Fishing for herring on Lake Simcoe

Date added:
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Last revised:
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
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Question and Answer


Hi Wil,

Any idea if they are going to open the herring for 2011 ice fishing. Caught a lot last year they are awesome to watch on the x67. In case you forgot who I was I met you way back on the 4th line last year. You were debating on going out.



Hi John,

Lots of interest in cisco (lake herring ) over the last couple of years as more and more anglers are catching them out on Lake Simcoe. There’s no question as well that many of us also ‘see’ huge schools of them on great Sonar Units like your Lowrance X 67.   However ... my feeling is that the season will not open up for 2011 ice fishing because there is still not enough evidence that multiple year classes of cisco are out there to sustain the population long term.   Right now evidence suggests that one and possibly two year classes are out there.  The dilemma is that if MNR opened the season now and those fish did not continue to reproduce in vast numbers – then once those fish die off- there would be nothing behind them to fill the void. So ... as far as I can gather MNR is open to ‘opening’ the season for cisco once they can determine that enough year classes are present.

Having said all that ... MNR does know that anglers are catching incidental cisco and that there are many anglers who want the season opened ... so this is definitely on their radar.

Hope this helps John ... and yes I do recall seeing you at the end of the 4th Line ... I did go out that day- got some perch and had a great time walking on the hard water.



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0 #1 Frank 2011-01-16 09:24
Yes..lets open the Herring season maybe for a couple week ends ...for the winter of 2011... with a limit of two.Was out yesterday, must have caught 50 of them between the two of the smelts may years ago a pain in the bum after you caught a few.
0 #2 Wil Wegman 2011-01-17 10:08
Hi Frank,

It certainly is a great sign that there are now cisco (lake herring) showing up in Lake Simcoe. Not only are anglers seeing and sometimes catching cisco again, but MNR fisheries staff have documented their successful reproduction and there are one or two successful year classes out there. For those anglers who have stumbled upon a big school of cisco – scenarios such as the one you bring up, have occurred many times over. Some anglers have even gone so far to say populations have rebounded to historic highs. This is simply nowhere near the case as overall cisco numbers are still relatively low compared to what they used to be in Lake Simcoe.

With all this in mind, many anglers have called for the closed cisco season to be lifted entirely. In my view, an open season will be worthwhile once there is documented evidence of several successful year classes. I personally would like to see not just one or two like we have now … but assurance that once those existing cisco die off … that many more young are coming afterwards. If the season was lifted prematurely without this provision, then we’d be back to square one with a highly vulnerable cisco population. So, in essence- several successful year classes would indeed warrant an open season, with a moderate limit like you suggest.

Unfortunately, in order to change legislation – whether to open a season, close one … put forward new limits … whatever the case … all takes a couple years to work thru the system. Your suggestion to just open the season for a few weekends this winter may have merit and would undoubtedly be welcomed by many anglers … however it would be unprecedented at this late stage and I simply can’t think of a means to make it happen.

So … until the closed season is lifted, we need to respect and obey legislation that tells us we have to release any incidentally caught cisco immediately. Furthermore, if we find ourselves in an area where multiple cisco are being caught – then it behoves us to move – as we are then no longer effectively targeting species like lake trout and whitefish that do have an open season.

Hope this helps Frank and good luck the rest of the season.