Ontario unveils a few new fishing rules for 2014

Kenora, Ont. — Travelers to Ontario this year will note a few changes to fishing regulations for 2014 if they’re planning to fish waters in Zone 5. There are no changes, however, if your concern is crossing the Canadian border with a drunk driving ticket under your belt.

Ontario officials say the so-called “one-time pass” afforded those convicted in the United States of “minor criminality” – most commonly an OWI – remains in effect this year. If a traveler already has used up that privilege – an “operational bulletin” approved last year – it’s back to the conventional means of gaining admissibility, says Gerry Cariou, executive director of the Sunset Country Travel Association based in Kenora.

The pass option works only for first-time offenders who weren’t required to serve jail time, and it’s still at the discretion of the border agent. The denial of entry to Americans with OWIs has been a sore spot with Ontario tourism for years.

“I find it to be, obviously, ridiculous. … It’s not a reason to deny people (entry) into Canada,” Cariou said. “It’s a tough issue up here.”

A visitor to Canada is deemed “rehabilitated” if 10 years have passed since a “minor” OWI, he said. After five years have passed since the end of any sentence associated with a OWI, an individual may apply for “permanent rehabilitation,” which requires paperwork, as well as payment to the Canadian government. And, Cariou adds, “a 12- to 18-month processing time.”

If your offense is less than five years old, the likely option is to apply for a temporary resident permit, which, according to ezbordercrossing.com, could take up to six months to obtain, could require a personal interview, and likely would cost about $200.

Justin Gaudry, vice president of the North Western Ontario Tourism Association and proprietor of Mylie’s Place on Lake of the Woods, said prospective visitors without squeaky-clean records should speak with the outfitter or resort at which they plan to stay, to determine how to proceed.

Gaudry also recommends speaking with an immigration agent at the Rainy River (Baudette, Minn.), Fort Frances (International Falls, Minn.), or Pigeon River (Grand Portage, Minn.) offices, where most Wisconsin fishermen cross the border into Ontario.

“The attitude has changed more to helping people get through the hoops and over the hurdles than it has been in the past,” he said. “They’re there to try and facilitate (border crossing).”

More information about gaining admissibility despite a “criminal” record is available at ezbordercrossing.com

Fishing rule changes

Ontario’s Zone 5, which stretches along the Minnesota border from the state’s Northwest Angle east to the border water, Saganaga Lake, will see changes in the bass, northern pike, and crappie regulations, according to Cariou.

No longer will there be a trophy northern pike allowance. Rather, beginning this year, no pike larger than 29.5 inches may be kept. The sport-fishing limit for pike under that size is four; the conservation limit is two.

Also, the crappie limit is now 10 for sport anglers; five for conservation anglers. That’s down from 15 and 10, respectively.

And for bass, the regulations have been simplified, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources. The new limits are four for a sports license and two for a conservation license. All bass kept must be less than 13.8 inches from Jan. 1 through June 30.

In Zone 4 (the Ear Falls area, including Lac Seul), a size-based lake trout regulation has been extended for the entire season, which runs Jan.1 through Sept. 30. For sports anglers, a limit of two lakers may include only one longer than 22 inches. For conservation anglers, the limit is one, and there is no size limit.

Cariou says while it’s important to be aware of the changes, anglers should obtain and review a copy of the province’s fishing regulations, because there are exceptions to the rules.

He expects good fishing in northwest Ontario when the open-water season arrives.

“Ice fishing has been really, really good … so that looks encouraging,” he said.

Border crossing

For longtime Ontario anglers and newcomers alike, both Cariou and Minnesota conservation officer Darrin Kittelson say a review of border-crossing rules and suggestions is a good idea prior to summer travels.

According to Kittelson, anglers returning from Canada should have their fishing licenses on their person (not stored in a boat or elsewhere not easily accessible).

Kittelson frequently works the International Falls border crossing.

“The majority of those who come across are fishermen and hunters,” he said. “And the biggest mistake is they don’t have their fishing license with them in their wallet or purse.”

It’s things like this that slow the process during border checks, he said.

Also, anglers have to pack fish so they’re easily identified. In other words, if they’re frozen, they should be individually stored in packages through which they can be ID’d. And anglers should remember to leave the required skin patch on their fish.

Under a government agreement, Kittelson said, anything that’s illegal in Ontario is illegal in Minnesota, and enforcement action can be taken on the U.S. side of the border.

Also, he said, the fish being transported have to match the anglers in a particular vehicle, and their licenses. Often, he sees a cooler filled with fish for an entire group, not all in the same vehicle.

“It’s one of the biggest mistakes, but it’s gotten better,” he said.

When venturing into Canada, Cariou suggests travelers leave behind citrus fruits and unprocessed meat that’s not been approved by the U.S. government – such has home-processed venison.

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