Ontario anglers face major rule changes
Written by The London Free Press   
Wednesday, 08 March 2006 18:31

Ontario's 1.4 million anglers are are about to witness a sweeping overhaul of the regulations governing the province's $2.3-billion annual sport-fishing industry. The proposed changes, to take effect in 2007, are designed to streamline and simplify regulations and improve management of Ontario fish stocks, says the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

For the first time, anglers will see catch limits imposed for species such as rock bass, crappie and sunfish.

The limits are high but put a value on what are commonly known as pan fish, John Cooper of the MNR's Lake Erie management unit said yesterday.

On Lake Erie, the closed spring season for walleye will be dropped, allowing fishing throughout the year.

"This is the biggest set of regulation changes anglers will see in their lifetime," said Robert Pye of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

"This is not a case of tweaking a few things here and a few things there. This is a total overhaul."

The changes totally redraw the province's angling map, creating 20 fisheries management zones to replace 37 fishing divisions.

In Southwestern Ontario, Division 1 (St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and Detroit River) and Division 2 (Lake Erie and the upper Niagara River) will be combined into Fisheries Management Zone 19.

The main Lake Huron basin, the former Division 35, becomes management zone 13.

The new regulations, combined with an overhaul of walleye fishing rules in southern Ontario, have left anglers confused, said Pye.

"Some anglers are walking away from the exercise in frustration. That's not the approach the government should want or we want to see because anglers should have their say."

The government is collecting comments on a website outlining the changes and the reasons for them. The comment deadline is April 10.

In addition, the MNR plans an open house in Chatham Monday at which anglers can find out more about the regulation changes and submit comments.

Ministry staff also will be giving an update on the status of Lake Erie fish stocks for 2006 at the open house.

The news for walleye and perch is optimistic, said Cooper.

Walleye stocks in Erie are the best in 20 years, allowing the ministry to drop the closed spring season, said Cooper.

The ministry also is extending the daily catch limit of six walleye to all of Lake Erie, ending a four-fish limit in the eastern end of the lake.

Lake Erie is an exception to most of the rest of the province, where the limit will be four walleye and there will be a closed spring season, said Cooper.

Perch stocks in Lake Erie are also in good shape, said Cooper. "They're back up to levels we haven't seen in 10, 15 years."

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