| Jan 10, 2008

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Feature Article - January 10, 2008 Bait Shop Owners Defiant Over New Regulations by Jeff Green

A new group has been formed to combat a little-publicized change in fishing regulations that could have a severe impact on commercial baitfish dealers and harvesters in Eastern Ontario.

The group, which includes Bob Leonard from Hartington and Jane Kerr from the Sunset Bait Shop in Perth, among others, is upset over a limit of 5 inches for all live or dead bait fish sold in Ontario fishing zone 18. Fisheries Management Zone 18 is a large region that runs from Trenton to the Quebec border, along the border to Fitzroy Harbour and back west to Bancroft.

The reason this regulation has been brought into place is that, according to the MNR, large bait fish have traditionally been used by some anglers in zone 18 to target lake trout, northern Pike, and Muskelunge, utilizing gorge hooks. Fish captured using this technique ingest both the bait and the hook, and recent scientific studies indicate this leads to increased mortality of released fish. Regulations that came into effect last year about the size of fish that can be kept in zone 18 has lead to an increase in the number of large fish that must be released, and the bait restriction was instituted to improve the fishery as a whole.

The bait dealers have several problems with this. First of all, according to Jane Kerr, it would be much easier for the MNR to ban gorge hooks, which has been done in other jurisdictions, and the problem would be solved.

“The fish aren’t killed by the size of the minnows, but by the gorge hooks,” she said.

Secondly, as someone with a bait gathering license, Kerr said there is no way to pick out the larger bait from the bait she gathers. Even if there were, handling the bait too much kills them, particularly minnows in the summer season.

“All this is likely to do is put people out of business,” she said.

Zone 18 is the only zone in Ontario where the size limitation on bait of 5 inches has been implemented.

The members of the new bait industry committee will be seeking information from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources at a meeting to be held at the White Lake Fish hatchery on Hwy. 7 next Monday.

(On Tuesday, the News put in a call to Scott Smithers, the area biologist at the Kemptville office who is listed as a contact person, to discuss the new regulation, but we did not hear back before going to press later the same day.)

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