Fishing Regulations In Hokkaido 2023



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The following is a list of things to keep in mind when fishing in Hokkaido's rivers. I hope this will be a good guide for those who come to Hokkaido from other countries and states to fish.

I recommend you to take a brief look at the following web site. This one is about rules and manners on fishing in Hokkaido issued by local government. 

Fishing Rules And Manners In Hokkaido

Unfortunately only Japanese version is available. I can not find English version anywhere. If you find it, notice me please!

Therefore this blog post can help you understand how to fish in rivers in Hokkaido.

Outlines on Fishing in Hokkaido

Ban to catch any salmons in rivers

All catching of salmon in rivers is prohibited. Even in the relatively free and vast Hokkaido, there are many regulations regarding salmon. 

Salmon fishing is allowed on only two rivers (Hamamasu River and Churui River) with a permit, but in recent years it has often been suspended due to COVID-19. Please inquire for details.

("Salmon" includes cherry salmon, pink salmon, Sockeye salmon, silver salmon, and king salmon.)

I have sometimes seen salmon running upstream in front of me many times when I was fishing for rainbow trout in the fall. It is rare that I can catch them because they don't look at my tenkara, which is a small Kebari, but it is a little thrilling.

There are also regulations for salmon fishing in estuaries as well as in inland waters. Please check the web site below for details.

Regulations for salmon fishing in estuaries 1 (Japanese version)

Regulations for salmon fishing in estuaries 2 (Japanese version)

During the closed season, it is advisable to refrain from fishing at the mouth of the river, even if you are not targeting salmon. Living in Hokkaido, I have the impression that poaching of sea urchins, abalone, and salmon is strictly enforced.

If you are thinking of fishing for salmon in Hokkaido, you should join a tour or inquire at guesthouses in a town at the mouth of a river. At the mouths of rivers famous for salmon fishing, many guesthouses and stores are open in hopes of attracting anglers to the area.

Close season for Yamame Trout

Unlike rivers in other prefectures in Japan, most rivers in Hokkaido have no fishing rights. Therefore, you can fish freely without purchasing a recreational fishing ticket.

However, all rivers have a closed season for Yamame.

(Yamame is a young kind of cherry salmon.)

4.1~5.31 Central Hokkaido, Southern Hokkaido

5.1~6.30 Northern Hokkaido, Eastern Hokkaido

Do not catch Yamame in the target area during the above period. Remember that you must not catch Yamame in April and May in Sapporo and its suburbs. In East Hokkaido and North Hokkaido, you must not catch Yamame in May and June. It is a simple rule.

Preserved Rivers

Earlier I discussed the spring closed season for Yamame. You may be thinking, then, that outside of the closed season, you are free to fish whatever you like in whatever river you like. 

However, there are some rivers in Hokkaido where fishing is totally prohibited.

In some cases, fishing is prohibited for a specified period and area (the Chitose River is famous for this). Please refer to the following information and be careful not to fish by mistake when you go fishing.

Please refer to the following for more information on protected water surfaces and resource protection surfaces.

Protected water surfaces and resource protection surfaces.

When planning a fishing trip using Google Maps or other methods, check if any rivers are of interest to you and see if they are mentioned in this table. 

In protected waters, the taking of any aquatic animals is prohibited in all mainstem and tributary watersheds. This means that simply entering the river with fishing gear is not allowed.

Other things you may concern

Does catch-and-release violate the law?

This issue is often a matter of debate among anglers.

I was fishing for brown trout in the Chitose River in April when I caught a Yamame and immediately released it. Is such a case against the law?

This case is out of line with the rules and illegal. As Hokkaido government says in the web site, even if you did not catch the Yamame by aiming for it or trying to take it home, you are still harvesting it in the act of fishing, which is considered an illegal act.

So, should we refrain from river fishing in April and May (May and June in Eastern Hokkaido), when catching Yamame are prohibited?

The answer to this question can only be left to each individual. 

Strictly speaking, it is illegal to bring Yamame to your release net. If you value the importance of not doing anything illegal in your life, I recommend that you do not enter the river during the Spring fishing season. Because there is a possible catch of Yamame.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about what kind of fishing people actually do in Hokkaido.

Rivers in Hokkaido are swollen by melting snow in April and May, so fishing is basically impossible on the main streams. To fish, you need to go to the headwaters of tributaries.

I want to fish from the beginning of spring, so I go to the headwaters and small rivers from the end of March and enter rivers where I have not fished for Yamame before. The main target will be rainbow trout.

I have only once caught a Yamame during a no-fishing period and had to release it immediately. If I were to be spotted by supervisors, they would probably just say 'please be careful' and that would be the end of it. They are not so picky when it comes to mountain trout regulations.

And if, hypothetically, I were a keeper and had a large number of Yamame in a fish basket hanging from my waist, it might not be a good idea. However, I have never heard of anyone being arrested for poaching Yamame, so unless anglers are extremely vicious, they will probably get away with it with a warning.

What I'm trying to say is that the regulations are grey and the rest is a matter of manners. If you are reading this article, I think you are perfectly fine with it, as you are the kind of person who would be willing to look into the regulations regarding fishing yourself.

But I'll be persistent, you must never fish for salmon in any rivers!

Do we come across bears?

I have never encountered a brown bear while fishing. I have seen a brown bear and its cubs about 50 metres away while climbing a mountain.

As you probably know, anglers tend to be liars and tend to embellish their stories about the size of the fish they catch and their encounters with brown bears.

As far as anglers I consider credible, the brown bear encounter rate is 0%. I have heard many stories of sightings of droppings and traces of claw marks, but I have never heard of any encounters.

However, I have actually heard of news reports of anglers and people who pick up wild vegetables being attacked, so I can't say for sure that this is never the case. But my feeling is that people who encounter brown bears have not been vigilant.

The more familiar people with mountains and rivers are with them, the more they study their fears, and they usually head for mountain streams and rivers with coping methods and ecology in mind in case they encounter one.

If you are overly afraid of brown bears, you will not be able to enjoy the fishing trip itself, so be sure to gather information in advance and simulate what you would do if you encounter a brown bear before entering a river.

Information on brown bears [Links to information on brown bears in municipalities].

Summary: Enjoy fishing with good manners!

So, I have briefly talked about the regulations and a few things of concern for fishing in Hokkaido.

One of the things I mentioned that you should be particularly aware of is the existence of protected water surfaces where fishing is totally banned. I almost fished there myself. I think a lot of people don't know that tributaries are not allowed either, so please be very careful.

If you have been fishing for a long time, you may come across people who are clearly poaching or have extremely bad manners. In such cases, it is best to avoid giving them a direct warning.

I have approached people dumping rubbish a few times, but many of them don't seem to understand what I say in the first place, so I have had to shut up, pick up the rubbish and leave the area.

I think there are two ways to deal with malicious illegal dumping and poaching: report it or pretend you didn't see it. If you report it, you would be detained for a long time & questioned by police officer, so I hope the government will do something about that.

Let's enjoy fishing in Hokkaido through getting regulations and good manners!

In this article, I have shown some links but all of them are written in English. If you need any help related to translation, I will help you. You can send message to me by using "Contact form" below.


you don't need license or permission to fish in rivers in Hokkaido.

forbid to fish rivers below

Yamame rule

salon rule