A significant part of having fun on the water is the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're not doing anything wrong. Breaking laws or inadvertently impeding on someone else's good time is stressful for everyone involve.
Read through this carefully so that you’re always prepared to legally hit the waters.
Or, if you're already an expert, skip to the end for our Top 6 Most Ridiculous fishing laws from around the world.
Canadians require a boating license (A Pleasure Craft Operator Card - PCOC ) in order to operate a motor-powered boat. This applies to Canadians of all ages and applies to all sizes of boats and motors.
Once you’ve passed the test, it’s a lifelong license that can't be suspended or taken away.
Residents of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not require a PCOC.
Boat rentals. You may use the “boat rental safety checklist’ in place of a PCOC.
Boaters under the age of 12 cannot operate a boat with more than 10 horsepower unless supervised.
Boaters between the ages of 14 to 16 cannot operate a boat with more than 40 horsepower unless supervised.
Is Boat Insurance required by law?
You are not required by law to purchase insurance for your boat. However, just like any significant purchase, it’s always recommended to protect your investment.
What is Boat Registration?
Just like your car’s licence plate, your boat with 10 or more horsepower also needs a unique identifier in order to be legal to operate. These numbers - issued by the Ministry of Transportation - must be displayed on both sides of the bow above the waterline, and in a colour that contrasts with your hull.
Fishing regulations differ from Province to Province, so it can get a little complicated. Hopefully, we’re able to simplify things for you.
A few points to start with:
- the federal government is responsible for all marine species with the exception of anadromous and catadromous species in inland waters in some regions; and
- provincial and territorial governments are responsible for freshwater species, with the exception of salmon in British Columbia.
A separate Fishing Licence is required if you are going to be doing any angling while you’re out boating.
The categories that are covered are:
Live Bait & Lures: What you can and cannot use
Urban Fishing: Find in-the-city ponds and lakes
Zones: Open and Closed dates for the lakes in your area
Limits: fishing limits, size restrictions, and catch-and-release policies
Check the following list for regulations in your area:
- My Wild Alberta - Information for Anglers, Hunters and Trappers
- Treaty and Aboriginal Hunting and Fishing Rights
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
Yes you can! But there are some exceptions. This is determined on a lake-by-lake basis as well as the time of year. Click the links above to find your zone, and then look into the lake you are planning to hit.
Or, click here if you want some Night Fishing Tips.
The first thing to know about the Nautical Rules of the Road is some terminology.
Bow = Front
Port = Left
Starboard = Right
Stern = Back
There are plenty of (some of them unwritten) rules to the nautical road, and you should learn as much as possible by completing a boating safety course.
Until then, there are a few very simple rules to keep in mind
- Sailboats, canoes, and paddle-boats are harder to steer. Give them the right of way.
- If you’re heading directly towards another boat, pass on the right with the other boat on your port side.
- If you are passing a boat that's in front of you, you can choose port or starboard, whichever is safest. Steer clear of fishing lines and stay clear of its path.
- If a boat isn’t operating as it should, the boat that is working properly gives way.
Some common-sense rules include:
- Stay clear of property and swimmers
- If someone is anchored or trolling, don’t make a wake when you pass them
- Don’t drive over people’s fishing lines
- It’s illegal in some provinces to travel faster than 10km/hour within 100 feet of shore.
- Some waterways post speed limits. These need to be observed.
There are a few safety items that MUST be aboard your boat when you’re in the water
- An appropriately sized personal floatation device (PFD) for each person
- A 15m long buoyant heaving line (rope)
- An oar/paddle, or anchor with at least 15m of rope/chain
- A bailer or hand pump
- A sound signalling device
- Navigation lights
- A fire extinguisher
- A waterproof flashlight or flares
There are also some additional items that aren’t required by law, but are required by common sense:
- First Aid kit
- Spare parts
- Waterproof bag
- Extra clothing (especially when the water’s cold enough to cause shock)
- Spare battery & extra fuel tank
- Pre-charged electronics
- Marine VHF (very high frequency) radio for emergencies
Alcohol and Marijuana:
Boating while intoxicated (0.05 - 0.08+% blood alcohol content) is treated as though you are drinking and driving. You’ll face a suspended driver’s licence, fines, and possible jail times.
Marijuana is treated identically. Impaired is impaired.
Failure to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (Proof of Competency)
Operating a PWC under 16 years of age
Violation of age and horsepower restrictions
Operating a vessel in an unsafe manner
Insufficient number of Transport Canada approved lifejackets or PFDs
$200 (for each missing or improper lifejacket or PFD)
Travelling over 10 km/h within 30 metres of shore
$125-$500 (or up to 6 months in prison)
Open liquor onboard
Operating a boat in a careless manner
Improper fuelling procedure
No registration number on hull
No sound signalling device
No watertight flashlight or distress flares
No fire extinguisher
No bailer or manual pump
No paddle or no anchor with chain/rope
No buoyant heaving line
Not having a spotter to watch a person in tow
Not having a(n) extra seat(s) for person(s) in tow
$250 per person
Top 6 Weird Fishing Laws
Let's be honest, reading about the law can get a little boring. As a reward for your hard work and attention, check out these crazy fishing laws from outside our borders.
Australia - It’s illegal to tickle a trout. Why you would want to is beyond us.
New York - It’s illegal for a friend to help you land a fish. If she or he uses a net to land the fish you just hooked, technically they’re the one who caught the fish, and needs a licence.
Iceland - It’s not illegal to skip rocks, but it’s an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t - because you may hit invisible elves that live in the parallel world.
Chicago - Until 1964 it was against the law to fish in your pyjamas. What if you sleep in your fishing gear?
Pennsylvania - You can’t catch fish with your teeth. We say, if you have the skills to do so you should be allowed.
Tennessee - It’s illegal to lasso a fish. Same comment as the last entry. People should be rewarded for that level of skill, not punished.
Maybe we Canadians have a lot of laws to deal with, but at least they all make sense. Follow the rules to avoid fines, and follow common sense to stay safe.
Yours In Boating,