By. G. Chambers, SFBCA Vice Chairman
Has something like this happened to you? You silently approach a favourite fishing hole. Keeping a low profile, so as not to spook the fish, you make a couple of whisper soft false casts. Then just as the fly hits the water POW! Somebody throws a tennis ball in the water, followed by a dog in hot pursuit.
I hear countless stories of quiet fishing days interrupted by nitwits roaring through rivers on ATVs, or throwing rocks into the water or simply walking too close to anglers and scaring the fish.
In most cases, these non-anglers are simply oblivious to the fact that their actions are interfering with my ability to catch fish (Thanks, but I don’t need any help to not catch fish!). In some cases, I believe people are intentionally screwing up the waters in some sort of misguided protest against fishing. Whatever the reason, intentionally messing with someone who’s legally angling is both rude and against the law.
INTENTIONALLY TAMPER WITH MY LINE = $150 FINE:
When I politely tell interlopers their thoughtless actions are hampering my chances of catching fish, I’m usually told; “you don’t own the river” or “I have the same right to use this land/water as you.” That’s not exactly right.
In Ontario, there is a something called the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (1997). According to this law, it’s illegal to purposely hinder someone who is hunting or fishing OR interfere with the prey they are after:
“13 (1) A person shall not interfere with lawful hunting, trapping or fishing by,
(a) tampering with traps, nets, bait, firearms or any other thing used for hunting, trapping or fishing;
(b) placing himself or herself in a position, for the purpose of interfering, that hinders or prevents hunting, trapping or fishing; or
(c) engaging in an activity, for the purpose of interfering, that disturbs or is likely to disturb wildlife or fish.”
Case in point. Back in 2012, Rob Seal and a buddy were hunting geese on private property near Chatham (with the permission of the owner). They were approached by a woman who was obviously “Anti-Hunting”. She threatened to call the police and the MNR, which the hunters encouraged her to do since they weren’t breaking any laws. The same lady returned awhile later, honking her car horn to scare off the geese. Fortunately, Seal caught the whole incident on his cell phone. With the video evidence, the woman was charged and convicted with interfering with a lawful hunt. The automatic set fine is $150, but judges do have discretion to impose fines of up $25,000 fine and one year in jail.
With more and more anglers and hunters wearing G0-Pro cameras or having cell phones to record their activities (like Rob Seal), the chances of being caught if you intentionally interfere with an angler or hunter are pretty high.
GIVE ANGLERS SPACE, PLEASE:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of sharing space with non-anglers, but just as it would be rude for me to false cast in the middle of somebody’s softball game or picnic, it’s equally wrong (not to mention illegal) to interfere with my fishing activities. Remember, someone fishing has more rights to the river and riverbank than a non-angler. You are a guest in the angler’s space, so follow some basic etiquette:
- Give the angler a wide berth. You could be interfering with his casting if you’re too close
- Don’t stand directly on the riverbank and watch the angler. Your presence or shadow could spook the fish.
- If you must cross the river near someone angling, ask first. Generally you’ll want to cross downstream from where someone is fishing.
- Keep the noise down.
- Keep your dogs on a leash until you are well past someone fishing.
- Be polite. Don’t paddle through an area where someone is actively fishing. If necessary ask and wait. Better yet, portage around if you can.