Many boat ramps closed

by Jason Bain | April 2, 2020
ramp closed sign blocking a ramp

April 8 update: The City of Kawartha Lakes, Blind River, Collingwood, Owen Sound, South Bruce Peninsula, and Tiny Township have now also closed their boat launches, OOD has learned. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has an updated list here.

Many Ontario boat ramps were closed after provincial emergency measures were extended on Tuesday, March 30 to also include the closure of outdoor recreational amenities to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Georgina Township on the south end of Lake Simcoe in Simcoe County and Scugog Township, which includes Port Perry on Lake Scugog, are among the municipalities that have closed ramps, staff confirmed.

Complaints lodged

Scugog made the decision after getting multiple complaints of boaters congregating at public docks and boat launches, as well as not maintaining appropriate physical distancing, Municipal Law Enforcement Officer Denise Stephenson said.

“To limit these instances and keep our community safe, the township decided that the public boat launches needed to be included in our closures,” she wrote via email.

While the provincial order does not specifically mention boat ramps, it states that it closes “all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario.”

Closure extends

That includes, but is not limited to, playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, beaches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, plus other outdoor recreational amenities.

“The Township’s boat launches are part our outdoor recreational amenities and as such are included in the Provincial Order,” Stephenson wrote on Thursday, April 2.

Many ramps still open

However, water access in other municipalities remains open.

The nearby City of Kawartha Lakes has not closed its parks, just amenities in them, such as playground structures, Mayor Andy Letham said Wednesday.

“People need something to do,” he said, noting that fishing in groups, however, would not be in keeping with provincial guidelines.

Access in northern Ontario remained open at the end of March, but ramps there were still blocked by ice, Ontario OUT of DOORS Senior Editor Gord Ellis said.

No changes from MNRF

Some marinas allow customers to launch for a fee – boaters can check with local marinas to confirm what services may be available.

While some US states, including South Carolina, have merely closed public boat ramps, others, like Washington, have suspended recreational fishing entirely.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has not indicated plans to delay, postpone, or close this spring’s open fishing and hunting seasons.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) is reminding everyone they can still get outdoors and enjoy these opportunities while following proper physical distancing guidelines.

Moreover, access to green spaces, trails, and walkways remain open.

Fish ladder closed

The Ganaraska Fishway, also known as the Fish Ladder, was closed to the public by the Municipality of Port Hope on March 31.

The 11,000-acre Ganaraska Forest, however, was closed by the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority on March 24.

Simcoe County Forests remain open, although the county is asking users to respect social distancing and those who are self-isolating not to use the more than 150 different forest tracts that combine for 33,000 acres.

OOD has also been advised of the following closures, but is aware there are many more:

  • Belle River Marina
  • Chewitt
  • Colchester Harbour and boat ramp
  • Kincardine Marina and Boat Launch
  • Lasalle Marina
  • Leamington Marina
  • Mitchell’s Bay Marina
  • Port Glasgow Marina
  • Queenston Docks

