Glossary of terms

Additional fishing opportunities
There are some waters where regulations for certain species are more liberal than the Zone regulations. These include areas where anglers may fish for a species during part or all of the time when the season is generally closed in the Zone and include extended and open all year seasons. Often these additional opportunities are provided through fish stocking.
Aggregate (combined) limits
Aggregate or combined limits are catch and possession limits for a combination of fish species. Where there are aggregate limits, you may not catch and retain a separate limit of each species. In this summary, aggregate limits are referred to as combined limits and apply to walleye and sauger, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and black and white crappie.
Aggregate limits for trout and salmon (including splake)
Throughout the province there are standard aggregate limits for all species of trout and salmon in combination. You may only catch and keep in one day or possess no more than 5 trout and salmon in total under a sport fishing licence (S–5) or two trout and salmon in total under a conservation fishing licence (C–2). In addition to the aggregate limit, you may not exceed individual species limits where they are otherwise stated.
Angling means fishing with a line that is held in the hand or attached to a rod that is held in the hand or closely attended.
Artificial fly
An artificial fly means a single or multi-pointed hook dressed with lightweight silk, wool, fur, feathers or similar material, but does not include other types of artificial lures or organic bait. Wet flies, dry flies and streamers are all considered artificial flies.
Artificial lure
An artificial lure means a spoon, plug, jig, artificial fly or other such device that is designed to catch fish by means of angling.
Bait includes live or dead animals, plants or parts. There are some areas of the province where the use of any form of bait is not allowed.
Bait Management Zone
In Ontario, 4 Bait Management Zones (BMZ) affect the movement, possession, and use of baitfish and leeches. The Great Lakes (including Manitoulin Island) and Ottawa River are not considered BMZs. Go to bait for more details.
There are permitted species of fish that may be used as live bait. Go to bait for more details.
Barbless hook
A barbless hook means a hook without barbs or one that has barbs that are compressed so as to be completely in contact with the shaft of the hook.
Catch and possession limits

The catch limit is the number of fish you are allowed to catch and keep in one day and includes fish that are not immediately released and any fish eaten or given away. Catch limits apply to each individual and any fish gifted to another person count towards your catch limit even if they are gifted to a member of your fishing party.

The possession limit is the number of fish you are allowed to have in your possession on hand, in cold storage, in transit or anywhere. Possession limits are the same as one day’s catch limit except where otherwise specified. If you catch a fish after reaching the daily catch or possession limit for that species, the fish must be released immediately. If the limit is zero, anglers may practice catch and release only, and any fish caught must be released immediately.

Check stations
Conservation officers operate random fish check stations throughout the year. At these stations, conservation officers collect information on fish taken and make sure that regulations are being followed in order to better manage our fisheries resources. Remember to keep all licences, equipment and fish easily accessible for inspection.
Competitive fishing events
Live release boats for competitive fishing events must have a licence in order to transport the catches of multiple anglers and be in possession of more than an individual’s possession limit of fish.
Conservation officers
Conservation officers enforce fisheries regulations in the Province of Ontario. They have powers of inspection, arrest, search and seizure under the various statutes they enforce, including the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and the Fisheries Act. When carrying out their duties, conservation officers may:
  • stop and inspect a vehicle, boat or aircraft
  • ask questions relevant to the inspection
  • inspect buildings or other places
  • require assistance to complete inspections
  • enter onto private property to perform their duties
  • search with a warrant
  • search without a warrant in circumstances requiring immediate action
  • seize items related to an offence
  • arrest anyone they believe has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offence
For the purpose of this summary, crappie includes both black crappie and white crappie.

In specified waterbodies or for particular species, there are exceptions to the general regulations established for each zone. These include species exceptions (such as size, limits, seasons), waterbody exceptions (such as a combination of species exceptions, fish sanctuaries, gear or bait restrictions), bait restrictions and fish sanctuaries.

Some waters are grouped with other waters that have the same regulatory exceptions and these will generally be listed under the proper name for the largest or most significant water body. If there is nothing stated in the exceptions, then the regulations for the zone apply.

