Angling community leaders have a better understanding of regulation changes for smallmouth and largemouth bass in FMZ 20 after a recent virtual meeting with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) representatives.
They also vowed to help share that info, including how to lawfully photograph bass caught during the new catch-and-release season now underway, during the discussion hosted by Competitive Sport Fishing League (CSFL) president Andy Pallotta.
Photography dominated much of the March 31 evening event. Many tournament organizers had been asking about hosting catch, photo, measure, and release events during the new annual season that runs from Jan. 1 to May 10.
Others can shoot
Taking the time to measure, weight, and photograph a fish is prohibited in a catch and release fishery, but it’s fine for someone else to be taking photos or shooting video while an angler is releasing a bass, Lake Ontario Management Unit (LOMU) Manager Andy Todd reminded.
The photography issue is not new, but a light is being shone on it by the new catch-and-release season on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, Bay of Quinte, Niagara River below Niagara Falls, Hamilton Harbour, and St. Lawrence River.
“To some, it’s been a surprise. But it has always been this way,” he said.
Taking a photo or video is actually not unlawful, but not releasing a fish as soon as possible is, MNRF Fisheries Section Senior Biologist Dan Taillon explained, noting that a conservation officer will apply discretion in each case.
Other aspects of the catch-and-release regulations are more straightforward, such as avoiding weighing and measuring bass, he added. “Those things obviously involve additional handling and are things we want to avoid.”
The clarification was appreciated by Rapala North America Product Manager Chris Hockley, who pointed out how some can be rather unkind to others on social media.
“That seems really clear to me,” he said, applauding the work and research that led to the regulation changes. “Creating opportunities like this are fantastic … we just need to be really careful and make sure we don’t abuse it.”
The new catch-and-release season is part of a new journey, Todd noted.
“We’re all sharing and figuring it out,” he said, asking tournament organizers to be leaders so that average anglers are not villainized. “As an angling community, we have to be kind to each other over the next couple of years.”
Split season coming
That may include helping less experienced anglers tell the difference between bass in the new split season to come, Todd added.
The opening of smallmouth has been pushed back to the first Saturday in July to offer them more protection while nesting, while the largemouth season will still open on the third Saturday in June. Both seasons still close Dec. 31.
The regulation changes are the result of a three-year study by Queens University researchers, led by Dr. Bruce Tufts. Conducted from 2014 to 2017, it found many smallmouth were still caring for their fry when the previous combined season opened.
The meeting also included MNRF LOMU Assessment Biologist Erin Brown, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Fisheries Biologist Adam Weir, and representatives from Ontario BASS Nation, the Quinte Fishing Series, Renagade Bass Tour, Downtown Bass Anglers, and others.