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Reading the Ontario Fishing Regulations

How to Read the Ontario Fishing Regulations

Knowing the fishing regulations in your area can help you have a successful fishing day and avoid the steep fines if ever a conservation officer comes by to say hello. This is money you can use to get fishing equipment, lures, or flies. Although this is for Ontario Fishing Regulations, the same method may apply when reading the regulations for other areas. Always check your local regulations before fishing.

Click here to see a list of hunting and fishing fines.

Keep reading below for a guide on how to read the fishing regulations.

Where to Find the Fishing Regulations

The full regulations can be found in the link below:

From there, you can find all the information you need for the area you're planning to fish.

Sections to Check Before Fishing

    General Fishing Regulations

This will contain  the general rules that applies to all zones. This section contains the glossary of terms, general prohibitions (what is illegal to do), provincial possession limits, and more.

    Bait, Invasive Species and VHS Section

Some places only allows artificial lures or flies, some allow live bait. A general guideline can be found here on what bait to use legally. This prevents the spread of invasive species that may affect the fishing quality of the area. Make sure to read this thoroughly to avoid fines. 


1. Find where you will fish in the Fisheries Management Zones Map

The first thing you need to determine is the zone you will be fishing. The Fisheries Management Zones Map will help you identify the zone you want to fish in and the page where the information is for the particular zone.

2. Read General Information

The second step is to check the General Information Section for that particular zone. These are rules that apply to the zone you plan on fishing in addition to the General Fishing regulations. 

3. Zone-Wide Seasons and Limits

The next section covers what you can catch at what time of year and the possession limits. As example below, Lake Sturgeon is closed all year for this zone, where as Brook Trout and Crappie are open all year with a limit of 2 Brook Trout and 5 Crappie for those who hold a Conservation License "C", "S" means Sports License. Lake Trout however is only opened from January 1 to September 30 and has a size limit for Sports License holders. Be sure to check this if you plan on keeping your catch.

4. Species Exceptions

The Species Exceptions section will contain information specifically for a certain of species, and may include a specified location. That's a whole lot of "specs"! This section may also contain the "Additional Fishing Opportunities" where a special rule is applied to a water body and/or species.

5. Water body Exceptions

Here you will find rules specific to the water body. It may be a Fish Sanctuary at a certain time of year or a species may only be open for a period of time. See the example below and be sure to check this before you go fishing.

6. Bait Restrictions

This lists the bait you can or cannot use for the specified water body. Most areas in this section does not allow live bait. Information here might be similar to the water body exception with minor differences.

7. Fish Sanctuaries

The Fishing Sanctuaries section gives use a list of water bodies that are closed to fishing, whether all year round or a specified time. Fishing sanctuaries may cost you a huge fine, so be sure to check this section and ensure your target lake is not in this list.


Knowing the regulations can save you a ton of headache figuring out where to fish legally while saving you time. You can narrow down your target area based on the restrictions and plan the type of fishing you will have to use. Also, the regulations change every year. The changes may be big or minor, either way you need to check the regulation every year so that you are aware of what to expect when fishing.

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