Ontario Fishing

We don't have to have an "annual fishing trip to Canada" - we have it year-round! A survey showed fishing was America's 5th most poular sports activity, and tops all other water sports. Powerboating was #10, canoeing #33, waterskiing #35, and sailing #44.

Ontario fishing is regulated by federal and provincial laws. The Fisheries Act of Canada protects and conserves fish stocks, and the Ontario Game and Fish Act deals with licences. Residents between 18 and 64 need a licence to fish in Ontario. People from outside Ontario need a Non-Resident Sport Fishing Licence.

You may purchase any fishing licence at local Ontario MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) offices, tourist outfitters, bait shops, and sporting goods dealers. You may buy an Outdoors & Fishing Licence at any of 60 ServiceOntario kiosks or phone toll-free any time 800-288-1155. For the Outdoors Card & Hunting/Fishing version, phone 800-387-7011. You may download and save a ministry-provided PDF copy for you phone instead of carrying a plastic card. See our Government Directory: Ontario for more information and The Guide to Eating Ontario Fish.



There are some excerpts from the Regulations. Ontarian residents from 18 to 64 years of age have to buy a licence fish. There are excemptions for "disabled persons", children under 18, people 65 years and older, and Status Indians.

Residents (people who resided in Ontario at least 7 months during the previous 12) may buy a Standard Fishing Licence or a Resident Conservation Licence. An Outdoor Card is a Conservation License good for 3 years. Residents outside Ontario may buy these licences, but the disability exemptions do not apply.

Residents may also buy a combined hunting/fishing licence on one "smart" card. (Anglers get a different card from Natural Resources Canada.)


Americans who fish in Canadian waters require a Canadian Outdoors Card (valid for three years), the same as for Canadian residents.

Americans may take a U.S. state-registered boat into Canada for up to 45 consecutive days without requiring a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

In Ontario, only two rods per angler are allowed when fishing from a boat, except in the Detroit River, where limit is one line. Limits and sizes are different in Ontario than in Great Lake states. (For all fishing regulations see our Government Directory: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)

Non-Canadian visitors should read the U.S. visitors page.

Non-residents fishing in Canada can no longer take baitfish. They must buy minnows from local dealers.


The Canadian Outdoors Card (valid for three years) can be ordered by phoning 1-800-667-1940 using a credit card. An Ontario Fishing Licence can be ordered at the same time - a regular licence, a conservation licence, an 8-day licence or a one-day licence (which does not require the Outdoors Card). The cards may take many weeks to arrive by mail. You may also purchase fishing licence and pick up a free copy of the Sport Fishing Regulations Summary for Ontario at tourist outfitters, sporting goods dealers, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources offices. [Government Directory: Ontario]

A Conservation license permits you to keep 2 for most general types such as Bass. Other limits: 2 Salmon/Trout combined, 1 Lake Trout, 12 Whitefish, 25 Yellow Perch, 10 Crappie. There are other like Muskellunge, Atlantic salmon, and Aurora Trout that you are not allowed to keep any (if you can ever catch one!). Any catch that exceeds limits must be quickly and carefully released. It's also illegal to catch fish below a canal, dam or fishway. Read the Regulations for a complete summary!

Carry that card when you go fishing! It's an offence to not hand over the licence card if asked by a conservation officer. A sport-fishing licence allows a visitor to fish with hook and line and sometimes you can use a spear or bow in certain areas. A licence allows you to catch baits except in provincial parks.

Fisheries officers have broad powers. They may enter any premise, vehicles or boat without a search warrant to look for an illegal catch of fish! Any equipment used by a person committing an infraction can be confiscated by an officer. They may seize tackle, cars and boats!

Card Renewals

Renew your Outdoors Card is easy. Gather your Outdoors Card and Visa/MasterCard and phone 1-800-288-1155 (24-hours a day). You can also renew at one of the 60 ServiceOntario Kiosks for renewing licences.

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.


Everyone has the same rights and responsibilities, including limits on fish. Catch limit is the number of fish you are allowed to catch and keep in one day, including those you ate. Possession limits include fish in your boat, in your freezer at home, in your car.

It is illegal to catch, possess, or "try to catch" an illegal fish. You must immediately release an illegal fish to the water (see below). Penalties are fines up to $500,000, prison term up to 2 years, or both. The penalty for harming fish habitat, including placing harmful substances in the water, is a fine up to a million dollars or prison up to 3 years, or both.

Did you know that the large mouth bass is actually a member of the sunfish family?


In Ontario, it is illegal to buy, sell, or possess live Asian carps. Conservation officers spend approximately 2,000 hours a year on inspections, covering dozens of wholesale and import companies that work through more than a thousand different locations.

Ensure the Survival of the Fish

Here are a few ideas:

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

How to Release a Fish

Fishing and Regulations

While fishing from shore allows you to catch fish well in many areas, using a boat can open up new opportunites. Boats let you fish in a much larger area, and carry more gear in comfort (or not, if you don't have canvas). Your choice of fishing boats is determined by factors such as where you fish, what gear you carry, and money - yes, it always comes down to money doesn't it?

A popular fishing boat would be a 16-foot aluminum boat with an outboard motor. A good 14-foot boat could handle two or three people and their gear. A 6 or 9 HP outboard motor will provide the power you need to get to your favourite fishing spot or for trolling. Small aluminum boats can be carried on top of your car. Larger or heavier boats will need a trailer. These can handle boats up to 25 feet.

Anglers should be aware that an Pleasure Craft Operator Card is required for operators of all boats with a motor (fuel and electric).

Anglers should also have all the required safety equipment for their size of boat. This could include PFDs (lifejackets), oars, anchors, bailing devices, whistle, horn, lights, watertight flashlight, flares, and fire extinguishers. (More info)

Oh, and don't forget to put the life jackets on BEFORE you all end up in the water and drown.

"There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot."   -- Steven Wright


Ministry of Natural Resources
MNR Toll-free 1-800-267-7901
MNR Ottawa 613-258-8204
MNR Toronto 705-740-1529
MNR Toronto (fisheries) 416-314-2000
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters 705-748-6324
Association of Conservation Authorities of Ontario 705-749-9131

Economics of Recreational Fishing in Ontario: $629.2 million purchases by Ontario anglers, $41.3 million visitors, 39,800 person-years employed. (MNR Ontario)

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