Charley Smith from Massey says “Join OntORA!”

I picked up the new 2012 Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary. I couldn’t find any further reduction on creel limits or more restricted lakes. Maybe we have hit rock bottom? Could things be looking up next year? I hope so because they basically have us fishing for hammer handles now! People with “Sportsman Licenses” are allowed 6 pike, (I can remember when there were no limits on pike and no licenses either for that matter). Most of these pike that we are now allowed to keep must be under two feet long – hammer handles – with the exception of two, which may be longer than 2 feet but not longer than 33.9 inches – only one of those. You better bring the book and a tape measure.2012_Ontario_FishingRegulations

It doesn’t seem that long ago when my wife and I would go down to The North Channel and catch pike all morning before I went to the mine on afternoon shift. We would never keep more than one or two, maybe three. We threw back anything under seven pounds, didn’t consider them worth cleaning…

What has happened to our fishing? Greed? I remember one time when I was bow hunting carp in Roselle’s Bay off Barrie Island. I saw some Yankee tourists in a big power boat from one of the camps. They seemed to be catching quite a few small pike so I paddled over to see them. Once I got them to talk about the fish they were catching and not about my canoe full of huge carp (I had a dog team to feed at that time), they showed me a big dog chain with stringers of pike attached. Well they tried – the wife could not pull it clear from the water. No fish on it was over three feet long. They were mostly just juvenile pike – the kind we locals always threw back to grow. I asked how many guests were staying at that camp and were they all having that kind of “luck”. There were about a dozen and yes, they were all killing scores of fish every day.

But it’s not just tourists either. I have twice taken friends of mine to favourite fishing holes only to see them go back every day or nearly so until it was fished out. The one guy said, “I went back the next day and caught a five gallon bucket of bass!” He seemed quite pleased with himself and was too puzzled to answer when I asked him why he would want fifty pounds of bass all at once.

Here is the quandary. If we are going to be able to keep enough fish to make it worthwhile going fishing, we can’t have that many fishermen. It’s simple really, not new math, just common sense. Of course we shouldn’t be keeping buckets full of fish either, but even if we all just keep four or five and if the lake is dotted with boats doing that, well then the lake is finished. If you go to your favourite spot and see several boats out on it, find a new spot. That lake is in the process of being fished out. The expectation that our lakes could support a huge recreational fishery, tourist camps, aboriginal harvest and even commercial fishing was always ridiculously flawed and if it was based on science at all, it was science coming up out of those United States where the water is warmer and fish grow much faster.

Of course some of the answers to the problem would be to make sure that there is never any netting on inland lakes by anyone, no tourist outfitters selling our birth right of natural resources to make their living, and if we are not discouraging new fishermen we certainly shouldn’t be trying to recruit them, the offspring of the people fishing now will be more than enough. Maybe that’s why the regulations are so confusing. Perhaps the MNR is trying to make it too complex for a new sportsman to start? Of course that also seems a bit unlikely seeing as they still have License – Free Family Fishing from Feb. 18th to 20th and from July 7th to the 15th. The idea being, (I presume), to bring new boys and girls into the sport.

It could be worse. I was researching going moose hunting up to Pickle Lake. From what I could see on Google Earth, it looked like I could put into Lake St. Joseph from the paved highway and go down the lake for miles and miles hunting and fishing. That isn’t going to quite work out! Apparently Lake St. Joseph has, “Uniquely controlled access brought about by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the tourist camps on Lake St. Joe.” What?!

Oh, there is more!

“Persons wishing to fish this lake must receive a special permit from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Most persons wishing to fish this lake will have to stay at one of the fishing camps operating on the eastern end of the lake.”

Even if I were to go up to the town Pickle Lake itself, I would find that all or almost all the access points to the other lakes are controlled by the town and there is a charge for using the landings. I have not been there. I am not likely to go now (there are no handy logging roads to travel down and I am not paying anyone to go on a crown lake off of a government highway). But if I did go, I bet I would find any unsanctioned roads accessing this huge lake bulldozed and blocked.

Oh by the way, if you do pay, jump through all the hoops, and pay a hundred dollars a night to stay at some fat cat’s lodge, you would find severely restricted creel limits and a rule that you can only use one hook and it must be barbless!

Fine! They certainly talked me out of going anywhere near there. Congratulations! No wonder there are so many moose tags available there. What it DID talk me into doing was renewing my membership in OntORA (Ontario Outdoor Recreational Alliance) – Equal Public Access to Crown Land in Ontario.

If you want to be able to continue fishing and hunting on our crown land without enriching some outfitter you better join OntORA too.

ONTORA.CA is the web site.

Charlie Smith
Massey, Ontario
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