Feedback sought on proposal for FMZ 15

by Steve Galea | October 18, 2022
FMZ 15 map

Public consultation is now sought for a proposal that may change fishing regulations in Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) 15.

A 171-page Fisheries Management Plan posted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) on Sept. 29 is open for review and comment until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 28.

The document outlines strategy, possible management actions, and proposes regulations for cold, cool, and warmwater fish species in the region, with the focus on protecting the zone’s natural lake and brook trout populations.

Protecting natural brookies

The plan proposes conservation sport fishing regulations in waters in FMZ 15 that hold natural populations of brook trout. The proposed zone-wide changes include:

  • Changing the season in those waters to the fourth Saturday in April to September 30, which eliminates winter fishing.
  • Daily limits of two with a Sport Fishing Licence and one with a Conservation Fishing Licence.
  • A prohibition on the use and possession of live bait in designated prime brook trout waters.
  • A prohibition of the use of live fish as bait on high-value and high-risk natural trout waters and waters that flow into Algonquin Park.

“The elimination of winter fishing zone-wide will protect populations at the time that they are most vulnerable to exploitation and the lower catch limit will reduce open water harvest,” the draft states. “The intent is that by maximizing the quality of the open water fishery, it may reduce the risk of intentional introductions of other sport fish species that compete with brook trout.”

Year-round brookies

Year-round brook trout fishing opportunities will still exist in stocked lakes via exceptions in the regulations. These lakes will have daily limits of five with a sport licence and two with a conservation licence and will also be stocked with genetically appropriate strains of brook trout to divert pressure from lakes where brook trout reproduce naturally.

Protecting natural lakers

The plan also proposes management changes for lake trout, calling it the “keystone species” of FMZ 15 — one of three areas in the province with a high concentration of lakes that support native lake trout populations.

Among the zone-wide proposed changes:

Small, natural lake trout lakes under 500 hectares will be designated as small- or large-bodied lakes, depending on the size of fish within them.

  • They will have minimum size limits of 40 and 50 cm, respectively.
  • The new season for either category will be from the third Saturday in May to Labour Day, which eliminates winter fishing in these lakes.
  • Daily catch limits of two for a sport licence and one for a conservation licence.

Large, natural lake trout lakes over 500 hectares will be designated as small- and large-bodied lakes, depending on the size of fish within them.

  • They will have minimum size limits of 40 and 50 cm, respectively.
  • Their winter seasons will be shortened opening on the Saturday before Family Day to the third Sunday in March and third Saturday in May to Labour Day.
  • Only one line may be used through the ice on these lakes.

Year-round lake trout opportunities

Exceptions in the regulations will provide stocked lake trout lakes that will be open year-round. They will have:

  • Daily catch limits of two for a sport licence and one for a conservation licence.
  • No minimum size limit.
  • Two lines permitted for ice fishing.

Other fish

Proposed changes on other species include:

  • Reducing daily limits for whitefish to four with a sport licence and two with a conservation licence.
  • Closing the dip-netting seasons for herring and whitefish in the 18 waterbodies in the FMZ where it exists.
  • Bass seasons to begin a week earlier in the third Saturday of June and extend to December 15.
  • A walleye harvestable slot size of 40-50 cm, with some exceptions.
  • In the eastern portion of the WMU, a few water bodies will maintain a 50 cm minimum walleye size limit.
  • Lake Muskoka will have a 40 to 55 cm harvestable slot size limit.
  • Put/grow/take walleye stocking will no longer occur in FMZ 15.
  • Rainbow trout, brown trout, or splake will not be stocked into lakes managed as natural lake trout or brook trout populations.
  • Splake stocking will be considered on a put, grow, take basis in specific waterbodies to divert effort from natural brook and lake trout lakes.

The ministry developed the draft plan in consultation with the FMZ 15 Advisory Council, comprised of First Nation and Métis communities, local anglers, the tourism sector, environmental non-government organizations, local business representatives, cottage associations, and the general public.

FMZ 15 stretches from Georgian Bay to the Ottawa River and includes Parry Sound, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Minden, Haliburton, Whitney, Bancroft, Deep River, Petawawa, and Pembroke.

