The Ministry is seeking public input on proposed changes to the bass angling season in Fisheries Management Zone 20 (FMZ20)
including separate open season dates for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass and options for early season bass angling.
Fisheries Management Concern
The Ministry is concerned about the future of the
Smallmouth Bass (SMB) bass fishery in FMZ20. Recent
science indicates the current open season date (3rd Saturday
in June) provides little protection to spawning fish which
could result in a long-term population decline and reduced
social and economic benefits. The current open season date
for Largemouth Bass (LMB) provides sufficient protection.
Fishing Seasons – Bass Management
Typically, bass angling season is closed during spawning time
to improve reproductive success. Bass are especially
vulnerable during spawning because they guard their nest
against predators and can be easily caught by anglers. Nest
predation by Round Gobies and other species following the
removal of the parent, even for short periods of time, has
been well documented.
Bass Spawning Time in Lake Ontario
In southern Ontario, the timing and duration of bass
spawning is closely related to water temperature and
generally occurs from mid-May to mid-July.
In Lake Ontario, LMB and SMB are typically found in different
habitats which warm up at different rates in the spring.
SMB that occupy deeper cold-water habitats in the main Lake
and in the St. Lawrence River have been observed spawning
much later than LMB in the warmer near shore areas.
Changes to the FMZ20 Bass Season in 2013
In 2013 the opening of bass season was made earlier by one
week to open on the 3
rd Saturday in June. At the time, it was
believed that the earlier date aligned well with LMB spawning
activity but there were concerns from stakeholders that SMB
may not be sufficiently protected. MNRF acknowledged the
potential risk to SMB and agreed to monitor the fishery and
make adjustments if necessary.
New Science - FMZ20 Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass spawning
Queens University researchers, led by Dr. Bruce Tufts
, conducted a three year study from 2014-2017 to evaluate the
amount of protection provided by the current closed season for bass angling. The study examined the timing of spawning
and development from egg to the swim-up fry stage (free swimming juvenile fish) for both LMB and SMB in the eastern basin
of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Reaching the swim –up fry stage (free swimming juvenile fish) is considered a
nest protection threshold. Once “swim-up” is attained the nest is considered to be successful.
The researchers conclude that there are important differences in the timing of spawning between the two species in Lake
Ontario and the Upper St. Lawrence River and that the current dates for the open season provide minimal protection to
Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass can be distinguished by
several anatomical features. They also prefer different habitats that
impact spawning duration and the rate of juvenile development.
Proposed Bass Fishing Season Change Fisheries Management Zone 20
Keys findings from the Queens University Study:
• By the 3rd Saturday in June (June 19 during the 3 year study) on
• 58% of LMB nests had reached the swim-up developmental
stage when parental guarding is complete.
• 8% of SMB nests reached the swim-up development stage.
• The difference between the bass species largely reflects the
habitat preference for each species.
• Nest observations were modelled using average seasonal
temperature data to estimate the additional time required to
improve spawning success. The data from the study indicates
that on average 50% of SMB nests should reach swim-up stage
by July 1st (Figure 1)
Fisheries management perspective: achieving 50% nest success
(nests with swim-up fry) should be considered a safe long-term
management goal, while striving for 80% success is unrealistic and
doesn’t typically occur in nature.
Figure 1: By Bass season opening weekend (June 19 during 3-
year study) only 8% of Smallmouth Bass nests have swim-up
fry. An opening date of July 1st would offer protection for 50%
of Smallmouth Bass nests.
Management Options Considered:
The Ministry, with the support of the FMZ20 Fisheries Advisory Council, considered the new research and evaluated a range
of management options to improve protection of SMB including: 1) maintaining status quo - keeping bass opener the 3rd
weekend in June; 2) change the opening date to July 1st for both LMB and SMB; 3) dividing the Zone into smaller sub-zones
with a mid June opening date for warm areas (embayments) and July 1st for cold areas (open water areas) and 4) split the
open season date for LMB (mid June) and SMB (July 1). The Ministry and the FMZ20 Council also considered and developed
options for early season (pre-spawn) bass angling opportunities. Similar early season angling opportunities exist in several US
States and in North Western Ontario.
Proposed FMZ20 Regular Season For Bass
Different opening season dates for Largemouth Bass and
• Largemouth Bass – 3rd Saturday in June to December
• Smallmouth Bass – open 1st Saturday in July to
Maintain the aggregate catch and possession limits - Sport
(6) and Conservation (2) for LMB and SMB combined.
Rationale: This option provides sufficient protection for
Smallmouth Bass, maintains and enhances angling and
social and economic opportunities and is not overly
Proposed Early Season Angling Options
1. Early season angling for LMB and SMB (January 1 to
May ) with catch and release (no harvest). 10
2. (January season SMB Early for LMB and 1 to May 10)
Conservation with reduced daily catch limit - Sport (2)
(1) (catch and - exception: no early season harvest
release only) in small waterbodies in FMZ20 such as:
Lake Consecon, East and West Roblin Lake, Fish Lake,
Lake, Lake on the Mountain Wellers Bay, Pleasant Bay,
3. Maintain status quo – no early season
In both early season options (1 & 2) the season is closed between
May 10 and the proposed opening date. (No bass angling would
be allowed when the majority of bass are staging and spawning.)
The public is encouraged to provided feedback on the proposal changes to the regular season and the early season angling
options. Please indicate by March 31, 2020 whether you support the proposed regular season and which early season
option you prefer.
Send your comments to Lake Ontario Management Unit
41 Fish Hatchery Lane, RR#4
Picton, ON K0K 2T0
email: [email protected]