As of November 26, 2018, the new fish and wildlife licensing service and regulations are in effect.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has introduced a new fishing and hunting online licensing service – https://www.huntandfishontario.com .
There are new rules and regulations for Ontario anglers and hunters now. The pervious licensing service is no longer available.
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; Fish and Wildlife Service Branch
Important extracts from the official sources:
A number of rules and regulations for fishing in Ontario have been changed.
You’ll get one version of the Outdoors Card
- there won’t be three separate cards for fishing, hunting or apprentice hunters – but you’ll still need to carry your Outdoors Card
- your Outdoors Cards issued before November 19 will be valid until their expiry date
- we’ll track hunter accreditation in the new licensing website to determine what licence you can buy
- if you’re hunting with a gun, you must carry your firearms licence – or proof that you completed the Canadian firearms safety course – and present it to a conservation officer upon request
- small game and fishing licences can still be printed on the back of your Outdoors Card
You’ll get one licence summary that lists all your valid fishing and hunting products
There won’t be multiple formats of your licences. Instead you:
- will get your licence summary as soon as you buy it, either online, at licence issuers or at ServiceOntario locations – you will not receive anything in the mail
- will have the option to print your licence summary at home, have a licence issuer or ServiceOntario print it for you, or carry it in a digital format on your smartphone
- must carry your licence summary when hunting or fishing, unless your licence is listed on the back of your Outdoors card (for example, small game or fishing)
As of January 1, 2019 – more hunting regulations come into effect
A number of rules and regulations for hunting will change in 2019.
In Ontario, there are fishing limits, size restrictions and catch and release that regulate the size and legal number of fish you can catch and keep, and how to properly return fish to the water.
LAWS / RULES
By law, there are set limits and restrictions on the fish you can legally catch and keep in Ontario.
Each species has its own limits and restrictions for what you can keep, depending on:
- the type of fishing licence you bought (conservation or sport fishing)
- the fishing zone and waterbody
- size of the fish
- the time of year
There are 3 kinds of limits and restrictions on what you can catch and keep for a particular species:
- catch limits
- possession limits
- size restrictions
You must immediately release any fish that exceed the size restrictions and catch and possession limits.
It is against the law to destroy or allow fish suitable for food to spoil.
You can find a complete set of rules related to size, catch and possession limits in 2 sections of the Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary:
- Season and Limits section (for zone-wide limits)
- Exceptions to the Zone Regulations (exceptions for individual waterbodies)
CATCH AND POSSESSION LIMIT
Catch and possession limits are set to:
- protect fish populations against overfishing
- give all anglers a fair share of the fisheries resources
The number of fish you can catch and keep in a day. It includes:
- fish you don’t release right away
- fish you eat
- fish you give away
Your daily catch limit counts towards your possession limit.
The total number of a species of fish that you can have in your possession at any time. It includes fish caught today and in the past, whether they are:
- freshly landed
- in your car or boat
- in your cooler
- at home in your fridge or freezer
Your possession limit does not include fish you have:
- given away
Unless stated otherwise in the fishing regulations summary, the catch limit and the possession limit are the same.
How to read the limits:
S-4; none between 70-90cm (27.6-35.4in.) not more than 1 greater than 90 cm (35.4in.)
- for anglers with a sport fishing licence
- catch and possession limit of 4
- only 1 fish can be longer than 90 cm
- immediately release any fish you catch between 70-90 cm long
C-1; any size
- for anglers with a conservation licence
- catch and possession limit of 1
- no size restriction
If the limit is 0, you may only practise catch and release. (You must immediately release any of this species back into the water without harming the fish.)
Restrictions on the size of fish that you can keep. They cover only the named species. Size restrictions may identify:
- fish longer or shorter than a specified length
- fish between or outside specified lengths (known as slot size)
Fisheries managers set size limits to:
- protect fish until they reach spawning size
- protect prime spawning size fish
- improve the size of fish in fish populations
How to measure a fish
To find the length of a fish:
- measure from the tip of the mouth with the jaws closed to the tip of the tail
- compress the tail fin lobes to give the maximum possible length
You need to release any fish you don’t want to eat or take home. You can only release fish that will survive. It is against the law to allow fish suitable for food to spoil.
