Opening Day Etiquette

This Saturday anglers from around the province of Ontario will flock to local lakes and tributaries with the hopes of landing some trophy fish. Yes, what most people refer to as ‘opening weekend’ for fishing season begins at the stroke of midnight on Saturday April 24th.

I have personally never really participated in opening weekends for a variety of different reasons, the main reason is the sheer number of anglers on the water and the way that some of them behave and treat their fellow anglers.

  • Know The Regulations: Ministry of Natural Resources fishing regulations change year over year. Just because things were a certain way in previous years, it doesn’t mean that it is like that this year. These regulations contain important information including the open and close dates for certain fish species, catch limits, slot sizes and any exceptions. Not knowing the regulations is not an excuse. Updated Regulations for 2021 can be found HERE.
  • Follow The Regulations: The fishing regulations are in place to protect and manage our fisheries. It may be debatable how effective they are, but regardless please follow them. Abide by the rules and remember that the activity is called sport fishing. Sports have rules!
  • Get Your Fishing License: Some people bock at paying for the right to fish. Just like everyone else, I hate giving the government any more money than I have to, but the money collected through licensing is used to manage our fisheries so don’t cheap out.

It’s worth noting that ignoring the above 3 points (and getting caught) all have legal and financial ramifications. Not properly following the regulations or fishing without a license is against the law. You can be charged and fined heavily if you are caught breaking these laws. Peace Officers also have very powerful seizure rights under the Acts and Regulations and can include seizure of caught fish, fishing gear and even (in extreme cases) vehicles used in the offence.

  • Respect Landowners and Private Property: If there is signage indicating private property or asking that you don’t trespass then don’t do it. It is as simple as that. Few things give (all) anglers a bad reputation than trespassing. For some inexplicable reason, some anglers feel that it is there right to access rivers and waterways, no matter who owns the land around them. If you see signs, find another access point.
  • Give Each Other Space:I think that the biggest cause of issues on the opening weekend are that anglers don’t give each other enough space. Well known fishing areas are commonly lined with anglers fighting for space. As tempting as it might be to snuggle up to another angler to get the best fishing spot possible, don’t do it. People get very protective of their fishing spot and conflict can easily ensue.
  • Leave No Trace: This should go without saying but some things to consider are: 1) Remove all garbage 2) Properly dispose of any fish remains 3) Avoid breaking branches off trees 4) Be careful when wading and do not disturb fish habitats.
  • Catch and Release: I’m not going to preach catch and release but I think that it is a practice that every angler should think about and consider. Try your best to reel fish in quickly and release them with as little impact as possible.
  • Leave The Boozes At Home: I like a drink as much as the next person, but leave it at home. Turning opening weekend into a drunken social event will only lead to trouble.
  • Respect Your Fellow Anglers: Be cordial. Say “hello”. Ask how their day is going. Be polite. Say ‘thank you’. Just be an all-around decent human being. It’s not hard, it takes very little effort and by respecting your fellow anglers, we all win.

Be safe this weekend, respect your fellow anglers and play by the rules. Good luck and tight lines!

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