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Province enforcing new bait management rules for anglers

Bait can pose significant ecological risk to Ontario's fisheries by spreading invasive species and fish diseases, says ministry

The province is putting extra focus this year on the responsible use of bait in Ontario lakes and rivers.

Bait can pose a significant ecological risk to Ontario's fisheries, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), by spreading invasive species and fish diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).

"Since 2014, we have taken steps to reduce the risks associated with the spread of invasive species and fish diseases in Ontario’s waterbodies," says a news release from the ministry. "We have conducted many studies and consultations and found that one tactic to mitigate these concerns is to limit the movement and use of bait fish and leeches in Ontario."

The province released Ontario’s Sustainable Bait Management Strategy in July 2020, which describes the new approach to managing bait fish and leeches to reduce the ecological risks associated with the use and movement of bait in Ontario.

New rules that came into effect on Jan. 1:

  • establishing four Bait Management Zones (BMZs) to limit the movement of bait fish and leeches in Ontario
  • restricting the transportation of bait fish or leeches, whether live or dead, into or out of a BMZ with some limited exceptions
  • anglers fishing outside their home BMZ must purchase bait fish and leeches locally, retain a receipt and use or dispose of their bait within two weeks from when they were purchased.
  • retain a legible receipt that includes:
    • date of purchase
    • business name (if applicable)
    • commercial licence number
    • location of purchase
    • quantity of bait purchased
  • harvesting of baitfish and leeches by anglers may only occur in their home BMZ

Bait Management Zones (BMZs)

Ontario is implementing four Bait Management Zones (BMZs) to restrict the movement of commercially harvested, personally harvested, or purchased bait fish and leeches.

An angler’s home BMZ is where their primary residence is located, which is defined as the place with which a person has the greatest connection in terms of present and anticipated future living arrangements, the activities of daily living, family connections, financial connections and social connections. For greater certainty a person only has one primary residence, no matter how many dwelling places the person may have, inside or outside Ontario.

Bait disposal rules

  • It is illegal to empty your bait bucket, drain the water or release live bait into a lake, river, or other waters.
  • Instead, you must:
    • drain your bucket onshore (30 metres from the water)
    • freeze the excess minnows for another day

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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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