The sun was shining along the Ganaraska River in the heart of Port Hope on Monday morning as anglers lined the riverbank with rod and reel, looking for that big catch.
Some major changes to fishing rules are coming into effect for the area, as the municipality is putting a ban on nighttime fishing.
Beginning August 15 there will be no fishing allowed between the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The ban includes the area of the Ganaraska River from Robertson Bridge, stretching all the way up to the Molson Street Bridge.
Port Hope’s director of parks and recreation, Jim McCormack, said the ban is due to illegal fishing and complaints from individuals and business owners in the area.
Instances of fish carcasses being left to rot along the riverbank spiked, but they were also being discarded in garbage containers and even tossed in outhouses along the river, to the point where the stench was affecting businesses and restaurants in the area, McCormack said.
Port Hope municipal staff, along with representatives from the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and members from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters gathered to discuss options to curb the illegal fishing.
The main focus was stepping up enforcement along the waterways to make sure people were complying with the rules.
“Our Port Hope police service are now trained to enforce the fishing regulations and they have dedicated patrols that patrol the river,” said McCormick. “We’ve really taken a zero-tolerance approach and if there is an infraction, then there will be a fine.”
Avid anglers like Rick Reiger are disappointed by the fishing ban.
McCormick says the region found that much of the illegal fishing activity, such as snagging and netting of fish, was happening at night and says the ban shouldn’t hurt tourism.
The salmon migration in the spring and the opening of the fishing season is a big draw and the biggest contributor to the local economy in Port Hope, so the municipality is trying to enhance that visitor experience for everyone involved.
“We’ve been making some real conscientious efforts to make sure that when people come, the fishermen can enjoy the river but also the people who just want to sit and come and have a picnic can enjoy the river as well,” says Port Hope marketing manager Kevin Narraway.
Port Hope council opted to defer a plan to implement a $40 license for anyone who wants to fish along the Ganaraska River, but McCormick says staff want to first look at the nighttime fishing ban and how it plays out before making any further decisions.
“They want to see what effect the increased enforcement and the implementation of the ban on night fishing has,” McCormick said. “And we so we will re-evaluate that over the course of the winter and in the spring.”
The fine for fishing at night along the Ganraska River will be $150.