If you catch a fish after you have already reached your daily catch or possession limit for that species, you must release it immediately. Any fish you do not release become part of your daily catch limit.
When you must release a fish
Some fish must be immediately released in the manner that causes the least harm to the fish. These include:
- fish caught during a closed season
- fish that exceed your limit
- fish that are restricted in size
- protected species
- fish hooked anywhere other than the mouth
Culling and livewells
Culling means swapping a fish you’ve already caught for a different one to maximize the size of your catch or to selectively harvest fish of a certain size.
In most cases, fish you do not release immediately become part of your daily catch limit.
Under certain conditions for certain species, anglers can cull (selectively hold and release) more fish than their daily limit:
- The fish must be held in a livewell, a tank used to keep fish alive. The livewell must meet these conditions:
- attached to or part of the boat
- holds at least 46 litres (10 gallons) of water
- capacity for water exchange
- mechanically aerates the water whenever it holds live fish
- drained before leaving the water body
- Culling is only allowed with these species:
- northern pike
- largemouth and smallmouth bass
- You may catch, hold in a livewell and release more than your daily limit for these species as long as:
- none of the fish exceed the size limits
- you never exceed your daily limit of northern pike or walleye, or 6 smallmouth and largemouth bass (in any combination), at one time
- any fish you release are likely to survive
Example: You are holding your daily catch limit of 6 bass in the livewell of your boat. You continue fishing, and catch a bass larger than 1 of the 6 you are holding in the livewell. You safely release the smaller fish, and put the larger bass in the livewell.
Catch and release fishing
Many anglers today practice catch and release fishing. This eco-friendly fishing practice returns fish quickly and safely to the water.
Catch and release fishing is good for the fish and good for the angler, for many reasons:
- no lake has a limitless supply of fish
- reduces the effects of fishing pressure
- improves angling success for future fishing trips
- extends fishing when anglers have caught their limit
- allows larger fish to spawn again and be caught again
Choosing what to keep
It takes many years for some species to reach spawning size. The biggest fish often have the most and the largest eggs and carry the genes to grow to large sizes. Releasing these prime spawners helps to sustain the fish population.
It’s perfectly okay to keep some of the fish you catch for the table and release the rest. This is called selective harvest. When choosing, it is better to:
- keep a few of the averaged-sized fish
- release most or all of the larger ones
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL CATCH AND RELEASE
Use the following techniques to improve survival rates:
- release fish quickly
- handle them properly
- avoid deeply hooking fish
- choose the right tackle for the fish you’re targeting to reduce fight times and stress
- set the hook right after a strike, especially when using live, organic or soft plastic baits that fish tend to swallow
Handling the fish
- keep fish in the water as much as possible
- if you need a landing net, use one that is coated or rubberized
- wet your hands, or use wetted fish-handling gloves
- don’t touch a fish’s gills or eyes
- hold the fish horizontally and support its belly
- do not suspend fish vertically, especially large fish
- photograph fish in the water when possible, and be sure to have your camera ready before you hook the fish
- if possible, remove hooks while fish are in the water
- use pliers to take the hook out as quickly and safely as possible
- if the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line or the hook shank and leave the hook in place
Releasing the fish
- lower fish gently into the water — don’t just drop them
- if a fish can’t swim away immediately, support it in the water until it swims off on its own
- never place fish intended for release on a stringer or in a live-holding basket
- quickly release fish caught in deep water — 8 metres (30 feet) or more
- avoid fishing for spiny-rayed species like bass and walleye in deep water if you intend to release them
- don’t put fish caught in deep water in a livewell — they may not be able to equalize quickly
Updated: November 26, 2018
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; Fish and Wildlife Service Branch