21 top fishing destinations in Ontario
Within the province’s borders, anglers can catch all of North America’s most sought-after freshwater game fish—including walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskies, five kinds of trout and three species of salmon, to name a few—in both trophy sizes and big numbers.
These fish inhabit an astonishing 250,000 waterbodies, ranging from tumbling brooks you can step across to five mighty Great Lakes. Throughout the province, anglers can hook into a fish by casting, trolling, fly fishing or simply dropping a minnow through a hole in the ice. There are lakes and rivers where powerful fish will challenge the most accomplished angler, and family-friendly spots perfect for a child’s first outing. There are destinations where you can catch fish all day without ever seeing another boat and others where you can land a trophy fish and then take in a stadium concert or major-league sports game that evening.
There are also travel and lodging choices for every taste and budget. You can take a charter floatplane to a luxurious full-service lodge, haul your own boat, trailer or snowmobile to a waterside cabin or paddle a canoe deep into roadless wildernesses. Basically, if you can imagine a fishing adventure, you can make it happen in Ontario. The only tricky part is that with so many options, how do you choose where to go? To help narrow it down, here’s a list of 21 amazing Ontario fishing destinations (we tried for 20, but there were just too many great choices) along with what makes each one so special.
Canoe-trippers come from far and wide to paddle Algonquin’s many multi-day, multi-lake routes. The good news for anglers is that most canoers don’t fish much. So, while the park sees plenty of visitors, the fishing remains incredible. Gorgeous wild brook trout are the most desired catch, especially in early spring and fall, but there’s also great action for lake trout and smallmouth bass. Just keep your tackle basic and plan a laid-back route with time to fish the interior. You’ll come away a happy camper.
Highlight: beautiful trout fishing in a classic Canadian setting
From mid-October until spring, this large bay on Lake Ontario’s north shore may be the best place on the planet to catch a 10- or even 15-pound (4.5-6.8 kilogram) walleye. During late fall, the top technique is precision trolling with diving lures, and in ice-fishing season, big spoons and lipless crankbaits are the go-to. As a bonus, Quinte’s north shore is also home to a substantial (and underfished) population of largemouth bass. The region has many facilities for visiting anglers, from boat launches to lodgings to guides, and is bordered by Prince Edward Country—one of Ontario’s top food and wine regions.
Highlight: world-class walleye fishing
Winding some 300 kilometres from the Dufferin Highlands in Grey County to Lake Erie, the Grand is three rivers in one. The swift upper sections have some of Eastern Canada's best fly-fishing for big brown trout. The middle section, best fished by canoe, kayak or raft, offers walleye, smallmouth bass, pike and migratory steelhead rainbow trout. And the lower section has those four species plus almost everything else you can catch in Ontario, including giant channel catfish.
Highlight: brown trout, brawling catfish and everything in between
South-central Ontario's Kawartha region is home to four major lakes linked by the Trent-Severn Waterway: Balsam, Sturgeon, Scugog and Pigeon. Ringed by rolling farm country to the south, they transition to a rocky Canadian Shield landscape in the north. This varied topography provides excellent fishing for both warm- and cold-water fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappies, northern pike and big muskies. This tourist-friendly region is also home to a wide selection of lodging and dining options for visitors, from high-end hotels to campgrounds.
Highlight: multi-species action in cottage country
A sprawling reservoir northwest of Sioux Lookout, Lac Seul is home to shocking numbers of 24- to 30-inch (61- to 76-centimetre) walleye. Many bays branch off from the lake’s main basin, and the walleyes inhabit this shallow, stained water even in high summer. There are also immense numbers of smallmouth bass, yellow perch and northern pike. Lac Seul even grows big muskies, which are notorious for hitting walleye jigs—a heart-stopping experience. Though the area is remote, Lac Seul is well served by drive-to, boat-in or fly-in camps.
