Anglers: Residents with a valid recreational fishing license issued under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act may capture their own baitfishes for personal use using traps and dipnets. The Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007 (OFRs) allows them to set a legal minnow trap (no more than 51 cm X 31 cm) or capture fishes with a dipnet (no more than 183 cm in diameter or along each side, and during daylight hours only). The capture and use of bait is not allowed in some waters; the Ontario Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary should be consulted for Zone regulations and exceptions. Baitfishes may be caught for personal use only and anglers must have no more than 120 baitfishes in their possession at any time, which includes both caught and purchased baitfish. Any live holding box must be clearly marked with the name and address of the user, and must be visible without raising it from the water.
Commercial Bait Harvesters: The taking, transporting, buying and selling of baitfishes is authorized for the holder of a commercial bait licence issued by the province under the FWCA and in keeping with the requirements under the OFRs and FWCA. The means of taking baitfishes may be specified on the individual commercial bait licence. Licensed harvesters or dealers are required to record harvest and/or maintain receipt of baitfishes in log books and submit annual reports.
Anglers can find a complete up-to-date listing of which fish species can be used as live baitfish in the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 2007 (OFRs).
Species listed as invasive fishes under the OFRs cannot be possessed alive. The use of bait is prohibited in some waters. No crayfish, salamanders, live fish or live leeches can be brought into Ontario for use as bait. It is illegal to release any live bait, or dump the contents of a bait container (including the water) into any waters or within 30m of any waters.
In addition, fishes listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under either the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) or the provincial Endangered Species Act, 2007 cannot be used as baitfishes. Species considered sportfishes cannot be used as live bait.
The legal status of baitfish species may change over time. Be sure to check the latest version of the Ontario Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary for up-to-date information. Go to http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/
In Canada, fishes and fish habitat are protected under the federal Fisheries Act. This Act makes it unlawful to harmfully alter, disrupt or destroy fish habitat, including baitfish habitat, without authorization from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) came into force in June 2004, and aims to protect native wildlife at risk, including fishes, from becoming lost from the wild, to provide for their recovery and to manage species of special concern. Under Section 32 of SARA, general prohibitions apply to fishes designated as extirpated, endangered or threatened. Fishes designated as such cannot be killed, harmed, captured or sold and the habitat that has been deemed vital to their survival or recovery is also protected.
On June 30th 2008, the provincial Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) came into effect in Ontario to protect at risk species and their habitats, to promote the recovery of species that are at risk, and to promote stewardship activities to assist in the protection and recovery of species that are at risk. Endangered, threatened or extirpated species, and their habitats, receive legal protection under the ESA. The Act calls for the creation of recovery strategies for endangered and threatened species, and management plans for special concern species.