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The Great Lakes is the largest system of fresh, surface water on the planet and the Great Lakes basin is home to nearly 30% of Canada’s total population. Footnote 1   With fishing historically being one of the more prominent recreational activities in Canada, both for citizens and visitors to the country alike, there is the potential for substantial recreational fishing activity on the Great Lakes.   

Every year, large numbers of Canadian and visiting anglers participate in sport fishing activities across Canada. The important socio-economic contributions of recreational fishing are felt in all of Canada’s provinces and territories, and in particular within the Great Lakes fishery defined in this report. 

1.1 Survey Highlights

As highlighted in the Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada Footnote 2, recreational fishing participation rates have been on a downward trend in most provinces and territories, and participation on the Great Lakes was no exception. 

Resident anglers continued to make up the majority of the active angler population on the Great Lakes although the numbers of anglers decreased by nearly 30,000. 

Females made up a greater proportion of active anglers in 2005 but still remained largely unrepresented compared to the male angling population (80%).  The population of active adult anglers continued to age: the average age increased by 5 years for both sexes (47 for males and 43 for females) compared to 2000.

Though the number of active anglers and the number of days fished decreased from 2000, the average number of days fished per angler increased slightly to 12.1 days.  Most of these angling days were spent fishing on Lake Huron (2 million) and Lake Ontario (1 million).  The same two lakes were the most popular for ice fishing. 

Those anglers that fished on the Great Lakes caught a total of 39.2 million fish of all species in the province of Ontario of which 23.6 million were in the Great Lakes system.  As in 2000, perch made up the greatest proportion of these fish caught in 2005 with nearly a third of the total harvest.  Even greater proportions were kept by all three angling groups as the retention rate for perch approached fifty percent. 

Great Lakes anglers spent an estimated $413 million on durable goods used in whole or in part for recreational fishing on the six major Great Lakes regions.  Of this amount, $228 million could be directly attributed to their recreational fishing activities on the system in 2005.  An additional $215 million was dispensed in the region on direct recreational fishing expenditures during fishing trips, such as transportation, food, lodging, fishing services, and fishing supplies.