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Comments

  1. Mitchell Sissing wrote: Conserving Natural Brook Trout lakes Of the four mentioned plans to help conserve natural reproducing lakes I have fished lakes with all of proposed limitations (Seperately) with in zone 15. Now during the spring/summer/fall (sept 30) many anglers who choose to chase brook trout head into Algonquin Park in chase of a trophy. During winter when AP is closed this increases pressure on all other lakes. There is NO DOUBT this will improve brook trout populations in naturally reproducing lakes and show be implamented. I have also seen the demise of NR BT lakes due to the increased size and number of fish because of social media. Once a lake is diminished it can take a decade to recover.. have supplementary amounts stocked fish to aid in a diminished population been considered as a contingency? Since this promotes trophy fisheries has lake cycling on year round lakes or general stocked lakes been considered to increase size in trophy stocked lakes? Patrol for CO'S in summer is would also be much more difficult as many would be canoe access only.. where as winter a officer on a snowmobile can check multiple lakes that are clustered closer together within 2 hours. Just thoughts to think on South River, ON
  2. Marc Blake wrote: Kawagama lake is a huge lake with hardly any fishing pressure, I’ve never seen more then 2 dozen huts out in the winter. Taking away January and some of February would also hurt the two marinas on the lake as they supply parking and fuel for anglers. Not sure about other lakes in the area, but I do a lot of trout fishing on Kawagama lake and catch over 200 lake trout a year, I catch all sizes 8”-27”. I think the current slot size is what hurting the lake, people are keeping small trout because it’s harder to catch ones over the slot. Thanks
  3. CONNOR MARTIN wrote: Instead of shortening seasons in natural lakes, I would prefer to see catch and release only seasons from January 1st until the new proposed open seasons and from labour day until September 30th.
  4. Shea greenaway wrote: Great idea! Protect our trout !
  5. William Geick wrote: We are required to purchase a fishing lisence but not allowed to keep walleye unless they fit into slot sizes. The law should be changed to allow fisher men and women to keep one fish per day no matter what size on any lake. The money gathered from the fishing lisences is not used for stocking and was promised by govts. Where is the money going?
  6. Leif Buxton wrote: Most of these suggestions, which I’m certain have been well thought through and researched, will definitely improve/maintain fish populations in the zone overall. For example, nobody needs 12 whitefish, 4 is plenty. Also highly supportive of the idea of reducing the possession limit on natural brook trout lakes from 5 to 2 (sport) as many of these lakes are so small that only a few dozen of these harvests could have a severe impact on the populations. One proposition that I am unsure of is closing winter fishing for natural lake trout on all lakes less than 500 hectares. Other factors such as lake trout reproduction and growth and density of anglers on the lake should be looked at. Or, a catch and release winter season (or even entirely catch and release lakes), as the younger generation of anglers is more keen on sport than fish consumption overall.
  7. Robert Bullee wrote: Balsam lake should have no ice fishing. Summer fishing was much better before you opened it up for winter. Just my opinion.
  8. Henry Faviu wrote: Sounds great, unless you actually live in the zone and have some knowledge of the fisheries. Natural brook trout lakes are usually far back in the bush so they don’t get pressured usually. Also the part about no ice fishing for natural lake trout in the winter in lakes under 500 hectares is in called for. It has nothing to do with specific lakes but a broad generalization. I would like to see some science to show that it will have any affect on the numbers. Also don’t support less walleye stocking. The MNR already does almost nothing with are money.
  9. Wes bristow wrote: Why would ever think this a great idea! I’m in my 40s and I grew up on all these small lake around Bancroft. my wife and my 2 kids are always so excited for our winter holidays, to get out and explore all theses awesome lakes that surround our cottage. Everyone knows how tough it is to get our kids away from there phones there’s days, and the winter months of fishing and exploring into these lakes that don’t have service, this gets them away from there phones. The kids learn so much in the back woods, shame on you people wanting to take this away from every kid that lives in these areas, no more ice fishing with there grand dads in his ice shacks. I can tell you this will change these kids for ever, the Ontario government has already taken so much away from these kids. So no fishing on 6 weekend at the cottage this winter will be just like every night at my house now. We never see our kids as they are on their phones. Us and our friend love our times on the lake, we might take 3-4 trout a year, as we don’t even keep them as they don’t even taste good, we just keep walleye. You guys spent million on this when all you had to do it to put limits on the native people, they are steeling all these fish and our deer and moose. All your problems start with them, the people that buy the fishing licences every year are not your problems. Grow some …. And stop them from cleaning these lake out, you cutting us off these lake will not help the lakes it will just help Them. I’m lucky i have money to pay fines, I am not taking this out of my life my kids lives and not taking this away from my future grand kids! We will fish the same, fish and release everything we catch. So if you pass this come and fined me and my family, enjoy life on Earth and you guys will never take this away from us!!! My cottage is north of Bancroft CO’s see you guys on the ice this winter. Wes bristow