Export of fish
A person may, upon leaving Ontario, take no more than the designated limits of fish.
Fish sanctuaries
No fishing of any kind is permitted in a fish sanctuary. Some bodies of water, or parts of them, are declared fish sanctuaries for all or part of the year. Fish sanctuaries are not always marked with signs. Sanctuary dates are inclusive: all dates including the first and last dates stated in the summary are closed.
Fisheries Management Zone or Zone
The province is divided into 20 Fisheries Management Zones (FMZs) for which there are general regulations that establish seasons, limits and size limits for popular fish species.
A hook includes a single-pointed or multiple-pointed hook on a common shaft but does not include a snagger or spring gaff. The number of hooks includes any single-pointed or multiple-pointed hooks that are part of a lure.
Hooks and lines
An angler may use only one line, unless otherwise stated in the regulations. Two lines may be used when angling from a boat in parts of the Great Lakes and for ice fishing in many areas. A fishing line must not have more than four hooks attached.
Immediate release of fish
All fish that are caught unlawfully or are illegal to possess (such as during the closed season, prohibited size, exceed the catch and possession limits) must be immediately released at the place and time of capture. This includes fish that may be injured during catch. This rule does not apply to invasive species (such as goby), which should be destroyed and not released back into any waters.
Lead sinkers and jigs
It is illegal to use or possess lead fishing sinkers or jigs in Canada’s national parks and national wildlife areas.
Live holding boxes
If you use a live holding box or impounding device, it must be clearly marked with your name and address and it must be legible without having to lift the box, unless it forms part of or is attached to a boat. Fish in holding boxes are part of your catch and retain or possession limits. Always monitor fish in your possession; allowing fish to waste is an offence.
A livewell is a compartment designed to keep fish alive. It must be attached to or form part of a boat, hold a total volume of not less than 46 litres (10 gallons) of water, have the capacity for water exchange and be aerated at all times when live fish are being held in it. Livewells should be drained and emptied of all contents, including live fish, before being transported overland.
For the purposes of this summary, muskellunge includes muskellunge and hybrids of muskellunge and northern pike.
Open seasons
Fishing season opening and closing dates vary depending on the species and the area. Dates are inclusive: all dates including the first and last dates stated in the summary are open or closed. It is illegal to attempt to catch fish for which the season is closed, even if you are going to release them. Fish accidentally caught during the closed season must be immediately released back to the water. Unless stated otherwise, species that are not listed (such as rock bass) have a year-round open season for angling.
Pacific salmon
For the purpose of this summary, Pacific salmon include chinook salmon, coho salmon and pink salmon.
Plant-based bait

Bait made from one of the following:

  • bait that is made entirely from plants (such as corn)
  • primarily from plants (such as boilies and doughballs), and cannot: contain visible pieces of fish or animal parts, be fish or animal flavoured, or include poultry eggs (except if they are used to bind ingredients together)
Primary residence
The place with which a person has the greatest connection in terms of present and anticipated future living arrangements and the activities of daily living. For greater clarity, a person may only have one primary residence. Go to bait for more details.
Size limits
All size limits refer to total length which is a measure from the tip of the mouth with the jaws closed to the tip of the tail, with the tail fin lobes compressed to give the maximum possible length.
For the purpose of this summary, sunfish includes pumpkinseed, bluegill, green sunfish, northern sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish and their hybrids.
Units of measure
Provincial regulations use the metric system. Converting from imperial units to metric units can be done using the following conversion ratios:
  • 1 inch is equal to 2.54 centimetres
  • 1 foot is equal to 0.305 metres
  • 1 mile is equal to 1.609 kilometres

General prohibitions

In Ontario, it is illegal to:

