Fishing laws in Ontario are governed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry by the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1997. Ministry officers are specifically tasked with ensuring complete compliance with this act and its associated regulations, and severe fines and penalties can result when infractions occur.
A fishing version of Ontario’s Outdoors Card and a fishing license is required by all people who fish between the ages of 18 and 64. The fine for fishing without a license in Ontario is $200.
Under Ontario law however, Canadian residents can fish in Ontario for free during four times of the year without a license. In 2023, those times occur during the Family Fishing Weekend (February 18-20, 2023), Mother’s Day Weekend (May 13-14), Father’s Day Weekend (June 17-18), and Family Fishing Week (July 1-9).
To manage recreational fishing, the Ministry has divided Ontario into twenty different Fisheries Management Zones (FMZs). Regulations governing fishing seasons and possession limits, waterbody exceptions, restrictions involving use of bait, and fish sanctuaries are outlined below and catalogued in extensive detail in the Ministry’s Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary.
Season status and possession limits for all species are documented within each Zone. All waterbody season and possession limit regulations are governed by the Zone in which they exist, unless otherwise noted in the Species Exceptions or Waterbody Exceptions section of the regulatory summary.
Within a Zone, waterbodies can have unique regulations that differ from other waterbodies in that Zone. These waterbodies are often governed by a combination of exceptions involving bait restrictions and/or fish sanctuaries, and are noted as exceptions in the summary.
In Ontario, the use of live bait is illegal in some waterbodies. These waterbodies are also noted in the Bait Restrictions section of the summary.
Some Ontario waterbodies have been deemed fish sanctuaries, wherein no fishing of any kind is permitted. The names of these waterbodies are listed in the summary’s Fish Sanctuaries section.
Spear guns and snagger hooks are not permitted within thirty meters of any waterbody. Use of artificial lights to attract fish is also prohibited, except when fishing for rainbow smelt, lake whitefish or lake herring. Use of dynamite or other explosives to kill fish is illegal, as is the abandonment of fish left to spoil if suitable for human consumption. As with hunting, severe fishing fines and even jail time can be imposed depending on the offence.