Highlight: enter a world of wilderness and walleye
Erie has a huge and plentiful smallmouth bass population, especially around Long Point (a World Biosphere Reserve). Rondeau Bay is justifiably famous for its largemouth bass fishing. It’s also home to an estimated 100 million fast-growing walleye. In recent years, Erie has even become a hot spot for big rainbow trout. The trout and walleye are mostly caught via trolling and there are many excellent charter captains who can get you on their trail.
Highlight: once thought lost, this lake is greater than ever
Huge and deep, Lake Huron has classic big-water fishing for powerful lake trout and leaping salmon. Fishing is good all summer, but the salmon really start biting in fall. By contrast, Georgian Bay, the lake’s massive east arm, boasts fine fishing around its thousands of rocky islands, including trophy-sized northern pike and smallmouth bass. Georgian Bay also has unusually good shore fishing, which is rare on trophy waters. A popular summer vacation region, visitors will find lots of boat launches, charter services and a variety of lodgings.
Highlight: Great Lakes action from boat or shore
Despite having many camps and good road access, huge Lake Nipigon has world-class lake trout fishing, of a kind usually found only in the very far north, with fish averaging 20 pounds (9 kilograms) in weight. In spring, lake trout can even be caught by casting light tackle. Early-season northern pike fishing is also excellent, with 40-inch (over 100-centimetre) fish populating the lake’s shallow bays. And then there are the brook trout. The Nipigon River, at the lake’s southern end, famously produced the world-record brookie and has excellent fly-fishing from May through to when the lake ices over.
Highlight: legendary for world-record trout fishing
The largest lake in Northeastern Ontario, Nipissing is long and broad, but unusually shallow, averaging just 15 feet (4.5 metres) in depth. Long known as a walleye factory, today the bass fishing, especially for largemouth, is even better. Nipissing’s weedy shallows and fallen timber hold remarkable numbers of big bass, along with untold northern pike in the 10- to 15-pound (4.5- to 6.8-kilogram) range. Come fall, it’s muskie time, where 30- and 40-pound (13- and 18-kilogram) fish are realistic possibilities. Nipissing is also an easy drive from Southern Ontario, with all manner of places to stay.
Highlight: multi-species fishing in prime vacation country
Lake of the Woods is so big and complicated you could fish it 365 days a year, for several lifetimes, and barely sample the fishing. The action is simply incredible: trophy fishing for lake trout, northern pike, muskies, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and whitefish. And it’s a four-season fishery, with ice-fishing action just as hot as in the summer. The lake’s size can be daunting, so most visitors hire one of the many excellent local guides.
Highlight: the crown jewel of Northwest Ontario
Just an hour north of Toronto, and ringed with motels, camps, houses and cottages, Lake Simcoe poses a mystery: How can it be so accessible and yet the fishing remains so good? Fattened by a diet of round gobies, the smallmouth bass are big, and getting bigger every year—any cast could bring a record fish. In winter, Simcoe transforms into one of the country’s most popular ice-fishing destinations. There’s family-friendly fishing for tasty, easy-to-catch yellow perch, and anglers who venture to deeper water can target sleek, powerful lake trout and whitefish.
Highlight: big bass and hot ice action close to the city
Muskies are called “the fish of 10,000 casts,” but not on Lake St. Clair, where you’re likely to land half a dozen 20- or 30-pounders (10 or 14 kilograms) during a single pleasant day of trolling, from June through November. Though it’s flat, featureless and shallow (unlike most Ontario bass lakes), St. Clair often produces more trophy smallmouth than anywhere in Canada. And from mid-April to mid-May, the Detroit River, connecting St. Clair and Lake Erie, becomes the centre of the walleye world, as 10 million fish migrate through it to spawn.
Highlight: massive muskies, bass and millions of walleye
Some 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, this vast lake is truly remote, yet it can still be reached by road. However, you need to plan ahead, since access is restricted, with a limited number of permits available through local lodges and outfitters. Due to this low pressure, the fishing is extraordinary. Hungry walleye and smallmouth bass are everywhere. St. Joseph’s lake trout grow big, and northern pike are in season all year long, with 40-inch (101-centimetre) fish regularly caught in the shallows, where fly-fishing is especially effective.
