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Eco-friendly Fishing: Tips for Doing Your Part


June 13, 2022


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Woman who catches a fish in the water

Sport fishing is an exciting activity to discover, but it’s important to do it responsibly so that future generations can enjoy the resource for many years to come while enjoying the much-loved natural landscape. And it’s possible if you follow these eco-friendly fishing tips.


This article was written in collaboration with Guillaume Morin from Hooké 

In this article, you will learn more about:

Fishing Gear

Spotlight on fishing

Every year, more than 650,000 anglers travel the waters of Quebec in search of their favourite fish. Of all the species fished in our lakes and rivers, brook trout (speckled trout), walleye, pike, yellow perch and bass are the most popular and generate more than 85% of the economic benefits related to fishing. In order to allow as many people as possible to enjoy of this increasingly popular activity, it is essential to do so in a reasonable manner to ensure the sustainability of the fish and their habitat as well as the maintenance of a healthy environment.

Respecting quotas for eco-friendly fishing

In March of each year, the Quebec government posts catch and possession limits on its website. These limits, also called quotas, ensure the renewal of the resource.

They are divided into two categories: catch limits and possession limits. Catch limits are the maximum number of a given species that can be caught each day by a sport fisherman or fisherwoman holding a Quebec fishing licence. Possession limits are the maximum number of fish that may be kept by an individual at any time and in any place.

For example, a person fishing for walleye in Area 8 for two consecutive days may catch six (6) fish per day, but must also stick to a possession limit of six (6). If a person catches five (5) walleye on the first day and eats two (2) of them, there will be three (3) left in the angler’s possession. This means that on the second day of fishing, the person must limit him or herself to three (3) catches. If the person chooses to eat two (2) more during the day, then two (2) more will be able to be caught to meet the possession limit.

In addition to catch and possession limits, some species are subject to size or weight limits in order to promote the reproduction of mature spawners and the survival of juveniles. At all times, it is the angler’s responsibility to be informed of the rules in effect according to the species and the water body visited.

General rule: respect the quotas at all times in order to preserve the survival of the species.

Efficient catch and release

woman who releases a fish to the water

Eco-friendly fishing also means catch and release, a technique that has proven effective in a variety of situations. For example, the Atlantic Salmon Management Program has a catch and release requirement for fish over 63 cm (24.8 inches) on many rivers. These limits have allowed spawners to reproduce, which has had a beneficial effect on the quality of the fishery in recent years.

To ensure that the release is done in a manner that promotes fish survival, it is important to do it correctly by taking a few simple precautions.

First, the use of artificial lures should be a priority. It has been shown that fish tend to swallow artificial lures less deeply than natural baits such as earthworms, which limits the risk of fatal injuries. If you catch brook trout, a.k.a. speckled trout, with worms or they bleed, you will not be able to release them. See more information on the subject by reading this article.

Second, using single barbless hooks allows you to unhook the fish more quickly. By limiting the amount of time you spend handling the fish, you maximize the fish’s chances of survival. Circle hooks are also known to bite fish in the corner of the lip rather than the throat, so use them whenever possible.

You should also handle the fish by leaving it in the water at all times. If you ever choose to take it out of the water for a photo or to facilitate unhooking, be sure to do so quickly and with your bare hands previously wet. Gloves or dry hands tend to remove the protective mucus layer that creates a barrier against infection. Remember that all fish need water to breathe, some species such as brook trout may even begin to show signs of asphyxiation after only a few seconds out of water.

In addition, the use of knotless rubberized mesh landing nets makes catch and release easier by reducing the risk of injury to the fish as it struggles.

Finally, whether you are practicing catch-and-release as a requirement to comply with regulations or voluntarily to reduce pressure on a particular species, it is important to keep in mind that some conditions are less favorable to catch-and-release than others. In hot weather, when the water becomes warm, it is preferable to abstain from fishing for fragile species or those that must be released. Indeed, the warmer the water gets, the lower its oxygen concentration becomes, which makes it difficult for the fish to recover. On the contrary, when the water is cold, its oxygen concentration increases and release can be practiced safely for the fish. Several studies estimate that catch-and-release mortality rates are close to 5%. By adopting good habits to promote fish survival, this rate can be greatly reduced. It is therefore important to adapt your practices according to the weather, the regulations in effect and the targeted species.

Reducing your ecological footprint

Four people around a fire discussing

For several years, many sport fishermen have complained about the decrease in the number of public accesses to water bodies. While this is a complex issue, it is important to respect private property and the integrity of public lands when fishing.

Anyone who has been to the shores of popular water bodies can attest to the impressive amount of litter that can be found there, especially in urban areas. So, to reduce the negative impact on the environment and to practice eco-friendly fishing, it’s important to make a habit of leaving no trace on your trip. Read this article to find out more tips on how to reduce your footprint if you’re camping on your fishing trips.

When you go fishing, bring a bag to put your garbage in. Cans and bottles, food wrappers, lure wrappers and fishing line make up a large portion of the trash found on Quebec’s shorelines. By taking everything you bring on the water with you, you can significantly reduce your environmental footprint.

Also, many anglers enjoy building a campfire by the water. In order not to damage the environment, you must light your fire in an open area where the flames cannot spread. You should also avoid cutting branches from living trees. In addition to being home to many species of insects and animals, these branches do not burn as well as dead wood. Prioritizing beach wood or dead wood collected from the ground helps preserve ecosystems. Finally, to limit the impact of campfires on the landscape, it is best to use branches smaller than the diameter of your wrist and to let them burn completely, until they turn to ash. Once the fire is done, the best way to extinguish it is to use water. Sand or dirt will only cover the ashes and the wind could blow them away and spread the fire to the forest.

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