Fishing in Québec

Despite the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fishing season is maintained. Find answers to your questions about hunting, fishing and trapping during the pandemic.

Fishing is an exciting and relaxing activity that everyone can enjoy. Whether you fish alone, as part of a group or with your family, in a lake or a river, in a natural setting or in a city, there are many different fish species waiting to be discovered. Although Québec’s diverse range of fish is a renewable natural resource, its balance is nevertheless fragile. As a result, there are a number of rules that you must follow before fishing, to ensure the sustainability of this collective wealth.

The regulation presented covers the period from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2024.

A new regulation is published every two years, on April 1, but the periods, limits and exceptions are, for their part, updated annually, from April 1.

Zone-based regulations

Québec’s territory is divided into 29 fishing zones that take species distribution into account.

The regulations may vary depending on the fishing zone or body of water where you are fishing, but also depending on the species you are fishing for and the time of year. Rules may also differ if you are in a special area, in which case you will receive the information at the reception desk.

To fish in Québec, you must:

If you fail to comply with any of the rules governing fishing, you may be liable to a fine that will vary according to the type of offence you commit.

Special areas

Rules may also differ from those of the zone in certain specific territories (ZECs, outfitters, wildlife reserves, etc.). Learn more about these rules.

Access to bodies of water

Most bodies of water in Québec are public, regardless of whether they are in towns, semi-urban areas or rural areas. However, the land bordering the bodies of water may be privately owned. Make sure you have the landowner’s permission if you must cross privately-owned land to access the site at which you would like to fish.

Land that is not privately-owned belongs to the domain of the State. You may access it freely, except for certain special areas (zecs, wildlife reserves, etc.) where access fees and special rules may apply.

Main species fished

Some freshwater fish species are of more interest to anglers, because of their combativeness or tasty flesh.

See our fact sheets on the main species fished in Québec This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French only) for details of their principal characteristics, and to learn how to recognize them.

Unless otherwise indicated, the major species categories include several subspecies. For more information, see the glossary This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Particular species

Particular rules, in addition to quotas, apply to the following species.

Rainbow smelt: You may fish for rainbow smelt at night using authorized fishing gear, from December 1, 2021 to April 21, 2022, from December 1, 2022 to April 27, 2023 and from December 1, 2023 to April 25, 2024 in a portion of a salmon river in which rainbow smelt fishing is authorized. To learn more on fishing for rainbow smelt.

Whitefishes, rainbow smelt, burbot, mollusks and crustaceans: Particular types of fishing are authorized for these species, in very specific situations.

Atlantic salmon: Atlantic salmon fishing is highly sought-after as an activity and is governed by special rules.

Striped bass, lake sturgeon, muskellunges, lake trout: Like the walleye and Atlantic salmon, these species are also be subject to length limits.

Chars: Catch weight limits apply if you fish for char in certain northern zones.

Yellow walleye and sauger: Yellow walleye and sauger are both found in Québec. An initial management plan was tabled in 2011, and since then length limits have been introduced to protect the yellow walleye from overfishing. Since the limits apply only to yellow walleye, it is vital that you are able to differentiate this species from the sauger.

Walleye and sauger must be transported whole or in wallet fillets when length limits are in force for the walleye at the fishing site.

Main differences

Walleye

Sauger

Mandatory catch-and-release

You must immediately release to the body of water of its capture (while avoiding unnecessary injury) any fish:

  • if it is subject to a fishing prohibition or caught during a period or at a site where its fishing is prohibited;
  • if it is caught after you have reached the daily catch limit;
  • if its length does not meet the allowable limit (where one exists);
  • if it is caught using a prohibited fishing method or fishing gear;
  • if it is caught under a sport fishing licence with mandatory catch-and-release in force in outfitters or for salmon fishing*.

To check whether the species you are fishing is regulated by a length limit or to find out the dates, quotas or species that are prohibited in your body of water, refer to the Fishing zones section Fishing zones.

*Daily salmon release limit

For the sake of preservation of the species and sportsmanship, a daily limit of 3 released Atlantic salmon is applicable in salmon rivers, with the exception of the Nord-du-Québec rivers and rivers eastside from Natashquan.
 

Reminder of main prohibited practices

Although anglers are familiar with the concepts of licences, fishing periods and quotas, some prohibited practices are less known.

Here is a summary of the main prohibitions: 

  • Angling and fly fishing at the same time: you may use only one line at once.
  • Selling or purchasing fish (including bait fish) caught in or out of Québec with a sport fishing licence.
  • Catching or attempting to catch a fish during a period or at a site where its fishing is prohibited even if you plan to release it. 
  • Fishing and keeping a fish fit for human consumption and then allowing it to spoil.
  • Fishing at the wrong time or place on a salmon river. See prohibitions on a salmon river.
  • Fishing within 23 metres downstream from the lower entrance of a fish ladder, an operating fishway, an obstacle or a leaping space designed to facilitate the movement of fish.
  • Catching or attempting to catch any fish outside the mouth and intentionally altering your hooks to do so. (learn more about the legal use of fishing equipment).
  • Using the following to remove a fish caught while sport fishing from the water: a net other than a landing net, a tailer more than 2 metres in length, a spring gaff or a gaff of any kind for salmon.
  • Transporting live fish. 

Commercial fishing licence or special fishing right

The sale of live or dead bait fish is prohibited. Only a holder of a commercial fishing licence or a licence to operate a fish-tank for bait fish is allowed to do so. For more information, refer to the Regulation respecting aquaculture and the sale of fish This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Understanding the regulatory information

The Québec Fishing Regulation This hyperlink will open in a new window. is based on the federal Fisheries Act and allows the Government to amend some of the conditions applicable to sport fishing for freshwater, anadromous and catadromous fish in Québec’s waters. Recreational fishing for saltwater species such as capelin, cod and so on, is managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada This hyperlink will open in a new window..

The new regulation is published on April 1st of each year, but the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) may amend it during the year, among other things to:

  • close a body of water in order to avoid overfishing of a particular species;
  • change catch limits based on a salmon run;
  • open local water bodies to winter fishing;
  • change fishing practices in a given sector following an agreement with an Aboriginal nation or band council.

Before planning your fishing activity, we invite you to consult consult our latest News This hyperlink will open in a new window.

You can also consult the current general order This hyperlink will open in a new window. as well as the previous and other orders (only in French) on sport fishing.

Introduction to fishing

If you are new to fishing, we have worked with our partners to create a unique Web platform containing a host of information that will guide you through the discovery of your new hobby.

If you would like to discover fishing, learn the basics or try it out, visit the campaign website Fishing is happiness This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Regulatory Information

Last update: June 2, 2022

Notice

The information published on this website has been simplified and provides a summary of the main regulatory provisions. It does not replace the official texts of the laws and regulations. For more detailed information on a specific rule, please refer to the Québec Fishery Regulations  This hyperlink will open in a new window.or the Regulation respecting fishing licences This hyperlink will open in a new window..

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