Ice fishing rules under ministry microscope’

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Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is reviewing public feedback on proposed rule changes that could outlaw ice fishing of Brook Trout and Lake Trout on some County lakes.

The ministry posted a new draft management plan for Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) 15, which encompasses the Highlands region, to its website last September. The legislation, if passed, would prohibit ice fishing on water bodies considered to have low natural trout populations.

FMZ 15 also covers bodies of water in Bancroft, Parry Sound, Pembroke, and parts of Peterborough and North Bay.

In a recent email to The Highlander, MNRF spokesperson Sarah Figueiredo said a plan will be finalized “in the coming months.” She noted the earliest date any new regulations would come into effect is Jan. 1, 2025.

The province collected feedback from the public in October and November of 2022. Then, officials said, “the anticipated environmental and social consequences of this proposal are positive,” and that, “the approaches presented aim to balance the ecological and socioeconomic objectives of the region.”

MNRF, in its plan, says the zone is experiencing high pressure from a wide group of users, including commercial and tourist operators, resident and non-resident anglers, and Indigenous subsidence fishers. Ministry spokesperson Anita Tamrazi told The Highlander last year that the changes are being proposed to protect natural Coldwater fish populations, which, she says, have declined in recent years.

The current Brook Trout fishing seasons, which runs from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, was deemed “excessively liberal” by the MNRF, which wants to cut it in half. The new proposed season for at-risk lakes is the fourth Saturday in April to Sept. 30.

For Lake Trout, the ministry is proposing from the third Saturday in May until Labour Day for all lakes less than 500 hectares in size. Larger lakes will get a one-month season as per the changes, from the Saturday before Family Day to the third Sunday in March, with only one line to be used when angling through the ice.

Fishing on lakes considered to be fully stocked will be permitted, though the MNRF has not released a list of fully stocked lakes, nor outlined what they consider to be a fully stocked lake.