Monday May 27, 2019

A Guide to Identifying and Protecting Ontario’s Baitfishes

Baitfish Primer (DFO, Canada)Recreational angling is a popular pastime in Ontario – well over one million residents and visitors enjoy angling every year. Angling supports many aspects of the Ontario economy, including the baitfish industry. Many anglers use live bait, including baitfishes. Few anglers probably realize that there are over 65 species of legal baitfishes in Ontario. To many, all small fishes look alike; however, upon closer inspection, most baitfish species can be distinguished from one another with relative ease. If you can tell a house sparrow apart from a black-capped chickadee, with practice you will be able to distinguish a creek chub from a longnose dace. 

The ability to distinguish among small fishes is important, as the use of some small species for bait is illegal. It is illegal to use sportfishes, some species that have been introduced into Ontario, and species that are so rare that their use may lead to their continued decline and eventual disappearance. Even within the fish families listed as legal baitfishes, there are illegal species. These are illegal because they are listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Federal Species at Risk Act, or are listed as illegal in the Ontario Fishery Regulations.

This Baitfish Primer is intended to help baitfish harvesters and users:

  • be aware of existing federal and provincial legislation and regulations pertinent to the use of baitfishes,
  • identify small fish species,
  • distinguish between legal and illegal baitfishes,
  • recognize the importance of baitfish habitat,
  • understand the potential impacts of improper baitfish use, and
  • minimize their impacts on our aquatic ecosystems.

For more information on Identifying and Protecting Ontario’s Baitfishes please visit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.