When I ask people what they know about Newfoundland and Labrador, most people will mention something about fishing. And that makes sense as this province’s history and culture is inextricably linked to the fish in our waters. Whether they are the capelin and cod in our seas, or the trout and salmon in our rivers and ponds, fishing is a huge part of the fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador, and something visitors to the province and keen to learn more about, and often participate in.
Now if you’re not a fisherman, like myself, you may find reading the various guides and regulations provided by DFO and the tourism department somewhat overwhelming. So I have done my best to put together some info for those looking to try their hand at coastal or inland fishing while in NL.
Many tour operators across Newfoundland offer fishing tours for cod and lobster during the summer months. These are a great way to not only have the opportunity to try your hand, but also to learn about the history of the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador, the traditional methods of hauling fish, and why it is still such a huge part of the culture in the province.
Firstly, there are a few rules that apply to non-residents who are looking to fish while visiting the province.
Newfoundland is a vast wilderness, with some of the planet’s best fishing. However, many of the best spots are very remote and require a decent amount of know-how, to get to.
As such, Newfoundland and Labrador regulations state that all non-residents require a guide if they’re wanting to fish more than 800 meters from a provincial highway. The guide may be hired, or may be a licensed direct family member of the visitor, including father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandchild or grandparent.
The other main requirement that applies solely to non-residents, is the need for a trout license. Residents of the province do not require a license when fishing for trout inland unless inside the boundaries of a national park. Visitors require permits to fish in all non-coastal waters. If in doubt speak with a licensed guide about your licensing requirements.
In our experience, many local stores do not stock trout licenses, likely because locals don’t need them. Therefore if you are planning on angling for trout, be sure to pick up a license before heading out of the city.
What can you fish?
There is a fantastic range of fish available in Newfoundland and Labrador’s waters, including: Trout, Arctic Char, Smelt, Pike, Whitefish, Salmon, Ouananiche (or landlocked salmon), Mackerel, Capelin, and of course, Cod.
Newfoundland hosts almost 60% of North America’s Atlantic Salmon rivers, with runs of up to 30 000 fish. For a full guide to the scheduled rivers, see here. These fish can grow to immense size (up to 30 lbs!), and provide a great way to enjoy some of Newfoundland’s remote wilderness.
The province is also home to incredible angling for Ouananiche, or landlocked salmon. Unlike their pacific cousins, Atlantic Salmon don’t die when they leave the ocean. As a result many will become lost while inland, and get trapped in brooks and large ponds.
Although not as big as their coastal brothers, Ouananiche are famously active and feisty, and not to be tackled (see what I did there?) by the faint of heart. There are a range of brooks and ponds where these fish are known to linger, and a local guide will have no problem showing you some of the top spots.
If heading further north, you may want to try your hand at some Artic Char. Averaging at 15lbs, Labrador Char have been recorded at 23 lbs, making them some of the biggest in the world.
Depending on the species you are interested in, the regulations vary slightly, so make sure you obtain the relevant license ahead of time.
When can you fish?
Many of Newfoundland’s fish may be caught year round, provided you can find them. For recreational fishing in the ocean, Mackerel, Trout, Capelin, and Squid, may be caught year round without a license. Any accidental ground fish caught, such as cod, must be released.
The Cod season is open for 46 days a year, made up of every Saturday and Sunday during July and August, as well as two, two-week blocks, usually in the last two weeks of July, and again in the last two weeks of September.
For inland trout in Newfoundland, the summer season runs from May 15th through to September 1st. You may also catch inland trout during the winter between February 1st and April 15th.
In Labrador, inland trout may be caught from February 1st straight through to September 1st.
Artic Char and Smelt may also be caught inland, and generally align with the trout seasons.
Always be sure to check with a local guide for the most accurate season dates, bag limits, and the permitted equipment, as well as any additional restrictions before casting a line.
For updates regarding the closure of certain rivers, visit the DFO website here.