  10. Matt jewell wrote: Protecting natural reproduction great idea but shutting the season down completely isn’t the answer more law enforcement an lower catch limits higher fines are. Stopping walleye stocking isn’t a good idea either use 10% of revenue from licenses to fund a walleye hatchery program as many lakes are hurting an not just in FMZ15. By moving forth with this proposal it will only hurt local tourism an local businesses that relied on these fishermen to survive the winter in an already hard economy
  11. Robert John Bellan wrote: Why the change? Are the care takers of the land over fishing/netting? Are these changes for the natives too? If so will the regulation changes be inforced?
  12. Larry Moffatt wrote: Yes please lengthen the bass season
  13. Jeff McColl wrote: I’m in total agreement for protecting lake and brook trout for future generations. Eliminating ice fishing on natural lakes will definitely benefit the populations and focus more fishing pressure on stocked lakes. I just find the regulations so confusing….is there a chance of a database being developed that can be searched by lake name for the regulations for that specific waterbody? I’m familiar with fishonline, but a link to the regulations doesn’t exactly make it easy. A searchable database for the ‘rules’ for each waterbody would certainly be helpful and provide peace of mind that you’re in compliance. Let’s face it…..the electronic age is here to stay unfortunately. One other issue is the opening of lake trout being later in May instead of the 4th Saturday in April. So much for ice out lake trout fishing….which is an annual trip I make with my sons. Based on my review, brook trout season opener would remain the 4th Saturday in April? I would like to see both brook trout and lake trout season remain as the 4th Saturday in April. Bottom line…..more and more people are using (and catching) the resource. Something needs done. I assume limiting human population growth would not be an acceptable alternative? Too bad!
  14. Terry Wayne Merlin wrote: Having a two (s) and (1) limit in the slot size 40 to 50 cm. In Bark Lake will mean there will be hardly any pickerel caught. There is very few pickerel caught in this slot size. Eliminating ice fishing in some of these lakes will really hurt some local businesses also. It will also hurt the surrounding economy. A lot of places depend on the income brought in by winter ice fishing. Money is hard enough to bring in for a lot of businesses already. This could shut some of these down and really hurt the local economy. Best regards!!!
  15. Randy Sockovie wrote: A walleye slot limit of 40 to 50 cm on it's own is far too restrictive. Allowing 1 walleye over 50 cm in conjunction with the above slot limit would be more reasonable within the daily limit.
  16. Neil Vanek wrote: The trout are definitely an essential resource. My family owns a cottage on Esson lake, I certainly hope we no longer classify as a stocked lake as the lack of minimum size would ruin our beautiful population of small Lakers. On the other hand (if we're considered a small lake) they have done extremely well under current regulations, let me and my friends keep ice fishing!! With the current slot size I only consume about 2 fish a year anyways....
  17. Art Timmerman wrote: It is great to see that the MNRF plans to end put/grow/take walleye stocking and rainbow trout, brown trout, and splake stocking in lakes managed as natural lake trout or brook trout populations in FMZ 15. I will miss trout fishing in Algonquin Park after Labour Day (which is the most enjoyable time to be there). I'm assuming the shortened season is intended to reduce overall harvest of brook trout and lake trout. Is there a way to achieve this goal while still maintaining angling opportunities in September such as having a reduced overall harvest limit (1/0), a reduced harvest limit after Labour Day or catch-and-release fishing after Labour Day?
  18. DAVID WILLSON wrote: Stupidity ,they tried closing our lake in the 80's finally realized there was to many small fish and not enough food to go around.
  19. Brian Reid wrote: Too many rules and regulations and exceptions and slot sizes on certain lakes make it so I don't know where or what to fish anymore. Been buying a licence for 45 years and fishing for 51 years. But it's getting rediculis to try and comprehend the laws anymore.
