Two men prepare boats and gear for a fishing adventure on a Northern Ontario lake.

Gogama | Mark Melnyk

Everything you need to know about fishing in Ontario

Two men prepare boats and gear for a fishing adventure on a Northern Ontario lake.

Gogama | Mark Melnyk

There are hundreds of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams in Ontario that off exceptional multi-species angling opportunities. There are also thousands of fishing lodges, guides and outfitters across the province.

With seemingly countless options, where does an angler begin to plan a fishing trip in Ontario? Get started with these questions and answers.

Ontario fishing licence and regulations

Is a licence required to fish in Ontario?

Yes, for the most part. Almost everyone who chooses to fish in Ontario will require a valid Ontario fishing license.

Fishing licences are categorized into two categories: sportfishing and conservation licenses.

A sportfishing license allows anglers to retain and possess the maximum number of fish allowed per zone per species whereas a conservation license has a limit to the number of fish retained and possessed by an angler based on angling zone and species.

A fishing licence is not required in a few instances. Regardless of residency status, anglers under eighteen or sixty-five and older may use a federal-issued identification card as a licence.

Persons who require the direct assistance of another person to fish and to follow applicable laws due to a disability defined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Ontario residents who are active members or veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces can use their service card or documentation of service as a valid license.

There are four times in the year when Canadian and Ontario residents are permitted to fish without a license, these are:

  • Family Fishing Weekend (February 17–19, 2024)
  • Mother’s Day Weekend (May 11–12, 2024)
  • Father’s Day Weekend (June 15–16, 2024)
  • Ontario Family Fishing Week (June 29–July 7, 2024)

Get all the licence and regulation information you need to fish in Ontario.

What is the penalty for fishing without a licence in Ontario?

Anglers, residents and non-residents in Ontario who fail to produce a licence when asked by a conservation officer face a fine of $155.

Conservation officers may also seize angling gear as it relates to the commission of the offence.

Can an angler fish with two lines in Ontario?

Anglers fishing from a boat are permitted to fish with two lines in parts of the Great Lakes in Ontario. Two lines are also allowed when ice fishing in some areas.

A fishing line must not have more than four hooks attached.

Up to three lines are permitted for anglers fishing for carp in fish management zones twelve through twenty.

Get more details on general fishing regulations in Ontario.

Fishing hours and seasons

Is fishing at night permitted in Ontario?

No. Generally, it is illegal to fish between sunset and sunrise.

There are very few exceptions, however, which are identified in the Ontario Fishing Regulations.

What are fish seasons in Ontario?

Ontario is divided into different zones that each have specific fishing seasons. Learn about the fishing season for each zone in Ontario.

Fish season opening and closing dates vary depending on the species and the area.

Dates are inclusive-all dates including the first and last dates stated in the summary are open or closed.

It is illegal to attempt to catch fish for which the season is closed, even if you are going to release them. Unless stated otherwise, species that are not listed, such as Rock Bass have a year-round open season for angling.

What should an angler do if a fish is caught out of season?

A fish caught out of season should be immediately released back into the water.

All fish that are caught outside of the fishing season, are of a prohibited size, exceed the catch maximum and possession limits are not legal to possess. In these cases, you must release it at the place and time of capture. This includes fish that may be injured during catch.

Note that taking a photo of a fish caught unlawfully or illegal to possess is also not permitted.

This rule does not apply to invasive species which should be destroyed and not released back into any waters.

Fish species and bait

What are invasive species?

Species of plant, fish and invertebrates not native to Ontario are considered invasive. These flora and fauna can cause irreparable damage to Ontario's ecosystems.

If an invasive species such as a round goby is caught, it must not be released back into the environment.

In addition, when anglers are moving from one body of water to another, make sure to clean all gear, boats and trailers to avoid transporting invasive species.

What is a sport fish?

A sport fish is any species of fish prized for the sport of the catch versus its value as a food source.

