Fishing in Ontario: When Do You Need a License?

Fishing is a popular outdoor recreational activity in Ontario, with its thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams offering abundant opportunities to catch trophy fish. However, to legally participate in fishing, most individuals need to obtain proper licensing. This article provides a comprehensive overview of fishing license requirements in Ontario, including who needs one, types of licenses, exemptions, costs, and more.

Who Needs an Ontario Fishing License?

In Ontario, individuals between 18 and 64 years old must have a valid Ontario fishing license to fish legally. This applies to both Ontario residents as well as non-residents. The main exceptions are:

  • Children under 18 do not require a fishing license. They can fish without one as long as they follow all size limits, catch limits, and other regulations.
  • Seniors aged 65+ can fish without needing a license. They will need to carry government-issued photo ID showing proof of age.
  • People with certain disabilities/medical conditions can fish without a license if they carry specific documentation, such as an Accessible Parking Permit.
  • Indigenous people with treaty rights allowing them to fish on traditional lands do not require provincial fishing licenses, but must carry band identification.
  • Canadian military veterans and active members can use their official government ID cards in place of a fishing license.

So in summary, Canadian residents between 18-64 years old need an Ontario fishing license to fish legally in provincial waters. Non-residents in this age group also require a license.

What is an Ontario Outdoors Card?

In Ontario, a fishing license alone is not enough. You also need an Outdoors Card – a plastic card (valid for 3 years) that serves an administrative purpose. The Outdoors Card shows you are licensed for recreational activities like fishing. It contains your personal information and displays your fishing license tag on the back.

So to fish legally in Ontario, you need both an Outdoors Card plus a valid fishing license tag printed on the card or carried with it. The only exception is a 1-day sport fishing license, which allows you to fish for one day without needing an Outdoors Card.

Types of Ontario Recreational Fishing Licenses

There are two main types of recreational fishing licenses available to anglers in Ontario:

  • Sport fishing license: Allows higher catch limits. More expensive but offers full fishing privileges.
  • Conservation fishing license: Has lower catch limits in order to promote catch and release. Cheaper option for anglers.

Licenses can be valid for either 1 year or 3 years at a time. Non-residents can also buy 8-day fishing licenses for short trips.

The type of license determines legal catch and possession limits. It is crucial anglers know their limits based on license type before fishing. Breaking these limits can result in significant fines.

Exemptions: When You Don’t Need an Ontario Fishing License

While most individuals need licenses to fish, there are some exemption periods and scenarios where licenses are not mandatory:

Family Fishing Weekends

Ontario offers free fishing weekends four times per year, including Family Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and during the last week of June. During these weekends, Canadian residents of any age can fish license-free while following conservation catch limits.

Indigenous Communities

Members of many Indigenous communities can fish without licenses on traditional lands where they have Aboriginal or treaty fishing rights. Proper Indigenous identification is still required.

People With Disabilities

People with certain disabilities, medical conditions or accessibility permits may qualify to fish without needing licenses or Outdoors Cards. Proper documentation must be carried.

So in summary, short license exemption periods occur for special weekends. And members of certain groups like seniors, people with disabilities/medical issues and Indigenous peoples may not require fishing licenses in Ontario.

How To Get an Ontario Fishing License


The easiest way to get an Ontario fishing license is online through the Ontario government’s automated system. You can apply for or renew both the 3-year Outdoors Card and 1-year or 3-year fishing license tag in just a few minutes.


You can also get Ontario fishing licenses in-person at hundreds of bait & tackle shops, marinas, Service Ontario locations and other licensed issuers across the province. Find a nearby issuer on the Ontario government website.

For Non-Residents

Visitors to Ontario can get licenses online or from issuers. Unlike residents, non-residents can also buy 8-day fishing licenses – perfect for short vacations.

No matter where you get your license, be sure to carry it at all times when fishing as proof of legal participation.

Ontario Fishing License Costs and Fees

The cost of an Ontario fishing license varies depending on residency, age, license duration, and type:

Ontario Resident License Fees:

  • Outdoors Card: $8.57
  • Sport License – 1 day: $12.21
  • Sport License – 1 year: $26.57
  • Sport License – 3 years: $79.71
  • Conservation License – 1 year: $15.07
  • Conservation License – 3 years: $45.21

Non-Resident License Fees:

  • Outdoors Card: $8.57
  • Sport License – 8 days: $45.80
  • Sport License – 1 year: $62.50
  • Sport License – 3 years: $187.50
  • Conservation License – 8 days: $30.56
  • Conservation License – 1 year: $41.94
  • Conservation License – 3 years: $125.83

In general, sport licenses allowing higher catch limits are more expensive than conservation licenses with lower catch limits. Non-resident fees are also higher across the board.

Carrying and Presenting Your Ontario Fishing License

While fishing in Ontario, you must carry your Outdoors Card and a valid fishing license tag on you at all times as proof of legal participation. This applies to both paper license documents as well as digital copies on smartphones etc.

If asked by a conservation officer, you must present your Outdoors Card and fishing license immediately. Failing to carry or present license/Outdoors Card can result in fines.

The license requirement while fishing also applies to those under 18 or over 65 who are exempt from having to purchase licenses – they must still carry government-issued ID and present when asked.

Always keep your license handy when fishing so you can prove you are obeying provincial fishing regulations.


In summary, to legally fish in Ontario waters, most Canadian residents between 18 and 64 need:

  • An Outdoors Card (valid for 3 years)
  • An appropriate fishing license tag (valid 1 or 3 years)

The fishing license type – sport or conservation – determines legal catch and possession limits. Licenses can be easily obtained online or from various retail issuers.

When actively fishing, you must carry your Outdoors Card and fishing license to present to officials upon request. There are exemptions for seniors, minors, people with disabilities/medical issues and some Indigenous peoples.

Understanding Ontario’s recreational fishing license regulations is crucial to stay compliant on the water. Check current license fees and always know your legal catch limits before heading out with your rod and reel.

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