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Fishing Questions



Question Re: Reporting offences when government offices are closed
I fish a lot during the early morning and late evening periods, when fish are most active. Government offices are closed when most of the fishing is going on. If I see someone breaking the law is there someone I can call after hours and on weekends?


Conservation Officers get tremendous help and cooperation from the general public. People who are active in the outdoors are the eyes and ears of Conservation Officers and the knowledge that others may be watching acts as a deterrent to those who would break our natural resources laws.


You can help protect our natural resources by reporting violations as soon as possible after you see them being committed or hear of them happening. The Ministry of Natural Resources has established a very effective reporting system called the TIPS Line; it's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.


You can do your part by calling: 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).



Question Re: Catch and Release fishing
I'm a catch and release fisher, if I go out fishing today and release all the fish I catch do I have to stop fishing once I catch my limit?


No, there is no limit on the number of fish a person can catch and release in a day provided the season is open and the method of fishing is lawful. If a fish is caught and immediately released at boat-side, or netted and returned to the water as soon as the hooks are removed, it does not count as part of the daily limit as the fish has not been retained.


There is however a limit on the number of fish that a person may catch and retain during the day. If a fish is caught and kept in a live-well, bucket or on a stringer temporarily that fish has been retained and is counted as part of a person's daily limit, even if that fish is later released where a larger fish is caught.


This concept also applies to fish which are caught and eaten or given away; fish which are caught and eaten as part of a shore lunch, or given away are part of the daily catch limit and affect how many fish a person may catch and retain later in the same day.


Question Re: Daily Catch
If I went fishing for bass yesterday and kept my limit can I keep the bass that I catch today?


How many fish a person may keep depends on how many fish of that species they already have in their possession. Keep in mind that fish limits, both daily limits and possession limits, can be either about species (like yellow perch or northern pike) or a combination of species (like largemouth and smallmouth bass together or walleye and sauger together).


Possession limits are the number of fish a person can have in their possession in any location whether the fish are live in a live-well or in a refrigerator freezer at home or at a fishing lodge.


If all of the bass that were caught yesterday (a limit) are still in your possession today you may not catch and retain any more bass. You may practice catch and release fishing for bass as long as you immediately return any bass you catch to the water you caught them from.


Typically fish are out of your possession once they have been released, eaten or given away. Generally, the daily catch and retain limit is the same number of fish as the possession limit.



Question Re: Sharing Catch
My neighbours don't fish but they do like a meal of fish once in a while. Can I share my catch with them?


Yes you can share your catch with others. This is a common practice since not everyone has the time, equipment or the interest to go fishing.


As long as the fish have been caught legally they can be given away by you and possessed by another person. No licences are required to receive fish from someone else. A person who receives fish from someone else must keep in mind that possession limits do apply to them and that the fish must remain readily identifiable and countable until they are prepared for immediate consumption. This means that cleaning whole fish is fine as long as a generous piece of skin is left attached to the fillet (enough to allow for easy identification) and the fish are not frozen into ball or in bag of ice making them difficult to count.


It is a wise idea for anyone receiving fish from another person to make a note of who gave them the fish and when. Always remember that giving fish away only affects your possession limit, not the number of fish a person can catch and retain in a day.



Question Re: Transporting cleaned fish
Some people tell me I have to leave a square inch of skin on my fish fillets; others tell me I have to leave all the skin on my fillets. What are the rules about cleaning fish?


From the moment a fish is caught until it is prepared for consumption it may be inspected by a Conservation Officer. The Conservation Officer will be looking to ensure that seasons, size limits, daily catch limits and possession limits are being respected. Since seasons, size limits, daily catch limits and possession limits relate to species (and sometimes groups of species) how fish are handled and stored is very important.


In some cases officers are inspecting hundreds of fish at a time at the road-side or at a check-station. This means that fish being transported must be kept in a condition so that they can be easily identified and counted. Even fish that have no limits or seasons must meet this requirement, how else will an officer be able to separate them from similar fish that have seasons and limits?


The ready identification of fish requires that enough skin be left attached to a fillet that it can be identified at a glance. This skin needs to be evident through any packaging material that is used; clear plastic bags or wrap is recommended.


Always keep in mind that possession limits for fish apply to individual people. Fish belong to one person should travel with that person when a party is travelling in more than one vehicle.