  • import any crayfish, salamanders, live fish or leeches for use as bait, or transport any live or dead baitfish or leeches into or out of a BMZ (exceptions). Contact the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) or Canada Border Services Agency (CSBA) to confirm federal import rules related to bait (including earthworms)
  • transport live fish, other than baitfish, taken from Ontario waters or to transfer or stock any live fish or spawn into Ontario’s waters without a special licence to transport or stock fish
  • fish for or possess any species of fish listed as Endangered or Threatened under the provincial Endangered Species Act and/or federal Species at Risk Act
  • sell or buy any recreationally caught fish (including taxidermy mounts), crayfish, leeches, frogs or fish eggs. Only holders of commercial fishing or commercial bait licences may sell their catch
  • take fish with a gaff, snare, snagger or spear gun, or possess a spring gaff, snagger or spear gun, or a snare for the purpose of fishing, within 30 metres of any waters. A spear is only permitted within 30 metres of any waters when it is being used in accordance with non-angling methods of capturing fish. A gaff, other than a spring gaff, may be used to assist in landing fish caught by lawful means. A spring gaff includes any device which uses a mechanical spring, other than the fishing rod under tension, to set the hook for an angler
  • catch or retain a fish by impaling or snagging it with a hook through any part of the body other than the mouth. Fish hooked in this way must be released immediately
  • take fish by any means other than angling, spear, bow and arrow, dip or seine net or baitfish trap. Go to non-angling methods of capturing fish and bait for more details
  • use artificial lights to attract fish except when fishing for rainbow smelt, lake whitefish or lake herring (cisco) using a dip net or if the light is part of a lure attached to a line used in angling
  • use dynamite or other explosives to take or destroy fish
  • fish within 25 metres of a pound net or cage in which fish are held for culture
  • fish in any manner within 23 metres downstream from the lower entrance to any fishway, obstruction, or leap
  • abandon fish or permit the flesh to spoil, if the fish is suitable for human consumption

Provincial possession limits

While the regulations for a specific Zone limit the number of fish an individual can catch and retain from that Zone, provincial possession limits restrict the total number of fish of a given species a person can have in their possession (including storage) which have been harvested from more than one Zone. Note that aggregate limits for trout and salmon (including splake) also apply. Always check the regulations for the Zone you are fishing in to ensure that you aren’t exceeding the catch and possession limits for that Zone. The provincial possession limits are as follows:

  • Atlantic salmon: 1
  • aurora trout: 1
  • brook trout: 5
  • brown trout: 5
  • channel catfish: 12
  • crappie: 30
  • lake trout: 3
  • lake whitefish: 25
  • largemouth or smallmouth bass combined: 6
  • muskellunge: 1
  • northern pike: 6
  • Pacific salmon: 5
  • rainbow trout: 5
  • splake: 5
  • walleye or sauger combined: 6
  • yellow perch: 100

Catch and retain rules

Generally, daily catch limits include all fish that are retained for any period of time and not immediately released.

Anglers fishing from a boat may catch, hold, and selectively live release more walleye, northern pike, largemouth or smallmouth bass than the daily limit, provided:

  • the fish are held in a livewell with a mechanical aerator operating at all times
  • the fish comply with any applicable size limits
  • the sport or conservation fishing licence daily catch and retain limits for walleye or northern pike are not exceeded at any one time
  • no more than six largemouth and smallmouth bass (combined) are held at any one time for fish caught under a sport fishing licence
  • the conservation fishing licence catch and retain limits for largemouth and smallmouth bass (combined) are not exceeded at any one time for fish caught under a conservation fishing licence

Anglers are reminded to closely monitor the condition of fish held in a livewell. Only fish that are in such a condition that they will survive may be released. Releasing a fish that will not survive and allowing the flesh of that fish to be wasted is an offence. Any fish not live released are part of your catch and possession limit.

Transporting sport fish

It is illegal to stock fish without a permit or transport live fish overland, other than baitfish, without a permit. Sportfish transported overland must be dead and should be transported on ice, not in a livewell filled with water. Anglers need to ensure they are transporting fish in compliance with the regulations, which are designed to protect fisheries resources. The fish that you catch and keep may be cleaned, but must be readily measurable at all times if they are from waterbodies where size limits exist, unless the fish are:

  • being prepared for immediate consumption
  • prepared at an overnight accommodation for storage
  • being transported on the water from a temporary overnight accommodation to your residence and you are not engaged in sport fishing
  • being transported overland

Tips for packaging fish

  1. All fish must be packaged so that they can be easily counted and identified, not just those with limits.
  2. To ensure fish can be easily counted, package each fish separately, or arrange fillets spread flat in a clear freezer bag. Do not freeze fillets in container or a large lump frozen together in bags.
  3. Since anglers often transport or store various species of fish, it is their responsibility to ensure every fillet of their catch can be easily identified. Ensure you leave at least a large patch of skin on all fish fillets for identification purposes. Some species (such as lake whitefish or lake herring (cisco)) may require additional identifying features such as the head.
  4. Conservation officers may inspect your catch at any time. Always have your fish and your licence easily accessible, and place coolers of fish where they can be easily inspected.
  5. If a conservation officer inspects fish captured through sport fishing and you are transporting them improperly packaged your catch may be seized for evidence, you could get a ticket and be fined and/or you may have to attend court close to where the inspection took place, which may be far from where you live.
  6. The following pictures demonstrate examples of improperly packaged fish since they are frozen in a clump, cannot be identified or counted and no skin is attached to the fillets.
    photo of improperly packaged fish without flesh.of improperly packaged block of frozen fish.
  7. The following pictures demonstrate examples of properly packaged fish since they can be identified and counted easily, the skin is attached to the fillets and they are not frozen in a large clump.
    photo of properly packaged fish with a skin patch of properly a packaged fish fillet with skin visible.


