Ready. Set. Go fish!

Ontario Parks offers some of the best fishing in the world and with sport fishing season just around the corner, now is a good time to take stock and review how you can get the most out of your fishing experiences.

Bob Elliott, the park superintendent at Lake Superior Provincial Park and an avid, lifelong angler who believes in a fair contest (no sonar!), offers these tips for anglers eager to pull up a big catch.

Fishing regs 20161. Be aware of Ontario’s fishing regulations (and follow them!)

We’re talking bait restrictions, and catch, size and possession limits. Have you checked what’s in season in your target Fisheries Management Zone? Regulations change yearly and it’s up to you to stay current.

And don’t forget to renew your Outdoors Card and fishing licence for 2016!

2. Do your research

To be successful, it helps to know about the fish you’re angling for. Learn about their habitats and habits. It’s also a good idea to talk to a knowledgeable and experienced angler, especially if you’re interested in going after a new species.

3. Choose your spot depending on what you’re after

man fishing on shore

Walleye, for instance, like shoals, bays and rocky points. You’ll find pike in weedy, shallow waters, and salmon are drawn to river mouths and water near rapids.

4. Call ahead and check with the park office

The staff will be able to tell you about conditions and even point you to the lakes or streams that will give you the best likelihood of finding what you’re fishing for.

5. Get ready before you arrive at your destination

Make sure you’ve got your lures, line, rod and rig and that everything is tied and attached. And don’t forgot to sharpen your hook.

6. Take the right lures

fishing lures tackle box

Lures mimic bait fish, so you want to be sure you choose the best one to attract your prey.

Walleye go for the simple jig, with a minnow or worm attached. Salmon and trout are drawn to spoons, and the less you move while fishing, the lighter the spoon you use.

Northern pike will go after just about anything, though Bob finds slapping a red and white spoon on the water is often very successful at getting their attention!

7. Choose your time of day

Fishing on an island at Algonquin

Generally speaking, most fish prefer low lighting, so if you’re a serious angler who wants to catch as many as possible, optimum times are overcast days, or dawn and dusk. Northern pike are an exception – they’ll bite at any time.

8. Maximize the chances of fish survival when you’re doing catch and release

Use a barbless hook. Avoid fishing in warm waters – fish are already stressed from lower oxygen levels and have less chance of surviving the added trauma of being captured and handled.

Walleye and are less likely to survive if they’re captured in water that’s deeper than seven metres, so fish for them in shallower waters.

catch and release

Keep fish in the water when handling and releasing them (and, if possible, when unhooking them), and release them gently, head first.

Most important of all?

Be patient, says Bob. Fish will often bite and let go several times before you’re successful at reeling them in. But that’s what makes fishing exciting!

Stop dreaming about your first fishing foray of the season – start planning it.