  20. Brian johnston wrote: As a guide here in Haliburton and over 10 years fishing my zone putting over 200 days a year on the water. The numbers of walleye in our lakes from looking through the screen of Garmin's livescope in the past 2 years is very concerning with schools of 25,50,100s everywhere in structure all year long in every lake going all the way into zone 17 from the gull river waterway. I've even found them in lake of bays and smaller spring fed lakes that people thrown them into. With prime spawning areas everywhere and multiple food sources that lake trout forage on. Lake trout can't compete with the rate of walleye spawning and chasing the same forage, even in 100ft of water in Lake trout grounds icefishing. Not good when you see a harvested sick looking 12lb lake trout with rock bass in it stomach. I've been saying this for 4 years that the growing amount of walleye is very concerning. I honestly don't think the proposals are going to assist the lake trout population because of the magnitude of this problem. I love walleye! But I honestly think we should add another walleye to our limit here in zone 15 or in certain lakes. Obviously the stop walleye stocking is very ideal (other then kashagawigmog since the crappies have decimated the fry after the spawn) . It won't be long until walleye make there way down to simcoe. If this happened with in the last 10 years of my area and going into balsam (why they opened it up to ice fishing), I wouldn't doubt in 5 years you'll see a significant increase going into Simcoe from balsam.
  21. Wayne lockhart wrote: Ice fishing is a valuable recreation during winter, one I participate in and look forward too along with others on our lake. I think that a catch and release program would be a viable solution rather than a complete ban, so that the sport can continue instead of just complete shut down this could also achieve the conservation of the fishery while not negatively affecting fishermen and their suppliers of bait and tackle etc. I am on Esson lake in Monmouth township.
  22. Scott Green wrote: I take exception to the closer of all winter ice fishing for Natural Lake Trout. For the 40 years I've had the opportunity to fish these glacial beauties, in our particular Lake, I've seen no degradation in either quality or quantity. To close all natural fish winter fishing opportunities with such a broad brush is certainly the easy way to remedy some of the heavier pressured lakes. But where's the consideration for the rest of us. It's stated there will be exceptions, but what will be the criteria for that? I don't think there's been a Lake Inventory Survey here for several years, if not longer. Winter fishing has been a looked forward to activity for so many, providing winter activity, family participation, social distancing. Try not to ruin it!
  23. Rob Lynas wrote: There are currently limits and slot sizes on lakes. If non stocked lakes are not able to support ice fishing perhaps these are the lakes that need stocking. Makes no sense to allow ice fishing only on stocked lakes. Stock all lakes according to what is required to maintain a healthy number of fish. I say leave all lake open to ice fish for lake trout and stock accordingly.
  24. Trevor wrote: Well I had a nice elaborate comment written out and then the system didn't recognize my email and deleted it. But to be succinct I'd like to know the following: Why a blanket approach is being used for such a massive region instead of addressing actual at risk areas? Instead of closing winter/ice fishing entirely could we not move to only issuing catch and release permits? Has consideration been given to the impact on large lakes when the people that were spread across 6 small lakes now join everyone how was already fishing the 1 large lake in the area? All that being said I'm sure we won't get any actual answers from this government so RIP ice fishing, winter tourism, and the joys of actually enjoying winter in Ontario.
  25. David Russell wrote: Even though I don't ice fish for Lake Trout that much, I have concerns about wiping out the ice fishing season altogether on these small lakes. This will no doubt increase parking and fishing pressure on the larger lakes, which could make the whole experience of ice fishing very stressful - which it should not be. There should be other alternatives for these lakes: reducing harvest limit, perhaps an "season harvest limit" as well, which would be on an honour system. Perhaps live-bait restrictions, or alternating open seasons for some stressed lakes. Just please try something rather than the "nuclear" option of banning ice fishing altogether - I really think this issue needs more ideas and thought. The other issue which affects me more directly is the delayed open season of Lake Trout to May 24 weekend. We love getting our 14ft boat on the water early in May on Lake Joseph after being inside most of the winter - and it is by no means easy to catch these fish after ice-out. I find they can be at any depth that time of year, and at any location - they are by no means "vulnerable" to over harvest. Fishing is easier for them in mid-June I find. Very often I find that I'm the only one out there in late April, early May - it is not a high-pressure time of year, at least for the lakes I visit. And there are pretty much no other open species in early May, so it pretty much shuts down fishing until May 24. Stocked lakes are possible, but they can be difficult to access, and some of the stocked lakes have poor survival rates of fish > 1 lb. I only have one stocked lake I visit which yields decent Lake Trout - and I've tried a bunch.
