Barnucz gives Ontario anglers a voice with regulators

Jason Barnucz has been a leader in making Ontario anglers' voices heard for five years.

DELHI, Ontario — As the provincial conservation director since 2011, Jason Barnucz has dedicated himself to keeping Ontario a stewardship leader in the B.A.S.S. Nation.

“I work hard to promote and encourage conservation projects in Ontario,” said the fisheries biologist and father of two.

“As the conservation director, I like to help facilitate projects within our 24 chapters. A few over the years have won Berkley awards for their hard work.”

Most recently, the Aurora Bassmasters won in 2012 for a multifaceted project that included stream and habitat restoration, as well as line recycling and bass tagging research. York Bassmasters, meanwhile, twice won for the club’s efforts to protect and enhance Lake Simcoe, one of North America’s best smallmouth fisheries. Working with the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, members cleared garbage, planted trees and shrubs, moved largemouth bass, and helped with fish sampling.

An issue on the forefront right now for Barnucz is liberalizing Ontario’s bass open season to make it more parallel to those in nearby states. Because the province is so far north, the spawning season is short, Barnucz acknowledged, but “new science suggests that bass fisheries can be managed to allow for angling while still providing adequate protection for spawning bass.”

One way to do that, he added, would be to allow catch and release during the spring.

“We’re working with provincial agencies to help bass anglers have a voice regarding fisheries regulations,” said Barnucz, who also is president of the Hamilton Bassmasters.

Additionally, Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation (OBN) helps educate provincial anglers about the benefits of line recycling.

“This program has really taken off in recent months in Ontario, with a couple clubs taking a lead role,” Barnucz said. “More clubs will be coming on board in the near future.”

By educating anglers, OBN also helps to reduce the threats posed to fisheries by invasive species such as round gobies and diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia, known as VHS. OBN is a leading voice for fish care during tournaments and encourages clubs to help maintain boat ramps and docks.

“It has been a very rewarding experience working with clubs to get conservation projects off the ground,” Barnucz said. “I also help clubs deal with conservation issues by educating them and acting as a liaison with local agencies if needed.

“The Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation has been a leader in B.A.S.S. conservation initiatives, and I would like to see this continue.”