FMZ 15 changes on hold

by Steve Galea | February 14, 2023
a map of FMZ 15 FEAT

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Assistant Regional Resources Planning Manager Jesse Van Allen confirmed in January that the FMZ 15 Draft Management Plan and comments received from anglers and stakeholders, were being reviewed by MNRF staff.

“The earliest possible date to implement any proposed changes would be Jan. 1, 2024,” he said. “Depending on when the plan is approved, the changes may be implemented Jan. 1, 2025.”

The plan, which caused concern for some anglers and businesses that rely on winter angling, was placed on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) in late 2022 for public comment. Van Allen said 460 comments were received, which is higher than generally received for a draft FMZ plan.

Feedback to be sought

Van Allen said once the review is complete, the MNRF will seek feedback from the FMZ 15 Advisory Council, comprised of representatives including First Nation and Métis communities, local anglers, the tourism sector, environmental non-government organizations, local business representatives, cottage associations, and the public.

Following that, he said, updates could be made. He expects a finalized plan in 2023 to be posted on the ERO, along with a summary of comments and any updates.

Comments were generally supportive of the priority to conserve and rehabilitate cold-water species, Van Allen noted, adding some anglers believed the proposal would end all winter angling opportunities for trout, which he said was not the case.

He pointed out that while some season changes were proposed to protect naturally occurring brook trout and lake trout populations, a winter season from the first Saturday before Family Day to the to third Sunday in March was proposed on large natural lake trout lakes (greater than 500 hectares).

Also, the many lakes that are stocked with brook trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, or splake would continue to be stocked and available as year-round angling opportunities.

The plan also proposes:

• Removing most existing winter fish sanctuaries, allowing new winter fishing opportunities for some species.
• Extending the current angling season for smallmouth and largemouth bass.

For more information on the proposal, click here

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  1. Neil Vanek wrote: I have a cottage on Esson lake in Monmouth township. These new rules would absolutely decimate the trout population as most fish caught are just over 40cm, making most caught fish keepers under the new rules. The trout are doing great under current regulations, which still allow locals and cottagers to enjoy ice fishing here. There is no need to take that away from us. Opening the bass season earlier would also have a negative impact as the fish are still spawning as of the 3rd Saturday in June every year since I was still in diapers. The mnrf needs to do more research on this.
  2. Jaime Sebastian wrote: I am a fish guide and guide on many waters in FMZ15 including Algonquin Park. I have serious concerns on muskielluunge slot sizes and it's conservation practices I wish to be heard and being a former member of the FMZ12 council, wish to participate in FMZ15 council.
  3. Avid Angler wrote: I am glad this was put on hold. The basis for this change appears to have been drummed up by wealthy cottagers and their associations trying to close the lakes to winter activity. It has NOT been evaluated from an economic or social stand point. How could any attempt be made at limiting our time outdoors during these winter months? How were area businesses like restaurants, hotels, guides and tackle shops not consulted or even told? Limiting fishing by lake surface area is unheard of. No stocking program in place? No thoughtful use of slots or changing limits? And leaving currently stocked lakes wide open to absorb all the fishing pressure is completely unfair to the fish in the lake and the people who live on them. This was a disaster from the get go. I am glad the public spoke up.
  4. Charlene wrote: I can't find any updates regarding ice fishing rules for 2025. Is Esson Lake still available for ice fishing next winter? Thx