Across Alberta, eager anglers are counting down the days to Family Fishing Weekend. You’ve packed your tents, gathered your equipment, and – if you’re new to the sport – maybe you’ve watched our Intro to Ice Fishing video to prepare for your first time out.
But remember: before you head out on the open ice, it’s up to you to learn the ropes of responsible fishing. Although Family Fishing Weekend lets you fish without a licence, it doesn’t let you off the hook (so to speak) for following the rules we have in place to protect our fishy friends.
All fishing regulations still apply during Family Fishing Weekend.
We talked about the basics in Monday’s post, but two subjects deserve special attention: bait bans and barbless hooks.
A bait ban is currently in place for many parts of the province (see the Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations for bans near you.) What counts as bait? Well, basically any type of food that you attach to your hook. You can fish in these areas, but only using lures.
Why? Bait bans are issued for areas where endangered or at risk species of fish tend to congregate. These species are protected: any fish caught must be released.
These fish share their habitats with many species that are not at-risk, and your goal might be to catch one of these fish. Unfortunately, when you cast your line, you can’t put a name tag on it – and you might end up hooking an endangered species.
Ordinarily, if this happens, you can just release the fish – no harm done. But using bait makes this more complicated.
Most fish prefer bait to lures, which is unsurprising – they just look tastier. But fish tend to swallow bait quickly – and the hook holding the bait usually gets lodged deep in the fish’s throat. This makes it hard to remove the hook – and doing so might hurt or even kill the fish, particularly if you’re not experienced at doing it.
Bait bans help keep more of Alberta’s lakes and rivers open for fishing, while protecting our vulnerable native species. Please help us keep these areas open by respecting bait bans in your local area.
Bait bans help with this problem. But if a barbed hook is used – even without bait – it can still hurt or kill your catch.
Barbless hooks make catch-and-release fishing much easier, particularly for novice anglers and children. And catch-and-release fishing is good for the fish populations: it keeps more fish in the rivers, to produce more offspring.
That’s why Alberta has been barbless since 2004 – and why we’re currently asking all anglers to keep barbed hooks out of our waters this year.