Highlight: endless fish, far off the beaten track
When you first see Superior, you understand why it’s called an inland sea—and why lake trout and salmon grow big and thick in its cold, clean waters. The lake has a reputation for difficult weather, but big fish can be found relatively close to land, near Thunder Bay, Nipigon and Batchawana Bay. There’s also incredible fishing right from shore for rainbow trout and huge “coaster” brook trout, in the many rivers and streams flowing into Superior along its wild and picturesque northern shore.
Highlight: big water means big trout and salmon
Oddly shaped with long, irregular arms sprouting off a very deep main basin, Northeastern Ontario’s Temagami is another lake that rewards exploration. With so much water, trolling for big lake trout is always popular. Lake trout can also be caught by jigging around shoals and humps—where you’re equally likely to hook nice walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and whitefish, all of which are abundant. Although it feels wild and remote, Temagami is only four hours’ drive from both Toronto and Ottawa, and home to many long-running camps and outfitters.
Highlight: huge and wild, but still close to home
Located in the heart of the world’s largest game preserve, the only land access to Missinaibi is an 80-kilometre-long logging road winding north from the town of Chapeau. The lake is narrow, deep and over 40 kilometres long, with a shoreline almost entirely free of development. Not surprisingly, there’s excellent fishing for lake trout, walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass. There are a few outfitters, but most visitors camp at angler-friendly Missinaibi Provincial Park.
Highlight: wilderness fishing at the end of the road
With so many attractions in Canada’s capital region, it’s easy to overlook the fishing. But in the broad, slow, lower stretches of the Ottawa River, you can catch lunker bass and 40-pound (18-kilogram) muskie right in the city. Throughout its entire 1,200-kilometre length, the Ottawa is home to almost every gamefish in the province. Walleye, bass and pike are most prominent, but you can also find big channel catfish and even the dinosaur-like longnose gar. All areas of the river offer easy access and numerous places to stay.
Highlight: trophy fish in the nation’s capital
One of the continent’s great wilderness areas, Northwest Ontario’s Quetico encompasses 2,000 lakes, where motorboats are largely banned. This means adventurous paddlers have access to 4,600 square kilometres of undeveloped backcountry, with outstanding wilderness fishing for lake trout, northern pike, walleye and especially smallmouth bass. If you don’t have camping gear (or choose to fly), excellent local outfitters rent full suites of camping gear, including canoes and pre-packed meals.
Highlight: backcountry fish that have never seen a lure
Forming part of the border between Ontario and Minnesota, Rainy Lake is a true four-season hot spot, almost as popular in winter as in summer. Enormous and diverse, the lake has both shallow weedy bays and deep, cool-water holes. It’s home to amazing numbers of walleye (protected by strict slot-size regulations), plus black crappies, smallmouth bass and an underfished population of nice muskies. In this popular fishing region, there are all the services a visiting angler could want, from lodging to launches to boat repair.
Highlight: bordertown action all season long
Flowing roughly parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway from Espanola to Lake Huron, the Spanish River is one of Northern Ontario’s most popular walleye destinations, especially from mid-May through June. The river mouth, at the town of Spanish, is protected from the big lake by a chain of islands, forming the scenic Whalesback Channel. This lets even small boaters get on the water safely and enjoy the Channel’s unusually large and plentiful smallmouth bass, northern pike and of course, walleye.
Highlight: walleye, pike and smallmouth by the highway
Flowing from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, this short river boasts an extraordinary variety of elite gamefish: Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout and walleye, plus chinook, coho and pink salmon. There’s nowhere else in Canada—and possibly the world—with a list like that. In addition, most species can be targeted by a fly rod, and some of the best action is in the shadow of the International Bridge, which connects Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with its namesake town in Michigan.
Highlight: a rich and unique fishery unlike any other
Last updated: November 30, 2022