Public input sought on changest to fishing regulations

By Lucas Punkari
Staff writer

After 18 months of discussions on future fishing regulations for lakes from the Manitoba border to the boundary of Quetico Provincial Park, the Fisheries Management Zone 5 advisory council now is ready to hear what the public has to say.
This past week, the council set up feedback forms on its website, as well as in paper form, for anglers in Fort Frances, Kenora, Dryden, and other area communities to provide their thoughts on some of the proposed regulation changes.
“The [Ministry of Natural Resources] is looking at redoing some of the regulations in the different regions around the province, and they wanted the people that live here to give their opinions as to what they should do,” said Richard Boileau of Fort Frances, a representative of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters on the advisory council.
“As a council, we have been going through the biology of everything in the region for the last year-and-a-half, along with discussing what is best for the fisheries, the tourism industry, and the people of Northern Ontario,” he noted.
“And now, we have set up the feedback forms so that the public can leave their comments and have their say.”
The FMZ 5 encompasses an area from the Canada/U.S. border to the south, the Ontario/Manitoba border to the west, the CN Rail line to the north, and the Universal Transverse Mercatoral co-ordinate 15 (which also is the boundary of Quetico Provincial Park) to the east.
All lakes within this geographical region fall under the FMZ 5 banner, except for Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, Wabigoon Lake, the Rainy River, and the English River, which all are classified as specially-designated waters.
“That’s an important thing to remember when people are looking at these feedback forms,” Boileau stressed.
“If you fish on Rainy Lake regularly, then your slot size limits won’t be affected,” he noted.
“But if you fish on lakes like Cuttle and Weller, these are things that you need to be concerned with.”
The species of fish on the feedback form sheets, which will be available during the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship weigh-ins tomorrow through Saturday at the Ice For Kids Arena, include lake trout, black crappie, northern pike, walleye, and both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Boileau said the most interest has come from people when they hear about the advisory council’s work regarding walleye, with one of the options available to select being a change from keeping one fish over 46 cm (18”) to keeping no fish over that size.
“We, as a council, are fine with the current option,” he remarked.
“But one of the feelings is that if you catch your four fish under 18 inches, you’ve got yourself a great feed of fish.
“And I don’t know anyone who keeps a five-pound walleye just to eat it,” he admitted.
Size limits also have been discussed when it comes to northern pike management options.
Four of the five options being considered would see a change from the current regulation of keeping no northern pike between 70 and 90 cm, and only one over 90 cm.
“The problem with that size limit is that those are a perfect eating-size fish, and anything below 70-90 cm is not a good eating size,” Boileau reasoned.
“There’s no problem with the current population, so what we are thinking is to try and develop a regulation so that the fish that you keep are in those slot size that you can eat.
“Plus, do we really need to be keeping that record big fish?”
When it comes to the black crappie options being considered, any changes would be in regards to the current daily catch-and-possession limits, which are 15 for a sportfishing licence and 10 for those holding a conservation licence.
“To have a conservation licence, and to be able to catch up to 10 crappies, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Boileau said.
“So, one of options is to keep the sportfishing limit at 15 and drop the conservation limit to five,” he noted.
“But we have also considered the idea of having the sportfishing limit at 10.
“It’s not really a danger right now, but on those little lakes that we have talked about, they can be over-fished quite easily, especially on a boat when you have six guys out on it,” Boileau warned.
And when it comes to the bass options, the advisory council’s proposed changes have to do with clarification of the dates currently in the regulations.
There are little to no changes when it comes to lake trout.
Those interested in filling out a feedback form also can visit the MNR office on Scott St., or check the advisory council’s website at www.fmz5.com.
“This is all very important to us as their feedback could tell us that our options may be the right way to go, or they can be totally off-base,” said Boileau.
“Once we get the forms back, we will be going through all of the information that we have acquired,” he pledged.
“And then we hope to advise the MNR as to what we think they should do later this fall.”