Ontario’s catch-and-release regulations may be changing! A bulletin posted on February 17, 2023 on the Environmental Registry of Ontario introduces proposed changes to the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007, an annex of the Fisheries Act. These changes would allow anglers more leeway in photographing, measuring, and weighing their catch before releasing it.
What are the current regulations?
Under the current laws, anglers must immediately release a fish if the retention or possession of that fish is prohibited. This means activities such as weighing, measuring, or photographing your catch is against the rules if that fish is caught out of season, is over your daily catch or possession limit, is of a restricted size, or was improperly hooked (e.g., snagged). The current rules make enforcing seasons, catch, and size restrictions more effective, but they can be a barrier to some fishing activities, fisheries management tools, and the enjoyment of the angling experience.
What are the proposed changes?
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is proposing an opportunity to delay the release of fish caught during a species’ open season. This delay would only be long enough to photograph, measure, and weigh a fish if it is of a restricted size or it is over your daily catch and/or possession limit. Under these proposed changes, any fish that is caught out of season, is a species at risk, or is prohibited under existing recreational fishing rules is required to be released immediately. For full details, refer to the MNRF’s bulletin.
The proposed changes might make competitive catch-photo-release fishing events possible and make citizen science programs more accessible.
Through consultation with experts, the MNRF believes these proposed changes to be relatively low risk to both individual fish and fish populations.
Want to share your thoughts?
While a public consultation is not required for these proposed changes, the MNRF would like your feedback. Are you an angler or someone interested in Ontario’s fisheries? Fill out this survey by April 21, 2023 to share your thoughts!