Consultation on potential revisions to release of fish rules for recreational fishing

Release of fish

Catch and release fishing is popular with recreational anglers in Ontario and is important to both fisheries management and the angling experience. Anglers and stakeholders have told us that being able to hold a fish long enough to take a picture and measure the length and weight of their catch is important.

Currently, under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007, anglers are required to immediately release any fish where retention or possession is prohibited. If the fish is alive, it must also be released in a manner that causes the least harm.

There are many reasons why retaining or possessing a fish might be prohibited, including fish was:

  • caught out of season
  • over daily catch or possession limits 
  • a restricted size
  • improperly hooked (such as snagged)

Based on the way the law is currently written, any activities that delay the release of these fish such as posing for photographs, measuring and weighing are against the rules.

While the current law allows us to effectively enforce seasons, catch and size restrictions, it is also a barrier to some fishing activities including:

  • catch-photo-release tournaments
  • fisheries management tools such as community science programs
  • enjoying angling experiences by photographing catches

Proposed changes

We are proposing changes that would:

  • allow anglers to delay the release of a fish caught during the open season for that species, only long enough to photograph, measure and weigh, if the fish is of a restricted size or over daily catch and possession limits
  • require the immediate release of fish that are out of season, are species at risk or are otherwise prohibited under the existing recreational fishing rules

The purpose of these proposed changes is to improve the overall angling experience in Ontario by:

  • providing clarity to anglers on how they can document their catch and experience
  • providing opportunities to improve fisheries management
  • making community science programs more accessible
  • allowing catch-photo-release style competitive fishing events

We have engaged science experts to help us understand the risks of catch and release fishing and the proposed changes. The changes proposed are believed to be relatively low risk to both individual fish and fish populations.

Provide your feedback

When we develop changes to recreational fishing rules, we engage with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the public. We are looking for feedback on this proposal from anglers and anyone else interested in Ontario’s fisheries resources through an online survey. Provide your feedback by April 21, 2023.

Please use the Google Chrome browser to take the survey, if possible.


This type of change to Ontario’s recreational fishing regulations requires approval of both:

  • the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

This process can take a considerable amount of time. The target date for implementation of any changes related to this proposal is January 1, 2025.

Changes to additional fishing opportunities in FMZs 6, 7, and 10

Fisheries Management Zone 6

Brook trout

Additional fishing opportunities

Season: open all year
Limits: S-5 and C-2; no size limit

Rainbow trout

Additional fishing opportunities

Limits: S-5 and C-2

Fisheries Management Zone 7

Rainbow trout

Additional fishing opportunities

Limits: S-5 and C-2

Fisheries Management Zone 10

Rainbow trout

Additional fishing opportunities

Limits: S-5 and C-2

  • Bridget Lake (47°53’43”N., 84°51’26”W.) - Rabazo Township

New zone-wide season for brown trout in FMZ 5

Zone-wide seasons and limits

Brown trout

Season: open all year
Limits: S-5 and C-2

New zone-wide size restriction for lake trout and splake in FMZ 12

Lake trout and splake

Season: Friday before fourth Saturday in April to September 30
Limits: S-2 and C-1; must be greater than 45 centimetres

Read more in the Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary.