Ontario’s lakes have frozen over and anglers are settling into their fishing huts, augurs in hand. But before they get too comfortable, anglers should be aware that the COVID-19 regulations introduced by the provincial government on January 14 do apply to ice fishing.
Under the new regulations, ice fishing is allowed as a form of exercise, making it a reasonable excuse to leave your home, says Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) staff sergeant Carolle Dionne. She adds, however, that anglers are not allowed to stay overnight in their fishing huts. Use of the huts is limited to daytime hours.
“There’s no set time,” she says, in regards to when an angler must leave their hut by, “but the [regulation’s] wording says there’s no overnight stays. It’s not an accommodation.” This applies to people renting a hut or using their own.
There are also limitations on the number of people allowed in the hut. Dionne says the same rules apply as other gatherings with groups capped at five. This rule applies regardless of the size of the hut. “Some of the ice shacks are quite large,” she says, “but you still wouldn’t be able to have more than five people and they must be from the same household.”
This means you can’t use the same hut as friends and family outside of your living situation. Huts are considered an indoor space, Dionne explains, which increase the likelihood of spreading the virus due to the inability to social distance.
As they do every year, the OPP will be monitoring ice fishing huts over the winter as part of their patrols. Dionne says this will include usual safety checks, such as preventing drinking and driving among hut users. They will also, however, be responding to complaints of COVID-19 infractions.
To legally ice fish in Ontario, you need a valid fishing license, and you may have to register your hut depending on which fisheries management zone it’s located in.