Holders of valid recreational fishing licences may catch and retain bullfrogs during the open season. For details on the current harvest areas, season dates and catch and possession limits, go to the Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary.

Ice fishing

Two lines may be used for ice fishing except in a limited number of waters. You must be within 60 metres at all times of any line or tip-up you are using when ice fishing and you must have a clear and unobstructed view of the lines being used at all times. Any spring-loaded device which sets the hook for an angler may not be possessed within 30 metres of any waters.

Ice hut registration

Ice fishing huts must be registered online (ice fishing) if they are being used in the following Zones and must be removed by the dates indicated below. Once registered, an ice hut can be used anywhere in Ontario. Additional approvals may be required for provincial parks and conservation reserves. Individuals only need to register once. If your ice hut already has a registration number then you do not need to re-register. You do not need to register an ice hut that is a tent made of cloth or synthetic fabric that has a base area of seven square metres or less when erected.

  • March 1 - Zones 17 and 20
  • March 15 - Zones 14, 16, 18, 19 and 12 (below Timiskaming Dam)
  • March 31 - Zones 9, 10, 11, 15 and 12 (above Timiskaming Dam)
  • Removal dates and registration do not apply in Zones 1-8 and 13

It is an offence under the Public Lands Act to leave your ice hut out after ice break up, regardless of whether registration and removal dates apply. Ice hut registration numbers must be at least 6.3 centimetres in height and clearly displayed on the outside of the hut.

Multiple lines for common carp

Anglers in Fisheries Management Zones 12 to 20 may use up to 3 lines while targeting common carp. To use more than 1 line, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • use baits that are plant-based or artificial corn
  • when fishing from shore, each line you use must be no further than 2 metres (6 feet) away from another line you are using
  • when fishing from a vessel (such as a boat), all lines must be on board the vessel with you

The following are not allowed when fishing with multiple lines for common carp:

  • baits like worms, leeches or baitfish
  • artificial lures including soft plastic lures

When targeting common carp with more than 1 line (up to 3), the restrictions listed above apply to all lines that an angler is using. Any other fish species caught must be immediately released as defined in the glossary.

Non-angling methods of capturing fish

Ontario and Canadian residents and non-Canadian residents with a valid recreational fishing licence may fish with one dip net, one seine net, one spear or a bow and arrow for the species and during the periods outlined below. If the Zone is not identified below, then there is no open season
for that species.

Dip nets: may be no more than 183 centimetres on each side if angular, or 183 centimetres in diameter if circular.

Seine nets: may be no more than 10 metres long and two metres high.

Spears: cannot be possessed on or within 30 metres of the edge of any waterbody except when fishing for carp and white sucker as described within the non-angling methods of capturing fish.

Bow and arrow: includes all longbows. Longbows are considered a firearm under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

People fishing with a longbow who handle or discharge it without due care for people or property may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment. Any injury requiring treatment by a physician that is caused by the discharge of a firearm while it was possessed for fishing must be reported to a conservation officer.


Season: May 1 to July 31 in Zones 10, 13, 14, 19
Method: bow and arrow during daylight hours only
Limit: no limit

Common carp

Season: May 1 to July 31 in Zones 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 (except Algonquin Park), 16, 18, 19, 20
Season: Second Saturday in May to July 31 in Zone 17
Method: bow and arrow, spear, and dip net during daylight hours only
Limit: no limit

Lake herring (cisco)

Season: October 1 to December 15 in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15 (in designated waters only in Zones 11 and 15; contact local work centre for details)
Method: dip net day or night
Limit: no limit

Lake whitefish

Season: October 1 to December 15 in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15 (in designated waters only in Zones 11 and 15; contact local work centre for details)
Method: dip net day or night
Limit: same as angling limit in Zone

Rainbow smelt

Season: March 1 to May 31 in Zones 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (except Algonquin Park), 16, 18, 19, 20
Season: second Saturday in May to May 31 in Zone 17
Method: dip net and seine day or night
Limit: no limit

Be careful when cleaning rainbow smelt and do not rinse or dump entrails into a lake or river as fertilized eggs can easily invade new waters.

