things as fishing seasons, catch and possession limits, size limits, allowable gear and fish sanctuaries. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act is the main provincial law regulating fishing. Fishing licenses are issued under this act.

The penalties for fishing offences can be up to $1,000,000 or three years imprisonment, or both, depending on the Act and the severity of the offence.

So, before you throw your line into any of Canada's waters, be sure to follow the law to guarantee yourself a pleasurable fishing experience.

All of the above information has been gathered from:

Please refer to the Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary for more information
You can obtain a copy of the Summary from your nearest MNR Office or by downloading a PDF copy from the Ministry of Natural Resources website.

Get more information on the Outdoors Card by calling the Outdoors Card Centre at 1-800-387-7011 . This toll-free number works from all regions of Canada, from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

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