Catch Fish, Go To Jail – New Canadian Bill Is A Danger To All Anglers

Photo: Ben Duchesney
Canadian fish, Canadian waters; if we’re not careful, this could be a criminal act very soon.

Animal rights activists are a tricky bunch. Not to mention totally infuriating, if I’m being honest. A new bill proposed last week called the “Modernizing Animal Protections Act” (Bill C-246) by Liberal Member of Parliment Nathaniel Erskine-Smith of Toronto is “being promoted as legislation to ban of the importation of shark fins and outlaw the practice of shark finning in Canadian waters,” stated an article on Great, who wouldn’t want to ban that. It disgusts me to see a beautiful fish go to waste becase someone halfway across the world wants a bowl of soup that only uses a tiny portion of the animal. The problem though, is that the bill is really targeting all anglers throughout Canada.

The activist coalition that is behind the bill is comprised of both Canadian and U.S. animal rights organizations and is headed by International Fund for Animal Welfare of Yarmouth, Massachusetts (right in my backyard on Cape Cod, MA, don’t get me started) and the Toronto-based Animal Alliance of Canada. The article states that the group has a “decades-long history of sustained attacks on anglers.” The federal legislation would make it a criminal offense, charging up to a $10,000 fine and five years of jail time to any angler that baits a hook, catches a fish or brings home their catch for the dinner table. 

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Specifically, Section 182.1.1 states that:

“182.1 (1) Everyone commits an offence who, willfully or recklessly, (b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.”

Let’s think about what this incredibly vague language actually means for anglers. “According to exhaustive legal opinions,” the article states, “for the first time in Canadian history this section would make it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously – without defining those terms – and does not exempt from this offence normal hunting and fishing activities. Hunting and fishing necessarily involve the killing of animals. Animal rights groups consistently attempt to portray these traditional Canadian heritage activities as inherently brutal and vicious. If Bill C-246 becomes law, this section will be used by animal rights activists who will employ provisions of the Criminal Code to bring private prosecutions to harass lawful anglers and hunters.”

I’m fine for legislation that protects fish, fine with writing up bills that make it a criminal offense to do that which is immoral against fish and wildlife. But no matter how many times people have come up to me at parties and told me, “It’s so mean that you like to hurt fish,” that’s not at all what fishing is about or even does.


Watch some smallmouth bass action up in Canada’s fertile rivers, followed by epic whitewater.


Yes, there are a handful of jackasses out there giving us a bad name, but most, if not all, of the anglers I talk to and fish with genuinely care about the fish they’re catching. They unhook the fish in the water, leave them in the water while they get the camera ready, take a picture as fast as they can and release the fish as un-stressed as they possibly can. If they’re taking the fish home, then they swiftly bleed the fish out. I’ve talked to experts about bleeding out (there are more than a few EMTs and firefighters in my family) and essentially, you basically just fall asleep. That’s not a bad way to go. 

The article on also brings up a good point at the end, stating, “…8 million Canadians spend over $8 billion dollars annually enjoying the outdoor heritage activity of recreational fishing.” Sportsmen in the US and Canada, not to mention the thousands of places around the world where we travel to fish, contribute huge sums of money (more than we like to admit to ourselves or our spouses) on local, state and national economies.

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In many cases, the only reason a habitat still exists is because anglers are spending the money on fees, liscenses, permits and other taxes to support the salaries of the people that maintain them. It seems all of these activists that try to get rid of us anglers forget, or maybe just don’t care, that we’re usually the only ones actually spending money and working hard every day to protect these wild places and fish. 

If you live in Canada or have family or friends in Canada, I beg you to do your part in fighting this ridiculous bill and stopping it as soon as possible. This isn’t the first time fishing has been threatened and it certainly won’t be the last. If you’re in the US thinking that this isn’t important to you, just think, if these crazies get this bill passed in Canada, where there is such a rich angling history, how easy will it be to charm the hipsters of the US into getting behind a similar bill? Don’t let this be the biggest mistake of our generation of sportsmen, do your part!

For more information about the new bill, or to learn how to fight it, check out the full story on



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