Conservation officers lay 51 charges for illegal night fishing on Rice Lake

·2 min read

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has laid 51 charges since Oct. 1 over illegal night fishing on Rice Lake.

Chris Jones, a ministry conservation officer in the Peterborough region, said while night fishing isn’t illegal when anglers have a valid fishing licence and are following the necessary rules and regulations of the fisheries act, the use of artificial light to attract fish is prohibited.

“What we’ve been seeing, and we’ve been receiving numerous complaints about it from the residents there, is the illegal use of artificial light to attract fish and improper navigational lights on vessels after dark,” Jones said.

Although this illegal activity has been an ongoing issue for the last several years, Jones said more individuals have been reporting it this year.

“In Ontario, it’s illegal to use artificial light to attract fish except when fishing for certain species with a dip net, or you can use lights if it’s part of a lure; it’s attached to a line,” he said.

The illegal act is happening across lakes within the Peterborough district, but Jones said he’s not sure about other districts in the province. Most of the charges have been laid during weekends, he said.

“It’s prohibited because many species are attracted to the light. So, for a violation to occur, we’d have to see these people shining those lights directly into the water,” Jones said.

Charges aren’t laid when individuals use light to simply look around the deck of their boat, he noted.

Generally, people who are using the illegal tactic to catch fish are targeting black crappie and walleye, he said.

“It does add a lot of pressure to the resource. The numbers are dwindling. We’re getting reports from local residents that the populations of fish out there now, aren’t what they used to be,” Jones said.

If people to continue to fish illegally and the population numbers continue to decrease, it will impact the whole ecosystem, he said.

“It just doesn’t effect one species of fish, it affects them all,” Jones said.

The ministry is going to continue educating anglers, he said.

“We’re going to be laying charges and continuing to educate people,” Jones said. “We believe these types of illegal activities can be reduced through education and the public’s willingness to report suspected illegal activities.”

To report any illegal activities, call the ministry’s 24-hour tips line at 1-877-847-7667, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: mlentz@peterboroughdaily.com

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner