Saugeen Ojibway Nation Fisheries

SON Fisheries

The territorial waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, surrounding the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula have a long history of providing abundant fish for community sustenance, recreation, and commercial value to the local economy.

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation (collectively referred to as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation or the SON) have cared for and depended on the fish in these waters for commerce, culture, ceremony and subsistence since time immemorial.

The courts have recognized that the SON has Aboriginal and Treaty rights to fish for sustenance and commercial purposes in the territorial waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, including in Owen Sound and Colpoy’s Bay. This right is not restricted by species. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) respects those rights.

The SON / MNRF Commercial Fishing Agreement

Since 2000, MNRF and SON have worked together through a series of collaborative agreements that continue to provide clarity and certainty about how those rights will be exercised, while still respecting the interests of local anglers and tourism opportunities.

Commercial fishing is managed collaboratively through the conditions of the agreement including mutually agreeable quotas, harvest reporting, fishing seasons, and other types of harvest stipulations.

Ongoing measures in the agreement support both public safety and conservation of this important fishery.

Safe Boating and Angling Practices Near Commercial Fishing Activity in Owen Sound and Colpoys Bay

SON and MNRF have also taken steps to ensure that commercial fishing can safely interact with recreational boating and fishing in Owen Sound and Colpoys Bay.

The SON Commercial Fishery has a net-marking system to aid in safe boating and angling practices in Owen Sound and Colpoys Bay.  A pole in the water with a 30-cm (12 in.) square flag signifies that commercial fishing activities are occurring in your immediate area. 

When nets are longer than 300m look for marker buoys at least every 300m between the flags.

Stay a minimum of 25 metres (80 feet) away from marker buoys.

Do not cross between the markers or between markers and fishing vessels!

Fishing vessels that are engaged in commercial fishing operations have restricted manoeuvring capabilities. Navigational protocol requires other vessels to give way while commercial fishing operations are in progress.

If you are an angler, there are a few simple suggestions which will aid you in your efforts to avoid entanglement of your tackle or down-rigger in submerged fishing nets.

  • Never cross between markers or between markers and fishing vessels.
  • If you are using a down-rigger in your fishing activities, be careful not to entangle your gear in commercial nets. Failure to successfully free your down-rigger from the net may cause the stern of your boat to swing into the wind and allow wave action to swamp your boat.
  • Always keep an easily accessible pair of wire cutters near your downrigger to avoid a potentially serious accident.

Interfering with commercial fishing in any way, including tampering with fishing gear, is prohibited under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The maximum penalty is 1 year imprisonment and/or a fine up to $25,000.

To report a violation, please call the MNRF TIPS line at 1-877-847-7667.

Commercial Harvest Management

Under the terms of the commercial fishing agreement, the parties have established three management zones covering the water of the agreement and a technical working group that makes recommendations on total allowable catch (TAC). SON commercial fishers must report their daily catch for all species and their fishing effort, including location of catch, gear type, and the length of times nets were set in the water. This data, along with data from independent netting and other sources allows these recommendations to be based on a statistical analysis and computer modeling of the fish populations. This approach is based on sound science and reflects a collaborative process that facilitates the establishment of sustainable harvest limits.

Currently, SON fishers primarily target lake whitefish and as such the management focus is on that species. Under the agreement, SON fishers can catch and sell species other than whitefish. The agreement includes a process to consider establishing quotas for other species if harvest levels are a concern to either party. Currently, there is only a total allowable catch in place for lake whitefish.

SON and MNRF recognize the importance of the bays to other users and have agreed upon measures to reduce the bycatch of species important to the recreational fishery.  As such, there are seasonal restrictions on setting nets close to certain streams.