Ontario’s fisheries

Ontario has vast aquatic resources and the largest freshwater fisheries in the world, including:

  • 24% of Canada’s fresh water
  • 250,000 inland lakes
  • Canadian portion of 4 Great Lakes
  • countless rivers and streams

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is responsible for managing Ontario’s fisheries. From commercial fishing to recreational fishing and tourism, they contribute significantly to the provincial economy every year.

These hardworking ecosystems need careful stewardship.

Biodiversity

Fisheries depend on strong, healthy ecosystems. Wise management promotes sustainability by:

  • monitoring fish populations for signs of stress
  • maintaining and repairing fish habitats
  • protecting native species from disease and invasive species

Ontario’s Provincial Fish Strategy - Fish for the Future

In April 2015, the Ontario Government launched the Provincial Fish Strategy, Fish for the Future, to provide up-to-date direction for the management of Ontario’s fish, fisheries and supporting ecosystems. The Strategy was developed through extensive input and the engagement of Aboriginal communities, agency partners and key stakeholders.

The primary purposes of this Strategy are to:

  • improve the conservation and management of fisheries and the ecosystems on which fish communities depend
  • promote, facilitate and encourage fishing as an activity that contributes to individual well-being and the social, cultural and economic well-being of communities in Ontario

Provincial Fish Strategy – Fish for the Future

Fisheries Environmental Registry notices

Recreational fisheries

Ontario’s recreational fisheries support robust sport fishing and tourism industries, the mainstay of many northern communities:

  • 1.12 million anglers fish in Ontario each year
  • anglers spend $1.6 billion dollars a year in the province
  • approximately 1,600 resource-based tourism businesses

Fisheries management zones (FMZs)

The province is divided into 20 fisheries management zones (FMZs). Each FMZ is individually managed and monitored to protect its unique resources.

Fishing regulations

Fishing regulations determine when and where you can fish, and what fish you can keep. Fisheries managers fine-tune the regulations by FMZ to support the sustainability of each recreational fishery.

FMZ advisory councils

The province created advisory councils in each FMZ to encourage community participation in fisheries planning and management.

Commercial fishing

Commercial fishing is part of Ontario’s heritage and culture:

  • contributes over $230 million a year to the economy
  • more than 600 active commercial fishing licences
  • has a landed value of more than $40 million a year
  • the industry employs approximately 1,000 people

Hearings under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

We issue licences under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) for activities including:

  • commercial fishing
  • trapping
  • providing certain hunting services (such as bear hunting)
  • keeping wildlife in captivity

Licences may be issued with conditions that licence holders must comply with. We may also refuse or cancel a licence for conservation or management of wildlife or fish.

If your licence has been refused, cancelled, or, in the case of a commercial fishing licence, if you disagree with a condition, you can request a hearing under the FWCA.

Read our guide to learn more about the hearing process.

Contact us if you have questions about your licence refusal, cancellation or if you disagree with the conditions of licence:

Commercial bait

The commercial bait industry provides a steady supply of bait to the province’s 1.12 million anglers. The province issues approximately 1,100 commercial bait fishing licences annually.

Using live bait for recreational fishing

Aquaculture

Commercial aquaculture (fish farming operations) raises fish and shellfish for food and fishing markets:

  • contributes over $110 million a year to the economy
  • supports sport fishing with bait and stocking

Aquaculture licences and policies

Fish stocking program

Updated: October 22, 2021
Published: May 07, 2014