Fishing Canadian Waters in 2018

Last July Canada passed a law making it easier for anglers to enter Canadian waters and go fishing.  In years past anglers had to call Canadian Customs upon entering Canadian waters.  Here’s what the new law reads:

Reporting Exemptions

If you are visiting Canada, you are not required to report to the CBSA if you:

  • Do not land on Canadian soil and do not ANCHOR, moor or make contact with another conveyance while in Canadian waters, and
  • Do not embark or disembark people or goods in Canada

Simply put, if you plan to anchor for halibut in Canadian waters you MUST call Canadian Customs at 1-888-226-7277 and get a Canadian Customs Clearance Number.

Upon re-entering U.S. waters You MUST call the U.S. Customs at 1-800-562-5943

I just called today, 3-10-2018 to confirm this rule/law.

However, here’s what the U.S. Customs web page states.

Exceptions to Face-to-Face reporting to CBP

Alternative Inspection Systems (AIS) satisfy the boat operator’s legal requirement to report for face-to-face inspection in accordance with 8 CFR 235.1, but boaters must still phone in their arrival to satisfy 19 USC 1433.

There are four exceptions to the face-to-face inspection at a designated reporting location, NEXUS, Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit (I-68), Outlying Area Reporting Stations (OARS), and the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS).  Participation in any of the programs does not preclude the requirement for physical report upon request by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Any small pleasure vessel leaving a United States port into international or foreign waters, without a call at a foreign port, does not satisfy the foreign departure requirement. Therefore, certain fishing vessels, cruises to nowhere, or any vessel that leaves from a United States port and returns without calling a foreign port or place, has not departed the United States.

The above exception would only qualify if you don’t anchor or go to port. Even with this exception phone calls by several readers of this post have heard the same thing from U.S. Customs officers in Bellingham, that we still need to call upon re-entering U.S. waters. Another phone call to Bellingham Customs today with the same questions, including the above excemption resulted in this advice. “Our vessel patrol unit does not interpret the law that you don’t have to report if you are just fishing and could confiscate your boat. The law is a grey area subject to interpretation by the officers.”

The officer I spoke with said you don’t have to call as soon as you enter U.S. waters, but you do need to call upon docking or before. And, until you are cleared, only the master/captain of the vessel may get off the boat. Don’t take the risk of not calling to report arrival into U.S. waters. The penalty for failure to report is $5,000 first offense and $10,000 for the second offense and possible forfeiture of your vessel.

Everyone aboard your vessel still needs a Passport, Enhanced Drivers License, Global Entry or Nexus Card to enter Canada and re-enter U.S. waters. For re-entry if you don’t have the Global Entry or Nexus you will need an I-68. To speed up the process, the owner of  the vessel can register in the Small Vessel Reporting System program and get a BR number. Upon calling U.S. customs this will populate their computer with all of your data more quickly. The I-68, Nexus or Global Entry for your guests basically generates a unique number just as the BR does for the vessel owner/master. However, it is not mandatory to enroll in the Small Vessel Reporting System  program and not mandatory to have a BR as long as you have one of the above documents.

You do not need to fill out any forms with WDFW if you are halibut fishing. However, if you plan to keep salmon you must go online and fill out the WDFW Canadian Salmon Trip Notification form at:


About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @
This entry was posted in Canada Halibut Fishing, How to legally fish Canadian waters. Bookmark the permalink.

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