Toronto Shore Fishermen Lose a Downtown Spot
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Toronto Shore Fishermen Lose a Downtown Spot

Harbourfront Centre security guards are keeping people from fishing along 10 acres of waterfront property.

David Clark stands at the spot where he was accosted for fishing.

Harbourfront Centre is telling people who fish on Harbourfront property along the Lake Ontario shoreline to reel in their lines, pack up their rods, and get moving.

That’s what happened to David Clark, a restauranteur and licensed recreational fisherman who was stopped by Harbourfront security guards while fishing from the shoreline at the foot of Harbourfront Centre’s Music Garden near Lower Spadina and Queens Quay on March 18. He was confused; he’d been fishing in that exact spot for several years with no problems, although he’d heard about people getting kicked off the property for fishing last fall.

“I wasn’t bothering the people on the sidewalk,” says Clark. “I wasn’t bothering a boat in the marina or a boat driving by. I was just fishing, and doing my own thing without hurting anybody.”

He was even more confused when the security guards pulled out a Toronto Port Authority rule book and pointed to a bylaw that states that it’s not legal to fish anywhere on the shoreline, except where there is a sign explicitly stating otherwise. That would seem to make it against the law to fish anywhere within the TPA’s jurisdiction, which spans Toronto’s entire waterfront, with the exception of the Leslie Street Spit.

Clark says the security guards removed several other fishermen from the site as well. He asked to talk to police, and was told that if he didn’t leave immediately, he would be charged with trespassing and fined $2,000. Eventually, police arrived and defused the situation.

But according to Port Authority Harbour Master Angus Armstrong, the Authority’s rules are only meant to govern the land it controls, such as the outer-harbour marina and the island airport, all of which is off-limits to public recreation anyway.

Deputy Harbour Master Michael Riehl adds that, while Harbourfront Centre is private property and therefore subject to the rules of its management, Harbourfront had no business using the Port Authority’s bylaws. “If they want to enforce no fishing on their property, then they can’t blame us,” he says. “They have to blame themselves.”

Riehl says Harbourfront still isn’t going to allow fishing on its property, but will cite its own rules from now on. He says a similar issue occurred at Ontario Place this spring.

Harbourfront Centre controls 10 acres of waterfront property, including the shoreline stretching west from York Street to Marina Quay West, just west of Lower Spadina Avenue. Fishing isn’t banned everywhere: it’s allowed in areas under the jurisdiction of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry, and Recreation division (except where signs specifically forbid it), which includes the Toronto Islands.

Still, Clark isn’t thrilled about losing a prime central fishing spot. “It costs an awful lot to live in downtown Toronto, to pay for a mortgage or to pay for rent in an apartment,” he says. “Not a lot of people can afford a cottage as well… so for a lot of people, fishing in downtown Toronto makes sense.”

Photo by Brendan Ross/Torontoist.