Bordering on ridiculous

What’s good for the (Canada) goose is good for the gander!

Think about that saying and what it represents. In the last couple of years, fishing along the border areas like Niagara and Erie counties is no longer business as usual. We’ve been told that we must call into Canada Border Services Agency whenever we enter into Canadian waters. Make sure you call (888) 226-7277 when you are entering into those waters. Passports are the preferred choice, but you can also use an enhanced driver’s license or a driver’s license and birth certificate.

Things aren’t that simple, though. We’ve not been able to get a definitive answer on exactly when that call should be made.

One day in particular last month, three different answers were given to three different fishing parties in the area. One party tried to call in when they were leaving the U.S. They were told by officials not to call until you are physically in Canada. Another charter fishing party stopped 50 yards into the line and pulled out their phone. Canadian law enforcement was in the area and pulled up, asking if they had called in yet. They said they were doing that. Law enforcement read them the riot act and threatened everyone with $1,000 fines and possible boat confiscation. In the end they got off with a warning, but rest assured those out-of-state customers will not return after that harrowing experience. A third person was traveling from Niagara to St. Catharines, Ontario for a tournament. As he was entering into Canada he called into CBA. He was told not to call until he arrived at his destination, which he did.

We’ve reached out to Congressman Brian Higgins in western New York to see if we can get an answer on exactly what that procedure is. Stay tuned. But we’ve also found there is no “tampering” with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. However, they are not the problem here. It’s the Canadians. You know, that country with the “friendly” border. We have to abide by their laws, their stringent regulations, no matter how crazy they may be. Some of their enforcement people have gone out of their way to say they are going to be royal pains in the butt … because they can. Pass the word!

One person from Rochester, who normally calls in, was fishing the lower river. He decided to take one drift in Canadian waters without calling in. You guessed it, he was pulled over. Not only did he get hit with a $2,500 fine, he was physically written up and had his boat confiscated. In the end, the boat was given back to him … this time. Next time they may not be so lenient. Yes, this is what anglers are dealing with here on a daily basis.

It doesn’t stop with just calling in. You have to be aware of what bait you’re using. The only live bait you can use is worms, kept in either bedding or water. You are in violation if the worms are in dirt. No crayfish, minnows or leeches. Do you have certified minnows from the Niagara River on the New York side? Don’t bother, they are not legal on the opposite side of the river … even if they came from the same water. And whatever you do, don’t have a can of beer or even an empty in the boat – another ticket will be coming your way. Yes, it’s another country, another way of living.

Even the Canadian anglers have different attitudes toward Americans. They think we want to change all of their fishing regulations to conform with New York’s or wherever. They won’t listen to reason, even if it’s something as simple as adjusting a fishing season by a month for spawning purposes. I sat in on a meeting once when Bob Lange was the Great Lakes fisheries guy, sitting down with officials from the Province of Ontario. We were going to discuss the possibility of a reciprocal license for the Niagara River. He came with plenty to barter with in the way of regulations compromises and more. In the end, not a single thing was negotiated other than in the end there was a change to an exorbitant charge to nonresidents – when we handed them 2,000 Ontario licenses with notes saying we weren’t coming back. Money talks.

Maybe it’s time to cook their goose. Maybe it’s time to reciprocate with everything the Canadians are doing to us – back at them. We need to step up enforcement in New York waters. We need to force them into calling our Customs and Border Protection as they enter New York waters (or whatever the real requirement states). We need to enforce the fishing regulations, every time a Canadian enters into New York waters and let them know we mean business.

Every time they take an illegal fish from New York waters, that’s a fish that we can’t catch. We need to step up enforcement there, too. We are seeing more and more Canadian fishing activity in the Niagara River, a body of water that has limited stocking from our Canadian counterparts. Except for two years where they provided supplemental stockings of kings due to shortfalls in New York numbers, they have not stocked a single fish in the Niagara River. It’s a shared resource that should be shared equally as far as stocking; and it should be shared equally as far as enforcement of regulations and border concerns. It’s time to get the word out that we are not going to take this sitting down.


Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr, News

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