It’s National Fishing Week in Canada. You can can fish license-free until July 12th.
Waterkeeper’s office is an OFAH/OPG TackleShare Loaner Site. Borrow fishing gear for free.
Many people have questions about water quality and the safety of eating fish from the Great Lakes. Whether you are an experienced angler or trying the sport for the first time, here are the top three tips for a sustainable fishing (and eating!) experience.
1. Water quality affects you
Experts call fishing a “secondary contact recreational water activity”. This means that you’re getting wet, even though you aren’t “under” the water.
It also means you need to be aware of potential potential health concerns associated with fishing in contaminated water. You probably won’t be gulping down lake water, so your risk of contracting a gastrointestinal illness is much lower while fishing. But watch out for illnesses affecting the skin, eyes and ears (such as rashes). Even spray from boating on polluted waters can be inhaled, leading to respiratory illnesses.
If you’re fishing, you need swimmable water. If you aren’t sure, check out Waterkeeper’s handy infographic for protecting your health on the water.
2. Know your (fish’s) limits
Overfishing threatens fish populations, meaning ecosystems and anglers suffer. That’s why the government creates possession limits and size restrictions on the fish you can catch and keep.
Catch only the number of fish you need. Be respectful to the lake and to your fellow anglers. And remember: it is illegal to waste fish suitable for human consumption by allowing it to spoil.
Catch only the size of fish you need. There are size restrictions on the fish you can keep. It is important to release any fish you catch between 70-90 cm long. This is because it takes years for some species of fish to reach spawning size. In order to sustain the fishing population, it is important to release these prime spawners. Additionally, bigger fish produce bigger eggs. These large eggs are essential for sustainability as they carry the genes that allow fish to grow to large sizes.
Fish don’t like catch-and-release. As many as 80% of fish die when released back into the lake because of stress and over-exposure. To minimize harm, return fish to the water immediately if you don’t plan on serving them up for dinner.
3. Get the fish consumption guide
It’s no secret that fish are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. In a clean environment, fish offer unparalleled nutritional benefits. In fact, the child of a woman who consumed clean fish during pregnancy is likely to have significantly better communication (at 18 months), motor skills (at 42 months), and social skills (at age 7) as well as higher verbal IQ (at age 8).
Unfortunately, there are pollution-related fish consumption advisories for the fish in every major water body in North America. These consumption advisories are a result of historical and ongoing industrial pollution. Toxins like mercury, PCBs, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals are released into the natural environment. They build up in fish and wildlife and interfere with natural reproduction. For people who regularly consume fish and wildlife, the toxics create risks of neurological impairment, heart disease, and developmental delays in our children.
On Lake Ontario, contaminants like mercury, PCBs, fertilizer, and plastic microbeads are key concerns. Be sure to use the Guide To Eating Ontario Sport Fish to identify which fish are right for you.
Be a sustainable angler
Help keep the water clean so that the sport of fishing can be enjoyed by anglers for generations to come. Don’t leave anything behind after a day of fishing. Make sure all of your garbage is properly disposed of, including hooks, weights, and fishing line. Debris can cause injury and death to animals.