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Ontario Fishing Regulations

If you’re looking for information on Ontario fishing regulations, there’s a wealth of information from the Ministry of Natural Resources. There’s a comprehensive document that runs down everything in detail, and every year you can find a short summary of changes.

If you’re new to fishing in Ontario, the licenses and regulations can seem very daunting, so this article will take you through from getting your license to finally handling the catch.

Fishing Licenses

Fishing LicensesThere are a couple of ways to go about this. If you really like fishing in Ontario and want to do it frequently, you would buy an Outdoors Card, and one of two license tags: Sports Fishing or Conservation.

There are different durations and levels for each of these, but the basic idea is this: with a Sports Fishing tag, you can keep more fish that you catch. Conservation tags are mainly for people who want to do catch-and-release, or casual enthusiasts.

However, if you just want to fish right away and don’t plan on a 3-year long desire, you can opt for a Resident Temporary Outdoors Card and fishing license tag. It’s effective until the end of whatever year you buy it in. If you’re planning a quick vacation with the family and want to get all the paperwork done fast, go to a Service Canada location and get it taken care of!

fishing regulations

You only need a license if you’re above the age of 18, so you don’t have to worry about children!

Seasonal Fishing Regulations

The seasons you can go fishing differ between the species, and the fishing regulations in Ontario have been known to change from year to year; keep up to date with the annual alterations. But let’s say you have your licenses all sorted out and you’re ready to plan your fishing excursion for Pike. Specific dates are sometimes not given: for Pike fishing on Loughborough Lake in 2017, you can fish from January 1 to March 31. After that, you can fish from the second Saturday In May until December 31.

You will want to do your research into your specific area and species for what the best specific months are. Pike are said to be worse off at the beginning of the year because they are post-spawn, and June is the best time to catch adults.

Acceptable Bait

If you’re catching fish for fun and don’t intend to bring them back with you (conservation license), there are a couple things to consider. The first is that you should use artificial bait and a hook without barbs. The reason for this is that it makes removing the hook difficult and you run the risk of seriously damaging the fish; live bait gets the hook too far in. The rules are more lenient for Sport Fishing licenses, but even in that case there is a list of live bait you should consult before you make any decisions.

One hardline rule to follow: don’t go transporting live bait across borders. One of the greatest threats to natural ecosystems is the invasion of unauthorized baitfish species, and you don’t want to end up implicated in a hostile takeover.


fishing lures

Other assorted fishing rules you should know: you can only use artificial lights if they are attached to the lure; you can’t have them on your boat or anywhere else in the water. You are only allowed to have one line in the water at any given time (exceptions exist for ice fishing.) If you are fishing with children, this does not apply (as they do not require a fishing license).

Also with bait, there are certain devices you cannot use under Ontario fishing regulations. For example, explosives. Along with explosives, you cannot use a spring gaff or a snagger. The last one is spear guns: don’t use spear guns or have one within 30 feet of a body of water. You can use a spear, and you can use a bow and arrow, but no spearguns. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, most of these deadly tactics aren’t applicable to catch-and-release.

Size Limits

There are different Ontario fishing regulations for the size of fish you can catch depending on the species and where you are catching it. This is largely done to promote healthy ecosystems (with certain fish, the female is larger, and we need them to keep laying eggs), but also because people are always going after bigger trophy fish and we don’t want to deplete them. If we are using Zone 18 (Eastern Ontario, including Loughborough Lake) there is currently no size restriction on bass fishing (there are, however, restrictions on Walleye, Sunfish, and Sauger.) It is always a good idea to double-check the area you will be fishing in to make sure you adhere to the restrictions.

The Act of Catching

Let’s talk the big moment: catching the fish. Many of these Ontario fishing regulations apply to catch-and-release for the simple fact that we’re trying to limit the amount of damage done to the fish as much as possible. You can refer to the above tips for what sorts of hooks and baits are best used for this, but once you have the thing, there are a few things to remember. First, if you’re angling, you can only catch a fish by the mouth. If you hook a fish anywhere else in the body, it must be immediately thrown back.

If you catch a fish, whether you intend to throw it back or take it back with you, you cannot leave it abandoned. It is against the law to leave a fish to rot if it were fit for human consumption. One exception to this would be if the fish is understood to be an invasive species, in which case the Government of Canada recommends you alert the authorities and actively destroy it.

If you’re out there fishing with the intent to release, a tip: use pliers to remove the hook from the mouth. If by some twist of fate you can’t get the hook out, simply cut the line and throw the fish back. It’s best for everyone. Remember one simple thing: hunt fair, hunt clean.

Possession and Transport

The first Ontario fishing regulation is that you cannot transport live fish without a permit. If you’re transporting the meat, it must be separated and left with the skin on. This is so that a conservation officer, if required, can tell what the species is. You can leave the head on as well; it simply has to be some identifying feature. It’s very easy for fish meat to be clumped together when frozen, making counting and identification nearly impossible. Separate the fillets and make sure they’re frozen flat and you’ll be fine. Why? Because they need to be measurable at all times, especially for species where size limitations are in effect.

For bass fishing in the Loughborough Lake area, in 2017, it stipulates that you can catch and possess 6 with a Sports Fishing license, and 2 with a Conservation license. Once again, these numbers can change annually so keep up to date. Possession regulations are some of the most complicated elements of all Ontario fishing regulations, so it is encouraged to read the Ministry of Natural Resources literature to familiarize yourself with the details.

Let this be a step-by-step guide to planning your next fishing excursion, but it must be said again: make sure you check the details of the Ontario fishing regulations before going out. It could mean the difference between a fun time and a fine.

Contact Loughborough Inn today to find out more about what the area has to offer and additional info regarding the 2014 Ontario Fishing Regulations.

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