Open fishing seasons and fish sanctuaries
Information about fishing seasons and fish sanctuaries, which restrict the times and places you can fish.
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Rules for open/closed fishing seasons
Open and closed seasons specify the time periods you can or cannot target (try to catch) a fish species. It is illegal to fish for a species during its closed season, even if you don’t keep them.
In Ontario, fishing season opening and closing dates vary, depending on the species and the area you are fishing in. Dates are inclusive (e.g., “March 5-June 15” includes March 5 and June 15.)
For unlisted species (e.g., sucker and rock bass), the season is open year-round.
Seasons can be:
- open all year
- closed all year
- open for a zone, except for specified waterbodies
- open in one zone but closed in another
- open in different zones at different times
You can find the complete set of rules for open/closed season dates for the area or zone you will be fishing in 2 sections of the Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary:
- Seasons and Limits section (for zone-wide seasons)
- Exceptions to the Zone Regulations (exceptions for individual waterbodies)
If the season is open:
- you can fish for that species
- you can catch and keep a daily limit of fish
If the season is closed:
- targeting the species is illegal, even if you plan to release the fish you catch
- you must release any accidentally-caught fish immediately and without harming them
Closed seasons are used to:
- protect a species at a vulnerable stage of its life cycle (e.g., when it is spawning or protecting its young)
- protect a rare or endangered species, like lake sturgeon
- increase a fish population
Rules for fish sanctuaries
By law, you cannot fish in the protected waters of a fish sanctuary.
A fish sanctuary can be declared for:
- all or part of a specified waterbody
- all or part of the year
Dates are inclusive (e.g., “March 5-June 15” includes March 5 and June 15.) Fish sanctuaries are used:
- to increase a fish population
- to protect fish while they are spawning or protecting their young
- to protect a rare or endangered species
In most cases, fish sanctuaries are marked with signs. If you’re at all uncertain, check with your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry work centre before you fish.
To fish in a pond that is connected to a river or lake on your property during closed seasons still apply, because water flows out of your pond into natural waters. You need a licence to fish and the fishing seasons apply.