Since catch and possession limits apply to most species of fish the officer will also need to count the fish or fish fillets. One of the more common errors made is to freeze a number of fish or fillets together in a lump making them impossible to count without first thawing them. The most effective way to meet this requirement is to freeze fish or fillets singly in clear plastic bags or wrap.


Where size limits apply a fish must be kept measurable while on the waterbody it is taken from. Measurable means that the fish intact from the head to tail, although the gills and entrails may be removed. Once off the water and the fish is being prepared for consumption, storage or overland transportation the fish may be cleaned, as long as it remains identifiable and countable.


SEE ALSO: Transporting Sport Fish in Ontario.



Question Re: Accessing fishing opportunities
Most of the land around where I live is private property. Can I cross private property to get to a stream, river or lake?


This is a complex area but the most important idea to keep in mind is that the relationship between landowners and the recreational public is very important and must be kept positive and respectful.


In this discussion we will use the term occupier because it describes both the land owner and others who may have legal occupation of the land and the authority to control some or all access.


When it comes to crossing private lands to access fishing opportunities the property occupier has the first and last word about who can enter the property. It is up to the occupier to allow or restrict entry onto their property or to allow or restrict the activities that occur on that property.


In general terms anyone may enter onto private property to do anything which is lawful without occupier permission unless the entrant has been given notice that entry is prohibited. So, a privately owned bush lot is available to the general public until the occupier notifies people otherwise. The occupier has a number of options when it comes to letting people know that entry is prohibited or that activities are restricted.


Notice - Signs
The most common method used by occupiers to restrict access is by posting signs. The message on the signs can be written or a picture representation of the activity which is prohibited. If a sign prohibits one activity specifically then all others are permitted. For example, if hunting is specifically prohibited then hiking or fishing is permitted.


Notice - Coloured Marking
Another common method of notice is coloured markings. You will often see red or yellow dots painted on trees or fence posts on a property boundary. A red coloured marker indicates that the occupier is restricting all access; entry is prohibited. A yellow coloured marker indicates that entry is permitted but that there are conditions on the activities that are allowed. Perhaps all-terrain vehicles are restricted while bicycles are allowed. It is now up to the entrant to locate the occupier and determine what the conditions of entry are.


Notice - Oral or Written
Entrants may be simply told by the occupier that they cannot enter onto the property or that a particular activity is prohibited. Sometimes the occupier may put the notice in writing to establish a record of his or her wishes.


Notice - Other Forms
There is a long list of other things which are forms of notice and must be considered the occupiers intention to restrict entry on property. This list includes:

  • Maintained fences and gates;
  • Land under cultivation;
  • Orchards;
  • Planted trees under 2 metres in height; and
  • Established lawns and gardens


When it comes to signs, coloured markings and fences (gates) the occupier is only required to place them at the normal access point to the property. Generally that will be a laneway, private roadway or trail. There might only be one sign prohibiting entry on a very large, undeveloped woodlot for example. It is the responsibility of the entrant to determine whether or not the occupier intends to restrict access to the property and where the property boundaries are; the occupier is not responsible for marking the entire property boundary.


And finally, even if a property is posted the occupier still has the choice to allow entry or to allow a prohibited activity to occur. What this means is that the occupier can fish on a property posted to prohibit fishing and the occupier can permit others to enter the property to fish as well.


Remember to ask; always be courteous and respectful.


Question Re: Fishing From the Water Near the Shore or close to a Dock
Some of the best places to find fish are in the near-shore areas, especially where there are undercut banks and docks that provide shade. Can I fish in these areas?


The Ministry of Natural Resources recognizes the interests of private land owners and recreational fishing enthusiasts and encourages respect and cooperation between them.


Generally, naturally occurring and man-made watercourses that are navigable, and that have legal access points, are open to the public for boating regardless of ownership of the bed of the water body. Most docks, marinas and lagoons constructed on lakes and rivers would fit this description.


Ontario's fish resources are managed by the government for the benefit of the public and as such are not the property of individual landowners whose property they may associate with while near the shoreline, in lagoons or under the docks of marinas.


Equally important is the landowner's right to control access to, and the use of, private property. A person with control of a property may allow or exclude access to that property, or put conditions on the entry to the property. In the case of a dock, while a fisher may cast from a boat for fish under the dock he or she may need to consult the dock owner before standing on the dock to angle for the same fish.


