Rules of the rod

By Lindsay Leko

June 29, 2017 12:00 AM

Well, fishing season is well under way and the fish seem to be biting pretty well.
When the fish are really biting, we tend to see a pattern of people going over their legal limit.
Now some know full well what they are doing, while others just make a mistake.
And, each officer will handle the situation in the best way that they can, based on the circumstances.
It’s important to clarify a few things, so no one falls into that behaviour of fishing over your limit.
Our fish populations are finite in Saskatchewan, and if it were not for our stocking programs, many waterbodies would not have fish in them at all.
When checking anglers, I always get questions about limits, so I wanted to explain some of the rules.
Q: Can I go out in the morning, catch my limit of walleye, and then come out again that night?
The answer is NO.
Limits are a daily and possession limit.
Depending upon what lake you are on, you are only allowed to have one limit of fish per licensed angler, regardless of how many times you go out in a day.
This means that at no time should you ever have more than four walleye in your freezer per angler in your house.
If you eat those fish for lunch, you can’t go out after the lunch and catch another four walleye.
The next day you can legally go out and catch another limit, but not on the same day you ate the fish.
If you have one walleye in your freezer, then you can go out and catch three more.
It is also important to remember that any fish you give away are still part of your daily and possession limit. 
Q: Can I have a limit of fish at home for my kids or my wife, who do not have a licence? 
The limit of fish per person applies to those licensed anglers or seniors over the age of 65.
Having a limit of fish for an infant is not okay, as the child must be actively involved in the angling activity to possess fish.
This means if you are licensed and you have an infant with you, you cannot keep a limit of fish for the infant just because they are with you.
Q: Do I require a licence to take my 11-year-old son out fishing? 
No, you only require a licence if you plan to fish as well.
Your son does not require a licence until the day he turns 16.
From that day on, he will require a licence just like the rest of us.
One thing you should keep in mind is the fact that if you are taking your child out fishing, the child is the one who is allowed to fish.
It is okay for an adult to teach a child to cast and reel in, but if the child is not able to cast and reel in a fish by themselves, then they cannot have a possession limit.
Many times I observe parents fishing with kids.
Although the child may start off with a keen interest in fishing, it may stop.
Parents will often continue to fish only to say they were helping their kids who are no longer interested in it.
There is nothing wrong with helping a young child with throwing a cast out for them so they can reel in.
Most parents I check in the field simply cast the line out for the child and let the child reel it in and catch any fish.
I do not have an issue with this at all, as long as it stays that way and the child continues to be involved in the angling activity.
Once the child decides they are done fishing, the child’s line must be reeled in.
The daily and possession limit would also apply to the child who is fishing. 
Q: I can’t keep the walleye off my hook. Can I give fish away to people around me who are not having as much luck? 
The answer is NO. The fish that you catch, and the ones that you give away, are part of your daily limit.
If you caught four walleye and kept them, and then caught another eight walleye and gave them away to people around you, then you have exceeded the daily limit allowable by the regulations.
Q: Why do I have to leave a patch of skin on the fish? 
The purpose for this requirement is so officers are able to identify and count what you have in your possession.
That’s why we have the lawful ways to transport fish. These include fillets, whole, or headless dressed.
I often hear, “If you can’t tell the difference between a walleye and a pike without skin then you should not be a conservation officer!”
That may be a fact, but can you tell the difference between a walleye fillet and a perch fillet in the photo above?
Can you tell the difference between a pike fillet and a trout fillet?
Can you tell the difference between a lake trout fillet and a splake fillet?
Some people are not very good at filleting fish and the fillets are not always the best.
The fillets have to be one or two per bag and cannot be cut up into small pieces.
This makes it impossible to determine how many fish are actually there.
Another thing we see is fish that are frozen in bulk, or in a manner where they cannot be counted properly.
Other than thawing the fillets under water, there is no other way of determining the species or quantity.
Q: Can I use a whole perch as bait for big pike? 
The answer to this is NO as well.
Perch are a provincial sport fish and have a limit applied to them.
In addition, they are not listed as an allowable bait fish that may be used in Saskatchewan. 
Parts of the fish can be used including the belly, entrails and the eyes, but not the whole fish.
The reason for this is that you would be wasting that fish to catch another, when there is other bait options available.
What are the chances of you keeping that perch that you used for bait for an hour?
What happens if the perch comes off the hook that you are using? How do you retrieve it?
Remember this perch is part of your limit and you cannot allow it to go to waste.
Q: Is this the only thing I need to know about limits? 
No, actually there are some special water body limits under Catch and Release (CR) waters that are listed in the Saskatchewan Angling guide.
There are also some species that have upper size limits in CR waters, and also in the general limits.
Q: Why are there upper size limits? 
Upper size limits are a fish management tool designed to ensure the mature breeding population of the fish species are maintained in Saskatchewan’s fishery.
So now that you know some more about the rules surrounding catching and keeping fish, make sure you get out there and wet the line.
I always say, the best days for fishing are days that end with a Y.
Until next time…keep your rod tip up.
Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.

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