A Guide to Ice Fishing Ontario

For tens of thousands Ontarian anglers, falling snow and frozen lakes are a sight for sore eyes. With around 250,000 lakes, you’ll never be at a loss of a sweet spot to set your hut.

But before you head out, there are a few things you should know about dropping line in our fair province.

Licensing

If you’re between the ages of 18-64, you require a licence and an Outdoors Card to fish in Ontario. You are exempt if you are above or below this age range. However, if you are 65 or older and wish to purchase a license, the funds collected will go towards creating and sustaining fishing opportunities throughout your area.

How to apply.

You can apply for both your card and license at the same time, or you can get your card before your license, but you cannot apply for your license before your card. If you only plan to fish for a day, then you can purchase a 1 day sport fishing license and forgo the Outdoors Card altogether.

Getting the paperwork is easy. You have the option of applying online, calling 1800-228-1155, visiting a Service Canada location or you can buy it an authorized fishing licence issuer. You should receive your licence within 20 days of applying.

In an effort to keep fishing sustainable, you’ll need to specify whether you want a conservation fishing licence or a sports fishing licence.

What’s the difference?

People holding a conservation license are subject to a reduced catch and possession limit, making this licence tag ideal if you plan to release most of your fish. People holding a sports license, on the other hand, can catch and possess to the full extent of the limits set out by the Ministry of Natural Resources. You will need to have your licence on you at all times.

When applying, you’ll also need to specify if you’re an Ontarian, a Canadian or a non-Canadian.

Regulations

Ontario is divided into 20 fishing management zones, and each zone has different regulations for different times of year. While some rules apply across the board (for example, it’s illegal to use lead lures), it’s important to get the information about the specific zone in which you plan to fish. It’s equally important to remember that regulations change every year, so what applied last year may not fly this season.

Hut Protocol

If you’re ice fishing in zones 9-12 or 14-20, you need to register your hut and your registration number will have to be clearly displayed on the outside of the hut. According to the MNR, you don’t need to register huts “that are tents made of fabric covering 7 m2 (75.4 ft2) or less when erected.”

If you own multiple huts, you can use the same number. There is no charge to register and you can do it online. In certain areas, there are also removal dates. Again, be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of your zone.

Gear

For the most part, you’re allowed to fish with two lines provided you remain within 60 metres of any line or tip up and have a clear view of your lines at all times. If you’re in 30 metres of water, you aren’t allowed to use devices that set the hook with a mechanical spring. Fishing rods under tension are an exception to the rule.

So OK, there’s a little paperwork and background research to do before you can actually get out there, but it’s a small price to pay to ice fish in one of the most beautiful and bountiful places on the planet.

To learn more about fishing in Ontario, visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website.

Hollay Ghadery

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