Likewise property owners have the right to use their property without unusual interference. A person owning property on a water body expects a reasonable amount of boating and fishing activity near-by, however they do not expect someone to fish persistently on their shoreline for long uninterrupted periods of time.


Both landowners and the outdoors public must be reasonable and respectful in exercising their rights and obligations.



Question Re: Catch and Release
I often see bass in the shallow waters early in the summer but before the season opens. Can I practice catch and release fishing during the closed season as long as I immediately return the fish to the water.


The question is often asked whether or not a person can catch and release fish during the closed season. The answer is no, it is unlawful to target (fish for) closed season fish. Different fish species occupy different habitats and employ different feeding strategies; this is why fishing for bass requires different tackle and methods than fishing for lake trout. Fishers are expected to alter their fishing methods to suit legally targeted species and avoid out of season fish.


Occasionally non-target species are caught, when this happens anglers are legally required to release the fish immediately back into the waters where it was caught and in a manner that causes the least harm to the fish. When non-target fish are caught the angler should re-assess the location, tackle and fishing methods they are using. It may be advisable to alter one or more of these variables to avoid catching out of season fish.



Question Re: Using Fish Roe for Bait
Fishing with single fish eggs or roe bags is very effective at times during the fall salmon run. Can I use the eggs from fish that I catch as bait?


Fish roe (eggs) is common bait especially for salmon and trout fishing. The using of roe is not restricted by any laws provided that there is no prohibition against using organic bait the area you are fishing (areas where artificial lure or artificial fly may only be sued).


Fish roe may be legally stripped (taken) from fish that are legally caught provided that the fish itself is not discarded and wasted. You may also give fish roe to other anglers for their use but an angler may not sell, trade or barter fish or fish parts including the eggs. Only the holder of a commercial fish licence or an aquaculture licence may sell fish roe.


Question Re: Dumping Bait
I often use live minnows I buy from the local tackle store for bait when I go fishing. At the end of my fishing day is there any problem with dumping my bait bucket into the lake?


The commercial harvest of bait-fish occurs in waters across Ontario; those bait-fish are then transported to retail outlets, sometimes many miles from their waters of origin.


The careful use of live bait-fish is not unlawful in most Ontario waters; however the remaining unused bait-fish must not be released alive. It is illegal to introduce any fish from one body of water to another without a permit; this is true whether the fish is a bass, a perch, a brook trout or a minnow.


Although there may already be some species of minnows occurring in the lake you fish in, they may be of a very different species than those introduced and may pose some very significant risks to the local lake ecology.


Many anglers will drain their minnow bucket on-shore then bag and quickly freeze the excess minnows for use another day. Better still; catch your own bait from the lake you intend to fish.



Question Re: Licence after Age 65?
I'll be turning 65 next year, I know I won't need a licence anymore but do I have to carry identification to prove my age?


It's an interesting fact that all residents fishing in Ontario need a fishing licence. The regulations however allow that the birth certificate of a resident who is younger than 18 years or who is older 65 is considered to be a licence in the absence of a fishing licence.


This means that qualified people who want to take advantage of this must carry their birth certificate and provide it to a Conservation Officer when asked. Fishing licences and birth certificates are important documents and as such they should be carefully protected. There are many waterproof, secure carrying pouches available at sporting goods stores today that would be ideal for storing and carrying outdoors documents.



Question Re: Private Property
I own a large parcel of land with a good sized spring-fed pond on it, the pond drains off of my land into a near-by river. I know there are fishing the pond, do I need a licence to fish in the pond and do the seasons apply on my property?


Because your pond has an outflow the laws requiring a licence and the various fishing seasons would apply to your pond. The Ontario Fishery Regulations, which contain the rules for sport fishing in Ontario, apply to all water in the province with the exception of National Parks, waters that are licenced under an aquaculture licence and waters that occur on private lands that meet all of the following conditions:

  • The waters are not on a regional flood plain,
  • The waters lie wholly on privately owned land,
  • The waters are not connected to natural waters,
  • The waters contain water from run-off, springs, ground water or water pumped from a stream or lake; AND
  • The waters have been artificially created.


If the pond meets all of the list above the fish must then come from a licenced aquaculture facility or a licenced commercial fish operation; they cannot be caught by sport-fishing and transferred to the pond.