Consultation on potential revisions to the rules for catch and release of fish during recreational fishing

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Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Bulletin posted
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This notice is for informational purposes only. There is no requirement to consult on this initiative on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Learn more about the types of notices on the registry.

Bulletin summary

We are proposing changes to recreational fishing rules to provide clarity on when anglers can photograph, measure, and weigh fish before they are released.

Why consultation isn't required

The proposed change is to the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007. Since this is a regulation under the federal Fisheries Act, it is not prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

We are using this information bulletin to seek public feedback on the proposal through a survey.

Bulletin details

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 expressed that being able to keep a fish long enough to take a picture and measure their catch (e.g., length, weight) is important to them.

Currently, under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007, anglers are required to immediately release any fish where the retention or possession is prohibited. Also, if the fish is alive, it must be released in a manner that causes the least harm. There are a number of reasons why a fish might be prohibited, including fish that are caught out of season, fish that are over daily catch or possession limits, fish of a restricted size, and fish that were improperly hooked (e.g., snagged). Based on the way the law is currently written, any activities that delay the release of these fish (e.g., posing for photographs, measuring, weighing) are considered contrary to the rules.

While the current framework allows for effective enforcement of seasons, catch, and size-restrictions, it is also a barrier to some fishing activities (e.g., catch-photo-release tournaments), potential fisheries management tools (e.g., community science programs) and enjoyment of angling experiences (photo-documentation of catches).

Proposed Changes

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is 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; and
  • 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. We also think this will provide opportunities to improve fisheries management. It is anticipated that this proposal will make community science programs more accessible and allow for catch-photo-release style competitive fishing events.


MNRF have engaged science experts to understand the risks associated with catch and release fishing. The changes proposed are believed to be relatively low risk to both individual fish and fish populations.

MNRF engages Indigenous Communities, stakeholders, and the public when developing changes to recreational fishing rules. As part of engagement on this proposal, MNRF is conducting a survey concurrently with this information bulletin to understand the range of perspectives. Results from this survey will help to inform regulatory options as part of proposed changes to the release of fish rules.


A change of this nature to Ontario’s recreational fishing regulations requires approval of both the provincial (MNRF) and federal governments (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.

Public consultation

We are looking for feedback on this proposal from anglers and anyone else interested in Ontario’s fisheries resources. To facilitate this, we’ve developed a survey to help us understand your perspectives. Please provide your feedback in the survey by April 21, 2023.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

MNRF - Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch - Fisheries Section

300 Water Street
5th floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7

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Dan Taillon

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Email address
MNRF - Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch - Fisheries Section

300 Water Street
5th floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7

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