5 ways to avoid fines, and stay safe in the outdoors this weekend

Conservation officers with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are reminding anglers and boaters to be safe, and play by the rules this May long weekend.
Saturday May 19 is opening day for walleye season in northwestern Ontario. (Daniel Miller/Associated Press)

Ahead of the May long weekend, which is also the opening weekend for walleye fishing in northwestern Ontario, conservation officers are issuing some reminders to boaters and anglers.

For conservation officers out patrolling on the weekend, fishing regulations will be top of mind, but so will safety, said Rick LeBlanc, the area enforcement manager for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Thunder Bay. 

Here are five things he wants people to remember:

1. Wear a life-jacket

"It's opening weekend, so that means winter's just left its grip, and that water is going to be ice cold," he said, adding that officers will be checking boats to make sure people have the proper safety equipment. 

"Probably the single most important piece of equipment that you have in your boat, if you're out on the water, is a properly fitted — and I emphasize, properly fitted — PFD or life-jacket for every soul that's in that boat."  

Those relying on personal floatation devices that automatically inflate, must be wearing them, he added. 

2. Check your fishing permit

Anglers between the ages of 18 and 65 must have a fishing licence, LeBlanc said, adding that people should make sure their licence is up to date before they head out on the water. 

"Pull your licence out of your pocket right now, and have a look at it, and make sure that the fishing licence is valid... You have to confirm that you have annual fishing privileges, updated." 

It's a good idea for anglers younger than 18 or older than 65 to carry some ID, he said, in case they encounter an officer. 

3. Fire bans

On top of the normal regulations, there's something else for people to think about this long weekend. 

"This year we're also throwing into the mix the restricted fire zone," LeBlanc said, referring to fire restrictions that currently blanket most of northwestern Ontario. 

"And what that means is that no outdoor burning is allowed, at all, on crown land."

4. Keep it clean

LeBlanc said it's important for people spending time outdoors to take their trash home with them. 

"There's lots of people that go out and enjoy the landscape and then walk away from the mess. And it's somewhat offensive to those of us that really care about this beautiful part of the country that we live in." 

5. Alcohol and angling don't mix

Alcohol is not permitted on public land, outside of campsites, he said "not the shore of the lake, not the shore of the river or in your boat."

"Please leave the alcohol at home, it'll get you into more problems than it's worth."