The MNRF is reviewing baitfish management and the outcomes will affect the way that we use and harvest bait in Ontario. This includes baitfish and leeches only. Crayfish, frogs, worms etc… are not part of this review. The intent of the proposed changes is to minimize the risk of spreading invasive species. The OFAH fully supports the intent of reviewing bait management practices to accomplish this goal, and this is why we participated on the MNRF’s Bait Review Advisory Group during the past four years to offer advice on angler use of bait in Ontario.
Right now, the MNRF is seeking public input on a baitfish document that introduces Bait Management Zones and rules about moving baitfish.
Here’s what the document proposes…
If you are an angler that harvests your own bait:
You will not be able to transport self-harvested bait over land (i.e. bait must be used in the waterbody it was taken from) in southern Ontario (FMZs 15, 16, 17 or 18)
. You will be able to transport self-harvested bait over land within sections A, B, C and D on the map (right), but you will not be able to transport between those zones (i.e. arrows on map don’t apply to self-harvested bait) AND you will be required to produce some sort of proof of the origin of the bait for enforcement purposes (form of proof to be determined).
If you buy your bait from a bait shop (commercial harvest): You must use the purchased bait in the Bait Management Zone where you bought it, and not go beyond. A receipt issued by the bait dealer will be required as proof of the origin of the bait. Commercially harvested bait can in some instances be transported from adjacent, northern BMZs into southern BMZs or Great Lakes (e.g. A to D); however, there will be no movement of bait from the south to the north. Details regarding specifics such as the Ottawa River which is currently its own Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ 12) that borders 3 other FMZs are contained within the full proposal.
If you plan to fish in Provincial Parks:
Live bait will no longer be used in any Provincial Park other than a Recreation Class Park or a Conservation Reserve (approximately 65 of Ontario’s 330 Provincial Parks are considered a “recreation class park”).
If you are a commercial bait harvester: You will be confined to supplying bait within the Bait Management Zone where your Bait Harvest Areas reside. The same exceptions for movement of bait between adjacent BMZs described above for anglers applies to commercial harvesters as well. Other changes affecting commercial harvesters and dealers related to reporting, compliance, training, gear restrictions, licence renewals and BHAs can be found within the full proposal.
Fish species that can be used as bait:
The list will be reduced to 33 species in an effort to remove several invasive look-alike species of fish. For example, removing the Mottled Sculpin from this list as it may be confused with the Round Goby. Currently, there are 48 species of fish
that can legally be used as live bait in Ontario.
Overall, the OFAH thinks these suggestions are too restrictive, and will make fishing with live bait (baitfish and leeches) much harder in the future. If anglers and bait suppliers are restricted as proposed, it could result in serious baitfish supply and demand issues in some areas of the province.
What do you think about these proposed changes to bait management in Ontario? The MNRF needs to hear from anglers, particularly how these changes could affect individuals in various parts of the province. Click here to leave a comment for the MNRF. Comments will close June 27, 2017.
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