White sucker

Season: March 1 to May 31 in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (except Algonquin Park), 16, 18, 19, 20
Season: second Saturday in May to May 31 in Zone 17
Method: bow and arrow, spear, and dip net during daylight hours only
Limit: no limit

Boundary waters

Anglers who fish in waters that lie both in Ontario and another province or state must include the total number of fish caught anywhere in those waters as part of the number caught and kept or possessed under the Ontario recreational fishing regulations when bringing those fish into Ontario.

Ontario-Quebec boundary

Anglers may fish in the following waters with either an Ontario resident fishing licence or a Quebec resident fishing licence.

  • Clarice Lake (48°20′N., 79°32′W.)
  • Labyrinth Lake (48°14′N., 79°31′W.)
  • Lake St. Francis (45°08′N., 74°25′W.) and the waters of the St. Lawrence River between the easterly side of the dam at the Robert H. Saunders Generating Station and the Ontario-Quebec boundary.
  • Lake Timiskaming (47°20′N., 79°30′W.)
  • Ottawa River (45°34′N., 74°23′W.) lying south of the dam situated in Temiscamingue, Quebec
  • Raven Lake (48°03′N., 79°33′W.)

Ontario-Manitoba boundary

Anglers may fish in the following waters with either an Ontario resident fishing licence or Manitoba resident fishing licence and must follow conservation or sport possession limits applicable within their respective province.

  • Davidson Lake (50°21′N., 95°09′W.)
  • Frances Lake (51°43′N., 95°08′W.)
  • Garner Lake (50°48′N., 95°11′W.)
  • High Lake (49°42′N., 95°08′W.)
  • Mantario Lake (49°95′N., 95°10′W.)
  • Moar Lake (52°00′N., 95°07′W.)
  • Ryerson Lake (50°23′N., 95°09′W.)

Crown land camping

Most Crown land and conservation reserves in Ontario are available year-round for personal, temporary use, at no cost. Restrictions may apply in some areas as indicated by the posting of signs, or land use planning or management direction. For more information go to the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas or the Provincial parks and conservation reserves planning webpages. In addition, some areas may have restricted travel zones for forest fire prevention, closed access roads or specific areas posted with signs to prohibit all or certain kinds of uses or travel.

Canadian residents

Canadian residents can camp on Crown land and Conservation Reserves for free up to 21 days on any one site in a calendar year. For the purposes of camping on Crown land or a conservation reserve, a resident of Canada includes both Canadian citizens as defined in the Citizenship Act (Canada) or individuals who have resided in Canada for at least seven months during the preceding 12-month period.

Non-Canadian residents

Non-Canadian residents 18 years of age or older, require a permit to camp on Crown land in Northern Ontario (north of the French and Mattawa rivers) and in a conservation reserve anywhere in Ontario. Non-Canadian resident Crown land camping permits are $9.35 plus tax per person per day. In addition to any local access restrictions, non-Canadian residents are also prohibited from camping in designated green zones in Northern Ontario at any time of year. For more information on purchasing a permit, a map of green zones and other requirements related to non-Canadian resident Crown land camping, visit Recreational activities on Crown land.

Fishing restrictions for non-Canadian residents

Holders of non-Canadian resident fishing licences who are camping on Crown land in Zones 2, 4, 6 and the portion of Zone 5 that lies outside of the Border Waters Area, may not take fish in excess of the conservation catch and possession limits. Holders of non-Canadian resident fishing licences camping on Crown land in the part of Zone 5 identified as the Border Waters Area must follow the Zone 5 regulations. For more information on the boundary of these waters and applicable fishing limits, contact the nearest ministry office or visit Fisheries Management Zone 5.

There are also exceptions for the Winnipeg River (Zone 5) and the Sydney Lake Area (Zones 2 and 4) that affect non-Canadian resident fishers - go to waterbody exceptions for Zones 2, 4 and 5.