Sport fish species in Ontario include trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, perch, crappie, whitefish, northern pike, muskellunge and salmon.

Can an angler fish with bait in Ontario?

Yes, with some important stipulations.

Bait consists of approved baitfish, leeches, crayfish, worms and frogs.

Ontario is divided into four bait management zones to prevent the transport of possible invasive species from one zone to another.

Anglers must obtain bait from the bait management zone in which they are to be fishing. Any unused bait and substrate or water they are kept in must be disposed of at least thirty meters from any body of water.

Keep the receipts from where your bait was purchased as proof of bait management zone compliance.

It is illegal to transport live or dead baitfish or leeches across these zone borders.

Can an angler catch and use their own bait?

Yes, anglers are permitted to catch and use their own approved bait species of minnow, frog, leeches and crayfish provided they are obtained from the bait management zone in which they reside.

Non-resident anglers are not permitted to bring bait of any kind into Ontario and must purchase or obtain bait from the bait management zone intended for angling.

There are regulations on the number of minnows, leeches, frogs and crayfish allowed per angler.

Can an angler use a sportfish as bait?

No, anglers must use baitfish only permitted in the bait management zone in which they are fishing.

No baitfish other than those approved can be used for bait.

Is it safe to eat the fish I catch in Ontario?

There are fish species safe to eat in Ontario.

Check the Guide to Eating Ontario Fish to learn about which fish species you can eat.

This publication lists fish species and water bodies along with the safe recommended monthly consumption level. The guide also recommends safe eating practices for sensitive populations such as children under fifteen or women who are or might become pregnant.

Some fish can contain toxins both from natural sources as well as human-made sources. This consumption guide is updated regularly so you can make healthy fish consumption choices.

Family fishing and types of trips

Are there family fishing vacation opportunities in Ontario?

Definitely! Fishing vacations in Ontario are an excellent way to treat your family to the adventure of a lifetime. And with over 250 thousand lakes and hundreds of kilometres of rivers to fish, the opportunities for new or returning anglers are almost endless.  

What kind of fishing trips are offered in Ontario?

In Ontario, there are various levels of service for lodges and outfitters that families can consider. These include:

A guided fishing trip

Hiring a fishing guide to spend a day on the water is an excellent and easy way to get out on the water.

Most guides will provide everything you need for a day of fishing. They will work hard to ensure your family has the best possible time on the water and give everyone the best possible chance to catch fish.

A do-it-yourself outpost fishing camp

One of the most rewarding fishing adventures in Ontario is DIY outpost camp adventure.

Anglers are delivered by boat, float plane, train or vehicle to a cabin on a lake or river. Outpost camps provide the basics for your stay so you will need bring your tackle and equipment, food and drink, bedding and any other personal items needed for a few days or a week away.

Most outpost camps provide exclusive access to a private lake and guests are free to fish at their own schedule.

Housekeeping fishing outfitter

Lodges and outfitters referred to as housekeeping are very similar to DIY outpost camps however, the difference is that they generally have lodge and outfitter managers on site.

With a housekeeping plan, you’ll be cooking for yourselves and have full freedom of schedule. Many housekeeping outfitters do supply bedding and guide services.

The benefit of a housekeeping lodge is that anglers can set their schedules and eat what they choose to bring on the adventure.

American plan fishing outfitter

American plan lodges and outfitters are close to an all-inclusive experience, where close to everything you need is provided.

These lodges will often have guides on site, supply three meals per day and include housekeeping services. These adventures are designed to be worry-free and responsibility-free adventures that focus on fishing and other recreational pursuits.

More fishing resources

Where can I learn more about fishing in Ontario?

A great resource to learn about fishing opportunities in Ontario is Ontario’s Fishing Regulations Summary.

Local tackle shops, angling guides and fishing clubs are also terrific resource options for anglers to learn about where to fish and what species to fish for.

Last updated: April 5, 2024

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