  26. Jim DeFlorio wrote: I personally do not see over fishing on natural lake trout lakes. The regs that are in place now are more than sufficient. There are already slots and one line restrictions in place. I wonder if this is a means to cut back on policing the lakes during the winter. A shortened season between end of May and beginning of September does nothing for the average angler. It's quite tough to catch trout during this period unless you're highly knowledgeable. I have to think that the introduction of pike and other species into some of the systems will never allow the lake trout populations to flourish as they have in the past. I do agree with the proposed changes for whitefish. I am saddened by the ending of walleye stocking. This is not what license holders expect from the use of their fees. As other have said, many of these changes will take away the opportunity of the average citizen to enjoy ice fishing activities. Not everyone can afford to travel or go to high priced outfitters. This blanket proposed changes hurt the angler and those that make a living through fisheries tourism. I'm afraid this was a done deal once the proposal was formulated and announced. I hope I'm wrong about that and the voices are heard.
  27. Jonathan kuiack wrote: Hey ladies and gentlemen I understand what yous are seeing protecting fish, and there growth. I grew up ice fishing . We're im from everyone ice fishes, you take that away from us . County wide people are going to be angry. Ice fishing in bigger bodies water a person catches all kinds species fish . Pluz cleaning out some of the lake predators s like pike and walleye that would eat trout . I live to ice fish you shut down lakes , those other lakes that can be fished will get hit that much harder . It's hard balance . Id like if you didn't take winter fishing away .
  28. John hodder wrote: Having fished in fmz15 since 1964 I have noticed the decline in catching walleye and lake trout in recent years but also an increase in muskellunge. This fish is described by your report as non native and can negatively influence the existing food web as a top predator. This report also writes that muskellunge has had negative impact on native fish communities. There are few controls over this predator and it concerns me that your focus is to maintain existing populations. More attention needs to be given to this as part of the problem.
  29. Ryan wrote: Winter fishing in natural lake trout lakes should possibly be looked at as catch and release fishery only. Rather than shutting down our already limited opportunities for stocked lake trout. Spawning for the late trout is a very vulnerable time of year for them as they are up on shallow reefs with bass present. I have witness bass fisherman take advantage of this vulnerable time for the trout. Pulling trout off their beds. Winter fishing should be. Retained and possibly looked at as catch and release. Put and grown walleye fisheries should still be in place. We have a local lake here that GREATLY benefited from the supplemental stocking from omnr. Eliminate that and the lake will be back to square one with a population untargetable by anglers. Sure stop stocking rainbows and browns, but atleast ensure these lake populations are bolstered with other native species.. Alot of stocked fisheries are still rebounding from heavily increased fishing pressure from the pandemic. In my opinion certain changes being presented here are very short sighted. And seen to be decisions made from People with little to Experience with fisheries management. These potential changes will limit peoples winter fishing opportunities and still require the same licensing fees to potentially recreate in a limited fishery resource.
  30. Keith rodd wrote: I don’t like these changes The people and organizations you list I don’t think have all been notified and their input requested Having fished lake trout here on Kennisis lake for 34 years what I see is the lack of bait fish a substantial food source is required but it’s not there. Bait minnows used to be found in our waters by the millions. Schools and schools of them. Now they literally are non existent I know several that fished this same water in the 50’s and 60’s and remembered not being able to see the bottom for minnows. Perch were once here but now merely a few remain it’s the food source problem that clearly needs addressed Ice fishing on either Big Kennisis or Little Kennisis had little or no pressure on our fishery I would be glad to talk to someone about my observations I used to take part in a lake creel census but to my knowledge this is no longer done. I was one of anout 12 that took part
  31. Jeremy Bell wrote: This type of introduction to the fishery is not going to improve anything, their is no evidence that this proposal will help the fishery what so ever, all this does is prevent people from going fishing, winter fishing is already tough enough with out adding more restrictions to being able to fish, ice fishing should be open from ice on to ice off, and two or more lines should be allowed as mobility is always an issue when it comes to ice fishing, putting slot sizes and limits on the fish isn’t going to help the fisheries either. Fish have a life span just like every thing else in nature. What is the main goal here to create natural habitat for fish to reproduce naturally with out being fished or very limited fishing so that fish can grow old and die with out ever being fished. I see a hole lot of information here that doesn’t prove anything, or guarantee that the purposed material or strategy will help any fisheries to thrive, all I see is a purposel to deter people to go fishing or limit their fishing to not be able to catch fish.
  32. Thomas Hardy wrote: As an alternative; Has the ministry considered the following change to the Bass Reg's for Zone 15 Start a catch and release ONLY season May long weekend Keep the current open season 4th weekend of June I can see many benefits to the above approach, Similar to Lake Ontario