Big Changes in the 2021 Bass Fishing Season?

by Pete Bowman

For those of you that fish for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass in Zone 20 of Ontario, you need to read this. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have put forward a proposal towards a bass fishing season change. I’m included in this group of anglers as I hit “20” numerous times in a season and have done so for many years.

Zone 20 includes the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, the Bay of Quinte, the Niagara River (below Niagara Falls), Hamilton Harbour and the St. Lawrence River (to the Quebec border). This zone is huge!

I’m not going to copy and quote the entire proposal, instead, I ask you all to go and read it in its entirety. There is great scientific information in there, some suggestions for the future of the fishery and a link for you to state your opinion.

The two subjects for you to review.

PROPOSED FMZ20 REGULAR SEASON FOR BASS

Different opening season dates for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass:

• Largemouth Bass – 3rd Saturday in June to December 31

• Smallmouth Bass – open 1st Saturday in July to December 31

Maintain the aggregate catch and possession limits – Sport (6) and Conservation (2) for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass combined.

My opinion:

Regarding the above, extending the closed “smallmouth only” season from Dec 1 to the opening day of the first Saturday in July; I am 100% for it.

I’ve fished for Smallmouth on Lake Ontario during the first week of the existing Bass fishing season (usually around the last week in June) and trust me, there are still lots of Smallmouth in various stages of the spawn. Even if you’re an ethical angler, chances of incidental catches of “bedders” or a guarding fish are high. Yes, most Bass anglers are catch and release and yes most do release these incidental Smallies immediately (and yes again, the fish will make it back to their nest given they are still in good physical condition) however we cannot stop predators from invading the nests. In a couple of minutes, a Bluegill can feed up on lots of eggs or fry.

Great idea MNRF, now on to the second proposal:

PROPOSED EARLY SEASON ANGLING OPTIONS

1. Early season angling for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass (January 1 to May 10) with catch and release (no harvest).

2. (January season Smallmouth Bass Early for Largemouth Bass and 1 to May 10) Conservation with reduced daily catch limit – Sport (2) Conservation (1) – exception: no early season harvest (catch & release only) in small water bodies in FMZ20 such as Lake Consecon, East and West Lake, Roblin Lake, Fish Lake, Lake on the Mountain, Wellers Bay, Pleasant Bay, Hamilton Harbour

3. Maintain status quo – no early season

In both early-season options (1 & 2) the season is closed between May 10 and the proposed opening date. (No bass angling would be allowed when the majority of bass are staging and spawning.)

My second opinion:

This one may surprise you, but I am all for #1, early-season angling for Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass (January 1 to May 10) with catch and release (no harvest).

 

As for #2 which mirrors the above but adds harvesting a small number of fish, absolutely not. There are already lots of opportunities to “fill your stringer” in the regular season (that sickens my stomach BTW, the bass limits should be reduced to 3 sportsmen & 1 conservation in my opinion)

Option #3 Maintains status quo – no early season, obviously I like #1 so I’m sticking with that.

If I’m just thinking about myself and want changes to “better” my life, that’s not thinking for the fish. But I truly believe that like-minded Canadian anglers in general and in this case southern Ontarians that bass fish seriously (if you are out there from Jan. 1 to May 10, you’re probably hard-core) will have the brains and proper attitude not to abuse this “extension” if you will.

Another plus to an early season is the economical benefit. I know so many Bass anglers that will be filling the boats and trucks up with gas to head to Zone 20 for this bonus season. Probably grab lunch or supper there and on extended stays, accommodations as well!

As well it a great experiment to see if this can be spread to more zones.

In closing, and I wanted to wait until the end of this before I said my next point. I’m not sure if you realize it but pretty much half of Ontario already has an early season, extended season or no closed season for Bass fishing. Northern Ontario has had it for as long as I can remember. The Algoma region extended their season not that long ago (here’s an example of that particular fishery). In these locations, their fish aren’t done spawning until sometimes into July. Our northern brethren not only enjoy this bonus fishing season, but they stay within the laws laid down and don’t abuse the system. They’ve had this fishing gift given to them and they know how to appreciate it.

Let’s be honest, if anyone wants to go out and poach Bass off the beds or poach during the closed season, they’re going to do it regardless of the laws. They live by their own rules and don’t give a damn about the license buying, law-abiding anglers nor the fish.

PLEASE SEND YOUR OPINION

Whether you agree or disagree with my following thoughts, I ask you to provide your personal feedback on the proposed changes to the regular season as well as the early season bass fishing options.

It’s like voting, your opinion matters!

This must be done by March 31, 2020.

Send your comments to Lake Ontario Management Unit

41 Fish Hatchery Lane, RR#4

Picton, ON K0K 2T0

email: FMZ20@ontario.ca

NOTE, Zone 11 has made the following Bass season changes this year:

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass combined Season: January 1 to third Sunday in March and third Saturday in May to December 31

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