Crossing the Canadian Border

In a matter of weeks, fishermen from all over North America will begin their annual migration across the Canadian border like Atlantic salmon on a spawning run up the Miramichi River.  If you are one of these lucky anglers you’re practically intoxicated with a longing for the tug of a nice walleye, the power of a big pike ripping line off your reel and the smell of freshly caught fish, frying in a pan on the shores of a Canadian Lake. But, there is one obstacle between yourself and fishing paradise…a stop at Customs and Immigration.

Normally, this singular incident is not a big deal, but us glassy eyed fishermen have either been on the road a LONG time and still have a long way to go, or we’re in an airport trying to catch a connecting flight. Neither situation lends itself to being searched.

I’ve been crossing the Canadian border three or four times annually for almost 25-years and I’ve learned, through the school of hard knocks, some tips you can use to keep a border agent from digging through your underwear this summer.

Mainly, I try not to think of the border as a burden, but as a gateway to an amazing fishery, with equally amazing lodges, in every price range. I like to think of it as a path to true wilderness experiences second to none. If you’ve never been to the “Great White North” start planning now because it’s worth the effort.   Have a great adventure, Joel

Border Crossing Tip:

1) Questions – know the answers to the questions the agent will ask, if you have to search or count to answer a basic question you are going to get pulled aside – don’t hem-and-haw. They will ask: where are you from, where are you staying, for how long and do you have alcohol and tobacco.

2) Truthful Answers – always answer truthfully, border crossing agents don’t see a difference between a white lie and a big old whopping lie. If you have five cases of beer don’t say four because you know you might have to pay duty on the fifth case.

3) Look the part– we’re just fisherman going fishing, so you have nothing to hide. Do the following: have your passport in hand, take off your sunglasses, look the agent in the eye, only give them the information they ask for in the simplest terms. Don’t be argumentative; trust me that does not help the situation.

4.) Driving Across – before pulling your vehicle up: roll down all windows facing the border agent, turn down your radio, have the passports for all vehicle occupants in your hand and only the driver answers the questions. You don’t want two people blurting out conflicting answers.

5.) Know your fish limits and verify – on the return trip, double and triple check your fish counts before you get to the border, you do not want to be in violation of possession limits because someone accidentally miscounted the fish.  If you have two vehicles make sure one is not carrying all the fish (yep, did that once to me, luckily the other car was right behind us), keep your fish in your possession.

In my next blog – we’ll touch base on what you can and can’t take over the Canadian border and recent changes providing for more flexibility for anglers.

Here are some websites to visit before crossing the border this summer:

Canada Welcomes You – answers to all your questions,

Border Wait Times – real time information,

U.S. State Department – Passport requirements –


Editors Note: Joel Prunty is the president of Fishulo,llc and is passionate about using his expertise in Canadian wilderness travel  to assist anglers and hunters in planning adventures. Over a 20 year association with a Canadian fishing and hunting sportshow producer, Joel visited over 300 of Canada’s BEST lodges, resorts and outfitters.  He currently sits on the Marketing Advisory Council for Tourism Saskatchewan and was previously named the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association‘s (NOTO) member-of-the-year.


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