Out on the ice near Midland, Tanner the dog sits and waits his turn.

Tanner’s partner MNR officer Colin Cotnam is checking fishing licences. And although Tanner can't check for licences, he can detect fish that anglers might be trying to hide from the MNR.

That catches some anglers by surprise.

“I have never seen a fish-sniffing dog,” says Mike Weimer.

But that's what Tanner has been trained to do.

“If there's anything hidden, closed season, or over limits, he'll dig it out for us,” says Cotnam. “He can sniff them out.”

Tanner is part of the MNR canine services unit that has been detecting and catching poachers since 1990.

“He's an aggressive indicator,” Cotnam says. “So he'll scratch at them, eat them or try to pull them out. He's got a variety of odours in his memory right now. For fish he's got lake trout, brook trout, walleye, whitefish and bass.”

Tanner has been working with the MNR for six years and has helped sniff out thousands of illegal fish. His reward for a good job? His chew toy.

“He's a very good dog. He's quiet, doesn’t say much, doesn’t bark at me in the truck,” says Cotnam. “Sometime I have to turn around and make sure I brought him because he is so quiet.”

Cotnam says his best friend is typically Canadian: the strong silent type who is a little bit of an MNR celebrity.

Tanner was born in Sudbury. A good Canadian dog, he even has his own hockey card to prove it.

“We do have our own trading cards that we give to the kids and some of the adults,” Cotnam says.

The MNR says poaching is a serious crime and detector dogs work all over the province to help the agency end illegal hunting and fishing.