By: Chase Dreilich, MWF Recreational Angling Coordinator
Various changes are scheduled to come into effect for recreational anglers this spring. Season dates, possession limits, size restrictions, and licensing are a few of the areas that will be affected by these changes. Beginning in 2021 the Manitoba Government announced that they would be bringing forth a proposed set of regulation changes for recreational angling through a Recreational Angling Strategy. After releasing the proposed regulations, the provincial government engaged in a public consultation period with recreational anglers and stakeholders to get feedback on the proposed set of regulations. Recreational anglers and stakeholders were supportive of the increased protection of our valued fisheries proposed by the Recreational Angling Strategy.
Recreational angling in Manitoba has become one of the most popular activities among residents and non-residents. We are very fortunate here in Manitoba to have many drive-in access trophy fisheries in addition to the many fly-in access trophy fisheries across the province. This popularity has increased the number of recreational anglers throughout Manitoba. I think back 15 years ago when we started making the excursions onto “Big Windy”. It was normally a lonely trail out from Warner Road, passing a handful of other anglers on the way out. If you head to Lake Winnipeg’s south basin on a sunny winter weekend now, you will find a web of trails and convoys to follow and a “small city” of recreational anglers out, enjoying one of Manitoba’s natural resources. It is quite a sight to see!
It’s exciting to think about how the recreational angling community has grown and in fact become a part of the identity of many Manitobans. The increase in recreational angling activity is great for the province’s economy and the value that it brings to the resource, but we need to ensure we are taking proper care of these resources as well. With this increase in angling pressure not only on Lake Winnipeg but across the province, the recreational angling regulations were due for an update. The changes to come with these new regulations will increase the angling opportunities across the province while also focusing on the long-term sustainability of our fisheries.
What are these changes?
Current Regulations: To start off, we’re going to talk about season dates, possession limits, and size restrictions. Currently, for recreational angling, there is a general season closure in three of the four angling divisions. This general closure restricts recreational angling in most divisions during predetermined times intended to protect spawning fish, with the only exception being stocked trout lakes. Under the general regulations, the walleye/sauger limit is six in possession and only one may exceed 55 cm. The lake trout possession limit is two with only one exceeding 65 cm. Beyond the general season regulations, there are also high-quality management lake regulations along with lake-specific regulations.
The new regulations coming into play will not have a general closure over an entire division but will have species-specific closures along with 3 area-specific complete fishing closures in the spring. Lake-specific regulations will still be in effect.
Walleye, lake trout, and sturgeon will be the ONLY fish species with seasonal closures outside of the area-specific complete closures and any lake-specific closures.
The area-specific closures will be as follows:
- From the first Monday in April to, and including, the second Friday in May:
- Red River and its tributaries to the first impassable barrier between Lockport Dam and Lake Winnipeg,
- The Assiniboine River downstream of the Portage Diversion to Highway 240
- Dauphin Lake and its tributaries, excluding Vermillion Reservoir, will continue to be closed from April 1 to and including the second Friday in May
Even though angling all year round for many species will be open, provincial fisheries biologists have determined that these complete angling closure areas are the best way to protect the spawning walleye.
The new species-specific closures and possession limits will be as follows:
Walleye/Sauger- possession limit 4, none may exceed 55 cm
- SOUTHERN DIVISION: Open the second Saturday in May to and including the first Sunday in April.
- On Lake Winnipeg, open the third Saturday in May to and including the first Sunday in April
- NORTHWEST AND NORTH CENTRAL DIVISIONS: Open third Saturday in May to, and including April 30
Lake Trout- possession limit 1, none may exceed 65 cm
- SOUTHERN DIVISION: Open November 1 to, and including September 14
- NORTHWEST AND NORTH CENTRAL DIVISIONS: Lake-specific closures remain in place.
Lake Sturgeon- possession limit 0
- SOUTHERN DIVISION: Open June 16 to, and including April 30
- NORTHWEST AND NORTH CENTRAL DIVISIONS: Open July 1 to and including April 30
- Conservation closures on the Winnipeg River and the Nelson River systems remain in place.
If you followed along throughout the consultation period you would have also noticed that when the province brought forth the opportunity for recreational anglers to voice their opinions, they voted for increased protection beyond what was already being proposed for larger spawning females by limiting the possession size of certain species. The walleye angling season will remain closed one week later on Lake Winnipeg to allow more walleye to complete spawning prior to the season opener. Spawning periods are led by water temperature and as biologists know that water temperatures in big lakes tend to warm slower than their tributaries, in terms also delaying the spawn there. Species such as northern pike, smallmouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, freshwater drum, and all other species will be open all year round under the new general regulations. Do note though that there are also some possession limit changes for many of these species. For instance, the northern pike possession limit will be 4 with none exceeding 75 cm and burbot will have a limit of 6 with none exceeding 70 cm.
The second area of discussion is the new licensing changes. Under the current set of regulations, the province has two yearly licenses available for purchase, a conservation license, and a regular license. The regular license allows for the maximum possession limits to be acquired whereas the conservation license has a reduced possession limit. The conservation license comes at a reduced cost and both types of licenses are available for residents, Canadian residents, and non-residents.
With the new regulations, there will only be one annual license available for each residency type and there will be an addition of a one-day angling license. This will allow for the same possession limits across all licenses. Along with this, the requirement for a signature on your license will no longer be needed, eliminating the requirement for paper licenses. This will allow anglers to carry their angling licenses electronically! A step in the right direction with the new provincial e-licensing program. The province has also included in these changes that active military members and veterans will not be required to purchase an angling license but will need to carry identification with proof of service. Seniors, under current regulations, still do not need to pay for a conservation angling license and now they won’t be required to carry a copy, only a piece of identification with proof of age on it to go fishing. This will increase accessibility to recreational angling for seniors and military members in Manitoba. All the angling licenses that are available for purchase will be subject to a slight fee change, the price will land right in between what a conservation license and a regular license currently cost.
Finally, a couple of changes coming to the ice fishing community that are related to permanent ice shacks. Permanent ice shacks can now be marked with your customer identification number (CID), from your e-licensing profile, plus your phone number, or anglers can also use their first and last name with their phone number. Along with this, permanent ice shelters in “Area B” of the southern division in the angling guide must be removed by March 15th with the new regulations.
This has been the first time that the province has brought forth a suite of regulation changes in quite some time. With the new changes coming into effect this spring, anglers will have plenty of opportunity to keep their lines wet all year round, all while being certain that there will be fish there for generations to come!
View the Recreational Angling Fact Sheet, or scan the QR Code below.