-With files from Steve Galea

Click here for information on COVID-19’s impact on marinas

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  1. Terry Dunn wrote: The province has talked about and has stressed the term essentials! Many Ontarians fish and hunt to feed their families. AN ESSENTIAL!!!!! The government has deemed automotive, boating as means of transportation and they both are , they have deemed gas stations and including marine as essentials making it essential for such to remain open. Having said that, there are ways of limiting he numbers into the launching areas at at time. Just as it is with the numbers allowed into a grocery store or pharmacy at a time. Boats launches should be open and could be controlled having such safety measures put in place. This topic is a crucial essential for recreational fisherman and hunters in providing essentials for their families. Both of which can be done by both social distancing by the province's allowed numbers and can be done as individuals. Boat launches must remain open for these reasons. Remember boaters dont get nearly as close to each other as do automobiles, many boat operators or occupants are much safer as well in a boat than in the confines on any transportation on land as most boats are open to fresh air.
  2. Chuck wrote: So.....shall we go congregate at the super market to buy our fish??? Duh!
  3. Rick blanchard wrote: St Lawrence parks has closed all parklands including the 11 km parkway that most people just drove and parked along at this time of year. Farther west, unofficial entrances to the parks commission land, were blocked to stop bank fishers. Such a shame as these people were spread out along the bank, practicing social distancing while getting fresh air and a bit of fun in these hard times.
  4. Dwight Witney wrote: I agree with 100% with social distancing, but when rights are taking away that have no bearing on the end result its easy to conclude that this is no longer about controlling social distancing. This is more about stripping us of civil liberties and having to rely on government officials to determine which liberties shall be returned back once things are back to normal at at what cost. I can't think of any activity that can be done outside in such solitude. If truly concerned, simple fix, if anybody on the boat / ramp are not complying with social distancing, by all means give them a ticket.
  5. Herman Baguss wrote: The while social distancing thing is in shambles... Everywhere you look you see people not respecting others' right to stay clear. I was in a grocery store the other day and a young couple behind me in the check out line were clearly not respecting a safe distance. I did not say anything but moved to the front of my cart to increase space. After that I made up my mind that if you're not giving me the respect of safe distancing, you're gonna hear about it. I can't believe that people care so little about their well being that they still meet in groups, travel with others in cars and a whole pile of other things. Going fishing with a buddy is one thing that if you don't change and go solo they'll close all the ramps or even seasons. I, for one, always fish alone and would be plenty peeved if that happens just because of some idiots think that the rules aren't for them...
  6. Jeremy Theobald wrote: I hate it and I think that if they don't overturn this decision soon there will be a big problems. Nevertheless i believe it's about trying to keep ambulance or rescue services free to deal with the pandemic. It's also about reinforcing the provinces plea to avoid any unnecessary travel. The public service announcements at this point are crystal clear, don't leave your property for anything other than grocery (once a week), medical issue or pharmacy. Why is it human nature to try to find a loop hole? I hate it. Many spring bites that I'm missing. However I would feel guilty fishing as a free man,escaping and feeling like nothing's wrong, when my health care worker friends have to go to work in danger every shift.
  7. Frank Cicinelli wrote: I don't understand how a single angler in his own boat in the middle of a lake is NOT the ultimate in social distancing! Yet, they've taken that away. Ramps can be controlled to allow only one boat at a time to launch; really this is mostly the normal way its done anyway; I don't recall a group of people helping me to launch my boat.......ever! It's always been with me and my fishing buddy my son. We've been social distancing together for about a month now; why can't I go launch my boat with him and fish with him, in our own boat? Can we not simply change the rules at a boat launch and say proceed to launch your boat when the boat ahead of you has launched and left the dock; then only can you enter the ramp? Seems pretty manageable to me.
  8. Bill Caldwell wrote: With many boat ramps closed, to ones that are open become very busy and overcrowded, making it much more difficult to maintain spacing...if all were ope, this would allow proper distancing to be maintained. Also, fire departments near lakes have zodiacs on trailers that are used for emergencies on the waterways. With boat ramps closed their access is compromised. Open up all boat ramps to resolve these problems.
  9. David Williams wrote: I live on lake Lauzon in algoma mills. The township has blocked tha access to the boat launch. It seems unreasonable considering the extra taxes I pay to live here. We get our own water, have our own septic, plow our own road and have no access to the lake for a boat. How does this help vivid 19?
  10. Les Anderson wrote: with social distancing at the fore front, and the boating/fishing season upon us. When do we see these boat ramps opening and under what restriction would need to be met in order to have these ramps re-opened. For the most part anglers in Ontario respect the rules and I am sure that they would respect the restrictions, if any, related to Covid19 and opening these ramps.
  11. Suzanne Flaro wrote: I understand the concerns they have about boat ramps but people need to get away from the turmoil for awhile and enjoy some outdoor activity. I think its time the government realizes that keeping people locked in their homes is going to cause more problems in the long run. If social distancing is an issue than fine the people at boat ramps and the message will become clear. Denying everyone the opportunity to go on the water to fish is not the way to do it. I think its time the government thinks of the mental health of the citizens and give them something to look forward to during the summer season. I think that being out in fresh air and in a boat on the water is safer than travelling by public transit or in a cab because boaters stay away from each other all the time so stop the excuses and open the boat ramps. Social distancing on the water is easier to maintain than on land.
  12. Dorothy Moore wrote: what is the fine for people launching a boat at a provincial closed boat ramp?
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Hi Dorothy, social-distancing fines have usually been issued based on municipality, so it would likely depend on the location of the ramp in question, and who spots the person causing the infraction (a municipal officer or a conservation officer).
  13. Bob wrote: At a marina which you have a trailer and a boathouse when can you use the ramp to put the boat inthe wster
  14. Steve wrote: Dumb..bumb..dumb.......cannot the launches be managed not to allow folks to socialized?? Oh, I forgot..municipal workers are off with full pay! They could not manage the launches from home! Sorry..I,forgot that!
  15. John Gilmour wrote: This women Denise Stephenson, needs to be fired. No fishing? I guess we will have to play poker and drink. WTF
  16. Barry Algar wrote: Totally illogical. Degrees of reasonableness have been forgotten. I launch myself, obey all rules and fish alone. I catch & release all fish as well I remove barbs from hooks. Some sports do not require physical closeness / contact! Why is it illegal for two people to play shuffle board wearing gloves? Why is it illegal for a family to be in a park ? If you don't start applying logic to this everyone will just go their own way and ignore all rules. The oppisite to what you what your objective is. Look, over there two teens touching with a mask on The rich can share flights, pack a limo, go to a cottage, etc. etc. etc.... Everyday people have lives too! So will the birthrate take a fatal drop in November? 11 months in.
  17. Walter Dodson wrote: Would you be so kind to include information on the border situations in regards to entry to Canada from the US, I’ve been forced to cancel my fishing Trip this spring and this information is not easy to get here. Thank you
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Hi Walter, there's no way of knowing as yet when the border will open, but we'll be providing updates on the site as they become available.
  18. Ann Mittag wrote: I would like some clarification on a MNRF owned boat lauch at Cordova Lake. We have hired a company who needs to lauch their barge at this boat lauch. This company have told us that they are not yet allowed to put the barge on the lake and yet I have heard that this launch was never closed as per someone at the MNRF. Can we get some clarification for us and also for the the company we have hired.
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Ann, as boat ramp closures are municipally-based, I suggest contacting the city this particular boat launch is in.