Giving Back to our Heroes

Free fishing in Ontario for Canadian Veterans - photo MNRF

Ontario’s Canadian service members and veterans can now fish for free

THUNDER BAY – The Ontario government is recognizing those who committed themselves to defend our land, waters and way of life with a token of appreciation – they can fish in Ontario at no charge.

Amendments to Ontario’s fishing regulations came into effect January 1, enabling veterans and active Canadian Armed Forces members to fish in Ontario’s waters without having to purchase a fishing licence.

“Our government is working to show appreciation for those who put their lives on the line to protect what we cherish as a society,” says John Yakabuski, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “Ontario is blessed with an abundance of lakes and rivers that provide recreation to many generations of people living here. We want to help make it easier and more affordable for our heroes to enjoy those natural resources all year round.”

Canadian service members, retired and active, simply need to carry with them valid identification from the Department of National Defence or Veterans Affairs Canada while they’re fishing. A Canadian Forces identification card, a record of service card, or a Canadian Armed Forces veteran’s service card will act in place of an Ontario Outdoors Card and recreational fishing licence. Those who already purchased a three-year fishing licence are eligible for a refund, on a pro rata basis.

Sharon McKeown, President of Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, welcomes the introduction of free fishing to their more than 100,000members in almost 400 branches across the province.

“Free fishing for our veteran members provides incentive for them to enjoy the sport when desire strikes, and hopefully the fish are biting!” says McKeown. “On a quiet lake in the woods or a busy waterway, alone or with others, the challenge of the sport is making the catch; a sense of pride and peace of mind are found in the release. The enjoyment of comradeship, in the tall tales shared with laughter, is the reward. We encourage our veterans to enjoy the freedom of fishing on Ontario’s waters.”

Recreational fishing is a $2.2 billion industry in Ontario. The province has a great diversity of freshwater fish and is recognized worldwide for its recreational fishing. The ministry works to keep fish populations, and the habitat they depend on, healthy and abundant for anglers.

John Yakabuski - Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
John Yakabuski – Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

Minister Yakabuski says that in addition to providing greater access to fishing, Ontario is standing up for its veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members and their families in other significant ways.

“We’re working to establish a new hotline for military families moving to the province, we’re ensuring Royal Canadian Legion halls in Ontario are exempt from paying property tax, and we’re planning to build a memorial on the grounds of the Ontario legislature that honours our heroes of the war in Afghanistan,” says Minister Yakabuski. “Together, these efforts demonstrate that Ontario remembers their sacrifice, celebrates their courage and is very grateful for their service.”

Veterans and active service members may call the Natural Resources Information and Support Centre at 1-800-667-1940 for more information about licence-free fishing or visit to learn more about the province’s Learn to Fish programs, fishing rules and how to plan a fishing trip.

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