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Tips for a Successful Border Crossing on your Canada Fishing Trip

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Posted by Rich B. on

For over three decades my family and friends have headed north with me to enjoy the quality fishing of Canada, particularly in the province of Ontario. We have crossed at many points along the border, including the Peace Bridge (Buffalo), International Falls (Minnesota) and Windsor (Detroit); For the most part we have encountered very few problems over the years.

That said, if you travel over the border and back enough times you will inevitably (at some point) have a more involved experience with a border-crossing agent. This can range from a few extra questions to a full inspection of your vehicle and its contents. For example, during one crossing my brother's SUV and boat were searched; and on another trip my group was asked to pull over and remove our boat tarp, even though it was an 11 pm crossing and there were no other vehicles present. You just never know when an inspection may occur. If you are asked to pull into an inspection area, remain calm and proceed as you are directed. You should be on your way following completion of the vehicle and/or boat inspection.

Here's a list of "DO" and "DO NOT" suggestions that, it you follow, should make your border crossing smooth and uneventful even in the event of additional questioning and/or a vehicle search.


  • Make sure EVERYONE has a current passport or enhanced drivers license before pulling out of your driveway.
  • Wait for the vehicle to COMPLETELY CLEAR the inspection area before slowly approaching the area with your vehicle.
  • Remove any sunglasses and roll down both your driver's window as well as any back seat windows, turning off the radio as well as any cell/smart phones before approaching the booth.
  • Hand the passports to the border-crossing agent in a neat and orderly manner. (Tip: open them all to the photo page and stagger them so as to make inspecting the passports easier and faster for the agents to inspect.)
  • Allow the driver in your vehicle as the main "speaker" to answer the general questions; however, any passengers asked a direct question should answer as well.
  • Give the border-crossing agent your undivided attention and be respectful.
  • Know your destination and how long you will be visiting. Be honest and declare any tobacco or alcohol purchased from the Duty Free store (or otherwise) and then pay any tax owed for items over the allowed limit.
  • Politely ask the border-crossing agent to clarify or repeat themselves if you don't understand a particular question; it is far better to provide accurate responses to their question rather than providing misleading information.
  • Obtain a Canadian Insurance card from your insurance agent; which provides proof of auto insurance coverage for that specific vehicle. You will need this card, should you be involved in an auto accident, or are stopped by a peace officer.

Do Not

  • Use any "humor or jokes" while being questioned by the border crossing agent, as they may not understand your response and will certainly NOT appreciate your humor.
  • Raise your voice or shout at an agent when asked to clarify your answer if the guard misunderstands something you have said.
  • Be impatient. The appearance of agitation in your vehicle movement or in your demeanor can garner you negative attention you don't want and delay your crossing. The agents do not care about your schedule.
  • Get into an argument with a border-crossing agent. Just don't.

When our children were younger, we would "holiday" at a nice older family camp on the Trent-Severn Riverway. One year a group of Border Guards and their families were staying there as well. In talking with them, they noted they did their serious fishing further north, though took their families to this camp (it did have a great swimming pool and kid's play area). In talking with these guards, they mentioned they would be given daily and weekly updated alerts and profiles of high interest individuals. They confirmed to me that honest fishermen and their families should have no concerns about crossing the border and they did appreciate polite, honest, respectful and courteous communication when folks go through customs.

My friends and I returned from the 2016 Spring Opener and our Border Crossings were uneventful and took very little time. Both the Canadian guards as well as the USA guards were professional, polite and friendly. While border crossings are a reality of driving north to enjoy Canada's outstanding fishing, if approached in the right manner they can be a relatively painless entry point to Canada and it's beautiful lakes, rivers and fisheries.

One disclaimer for this article is should you have had DUI charges or criminal felony charges filed against you; you need to consider seeking advice directly from the Canadian Province you are attempting to enter. Or you may chose to discuss your specific situation with a law firm that specializes in border issues and provide you with detailed assistance with your specific situation.

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