Five takeaways from free fishing in Southwestern Ontario this weekend

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Looking for an escape from lockdown cabin fever now that Ontario has begun easing COVID-19 restrictions? Why not bait a hook or drop a lure and go fishing? It's free this weekend in the province and Southwestern Ontario, lapped by Great Lakes and drained by major rivers, has no shortage of places for anglers to go.

No catch. You can fish to your heart's content without a licence this weekend. Four times a year, Ontario waives its licence requirement to allow free fishing. This weekend's dates, timed for Father's Day, just happen to follow a two-month pandemic shutdown that's left many people pining for things to do. Licence-free fishing is also allowed on the Mother's Day weekend in May, for one week in July and on the Family Day long weekend in February. Normally, anglers need to buy a provincial fishing licence, which range from a sport licence good for one year that costs about $26 to a one-day licence that goes for about $12.

In an area as large as Southwestern Ontario, with thousands of kilometres of waterfront, that's a difficult question to answer. Serious anglers and even newcomers to the sport all have their favourite spots. John Vinen, co-owner of Angling Sports London, a fishing and tackle store in east London, says some of his go-to spots in the region include along the Thames River, "where you can almost catch every species of fish," depending on time of year, and Lake St. Clair, which he calls "one of the smallest capitals of the world" for catching muskie, a type of pike. He also likes Lakes Erie and Huron for trout and salmon, and says Pond Mills in south London and Mill Pond in Dorchester are ideal spots for kids.

There's a wide range of fish out there to catch in our region, says Vinen. They range from walleye and pike to panfish and carp. In a few weeks' time, there will also be more bass, he said. Ontario limits the size of fish and the numbers you can catch and keep. You must release any that exceed the restrictions. For more information, go to Ontario.ca and search fishing.

You can always go fishing with something as simple as a cane pole. But a basic rod-and-reel setup, including fishing line, hooks and live bait, will set you back less than $40, says Vinen. To get equipped to catch bigger fish, something more than a child might be after, you can expect to pay $100 to $150, he adds. Vinen also says some anglers get creative trying to attract fish, for example by trailing out bait in the water. Some go to bulk food stores and buy bags of breadcrumbs, which they mix with corn to entice fish.

Watch for slippery banks along riverways; pack lifejackets on boats (they're mandatory); stay hydrated by drinking lots of water; make sure you're protected from the sun and keep hooks out of the reach of small children.

cleon@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/CalviatLFPress

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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