| Mar 13, 2008

Feature Article - March 13, 2008

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Feature Article - March 13, 2008 Local resort owner raises alarm over new fishing regulations.By Jeff Green

It seems like the new fishing guide, which was released by the Ministry of Natural Resources in December, is like a time-released scatter bomb aimed at Eastern Ontario tourist operators.

Even before the new regulations came into force, they were controversial locally because of the size of the new fishing zone 18. The zone hugs Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River between Trenton and the Quebec border, follows the Ottawa River north to Arnprior and then runs along the tops of Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington and Hastings Counties.

Charges to walleye catch limits and the introduction of so-called slot limits were also controversial for local tourist operators who serve the walleye-crazy US market. And this was all before the regulations came into effect.

Soon after the guide was released, bait harvesters and sellers raised the alarm about bait size restrictions that were in effect only in zone 18, leading to a rescinding of the bait limits by the Ministry.

Now, Cezar Spirala of Springwood Cottages on Kennebec Lake is making noise about a possession limit for what are known as pan fish species (blue gill, sunfish, and rock bass).

Few Canadians are the least bit interested in these species, but for Spirala and other operators, they are the draw for American anglers that commonly fish in the shoulder seasons of early May and late September.

“Anyone in the tourist industry knows how important it is to fill their resorts in these seasons,” says Spirala, “and I fill my resort with Americans who fill their freezers with pan fish.

Spirala, who has owned his resort for five years, says some of the American tourists that come to his resort have been hauling in panfish for 40 or 50 years.

“Typically, they catch one to two thousand of these fish, filet them, and freeze them to take home. This has been going on for a long time with no adverse impact on the lake. In fact, these species eat the eggs of more desirable fish, so controlling their populations is a benefit,” Spirala said.

A couple of weeks ago, Cezar Spirala heard some bad news from one of his perennial American clients.

“He had heard the regulations were changing, and looked at the MNR website. He told me that it said there is now a possession limit of 50 panfish, only in zone 18.”

He later confirmed the new regulation with MNR officials.

Cezar Spirala says that 25% of his customers are Americans and 90% of them fish for panfish. He says it has already cost him $10,000 in business because he feels obligated to inform people who are booking their cabins at his fishing resort that the possession limit is in place.

“People might think thousands of fish are a lot of fish, but 1,500 panfish have about as much flesh as four normal-sized walleye. When they are filleted they are the size of a potato chip. But they are delicious,” Spirala said.

They are also plentiful.

“Last year there were more pan fish caught at my resort than ever before. Customers who normally catch 1,000 were catching 3,000. There is no shortage of these fish,” he said.

“Between the high American dollar, passport regulations, and this, I and a lot of other fishing resort owners are looking at major loses this year. And it is a regulation that makes no sense.”

(The News will seek clarification from the MNR about the new possession limits and will report back in a future issue.)

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