• Cisco Season Re-opens on Lake Simcoe after 14 year closure

    Beginning January 1st 2015, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is re-introducing an open season for cisco (laker herring) with limited recreational harvest. This will increase recreational angling opportunities in Lake Simcoe beginning with the upcoming ice fishing season.


    Lake Simcoe’s cisco population once provided a major food source for several species of sport fish, as well as a significant recreational fishery. However, by the late 1980’s their numbers decreased due to a lack of natural reproduction. To protect the cisco population in the lake, the recreational fishery closed in 2001. Habitat degradation, including low dissolved oxygen, was identified as a primary cause of recruitment failure for many coldwater species in Lake Simcoe, including cisco. Habitat conditions have since improved and resulted in cisco natural reproduction.

    Recent fish community monitoring data suggests positive trends including 9 total year classes present in the population with 2 strong year classes since 2008 which has supported an increase in relative abundance over the past 3 years. A very strong year class was also evident in 2004, however many of these cisco have since died due to natural causes. Year class success was one of eight indicators used by MNRF to determine if the cisco population was recovering. The increased cisco abundance has resulted in cautious optimism by fishery managers and anglers alike.

    After verifying the positive trends in Lake Simcoe’s cisco population, MNRF worked closely with partners to determine the logistics of opening this fishery. Invaluable expertise and advice was provided by the Lake Simcoe Fisheries Stakeholder Committee (LSFSC) and MNRF is grateful for all their hard work and dedication to the sustainability of this resource. Additionally the Lake Simcoe Fisheries Management Committee, made up of fishery scientists, MNRF and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change staff, guided the process and helped make it all happen.

    MNRF hosted a public consultation process this spring that included an online comment process and three open houses. By far the most common response from stakeholder groups was to re-open a limited recreational fishery for cisco on Lake Simcoe with a conservative limit and season.

    Therefore the new open season will begin January 1, 2015 … for the popular ice fishing season on Lake Simcoe – when more people fish this lake than at any other time of year (making it the most intensively fished inland lake in Ontario).

    New Open Season Details for Cisco in Lake Simcoe

    • Season: Jan 1-March 15th and 2nd Sat in May-Sept 30th
    • Limit: Sport Fishing Licence: 2, Conservation Licence: 1
    • The above seasons and limits are identical to two other popular coldwater species in the lake – Lake Whitefish and Lake Trout.
    • The new season and limits can be seen on page 81 (bottom right in red) of the newly released 2015 Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary. www.ontario.ca/fishing
    • For management purposes Lake Simcoe includes Lake Couchiching and tributaries as identified on page 81 as above.
    • On page 10 it lists cisco (lake herring) along with baitfish species which have a licenced angler limit of 120 for personal possession. This applies in most other areas of the province, but NOT on Lake Simcoe where the total possession limit of cisco is 2 (Sport Licence) and 1 (Conservation).
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