Fishing with Your Boat in Alberta
Alberta is blessed with some of the most stunning lakes and rivers in the world. Little wonder then that residents – and even non-residents – of the province take every opportunity to enjoy its waters. Add in the bounteous fish that make their home in our lakes and rivers, and you have a boater’s paradise. So, you’ve got your boat and you love to fish, all that’s left is to head out, right? Well, not so fast. As with all things in life there are rules you need to follow if you don’t want to get into trouble.
Before you head for that pristine mountain lake or glistening river, make sure you have the right licenses.
- Boating license: Federal law that came into effect on September 15, 2009 requires anyone operating a boat with a motor to have a license. The law applies to all ages and it applies all across Canada, so here in Alberta, you must have your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (otherwise known as a Boating License) onboard during operation. The boats covered include any vessel fitted with any size motor, whether they be personal watercraft (PWCs), motorized sailboats or even small boats with electric trolling motors. Fortunately, unlike your driver’s license, the Boating License does not need to be renewed.
- Fishing license: If you’re going to fish in Alberta waters, you need a fishing license and this applies whether you’re keeping your fish or not. Getting a license is easy though – you can obtain them online or at sporting goods stores, convenience stores and gas stations throughout the province. However, special licenses are required for some bodies of water and these are reserved for residents of Alberta only e.g. the special walleye license tag.
One of the unfortunate realities of life is that people unwittingly spread diseases while fishing, which affects not just the quality and quantity of fish, but also the enjoyment of this of the activity itself. Whirling Disease is one of the most common. While not harmful to humans or other mammals, it can have significant effects on some fish populations. It is easily transmitted from infected locations to other water bodies through equipment used for swimming, paddling, boating, water pumping, and fishing and through infected fish and fish parts. In order not to spread disease, do not use live fish as bait – in fact it is illegal to do so. It is also illegal to move live or dead fish, or fish parts from one water body to another. When cleaning fish, use cleaning stations where available or put fish parts in the garbage, don’t throw in the water and don’t dispose with your kitchen garburator. Other steps like cleaning your boat, draining water from it and drying it out between uses, all go a long way to prevent the spread of diseases.
Don’t drink and drive. You hear it all the time. Well, don’t drink and boat either. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence in Alberta (and the rest of Canada too). There’s good reason for this law: alcohol is found to be a factor in 65% of the boating-related accidents in Canada. Stay safe and avoid getting impaired by alcohol before or while operating a boat.
There are several other steps you can take to stay safe while fishing:
- Wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), preferably in bright colours, which will make it easy to see you in the event of an accident.
- Check the weather forecast before you head out so you can avoid any nasty surprises.
- Ensure you have your maps, charts, first aid kit, tools, spare parts and of course, fuel.
- Take lifesaving courses and ensure you know what to do in the event of an emergency.
- Watch your speed!
- To avoid tipping over and drowning, don’t stand up in a small powerboat, canoe or other small watercraft.
Last but not least, ensure you’re protected and you have the right insurance. There are various boat insurance options available for you, and these include:
- Liability Insurance: which cover medical expenses for injuries incurred by you or your passengers while operating your boat,
- Damage Insurance: which covers damage caused by your boat to someone else’s property or damage to your boat including theft or loss of attached equipment.
- Fishing Equipment Coverage: which covers damage to fishing equipment while on your insured boat or while being carried onto or off of your insured boat, and
- Comprehensive Coverage: which offers more extensive coverage, including damage to your boat, its motor, trailer and some permanent and portable boating equipment due to events other than collision, like fire, theft or storms.
Regardless of what policy you take out, be aware that there are certain activities that can void your policy. One such activity is using your boat for commercial purposes, e.g letting it out, taking on paying passengers etc. If your boat is listed in your policy as being for private pleasure purposes, i.e recreational or leisure activities, ensure it stays that way. If you’re unsure whether your proposed activity is commercial in nature, speak to your broker who will clarify things for you.