Discover incredible fishing in the Muskoka Region
About a two-hour drive north of Toronto, Muskoka makes up the eastern portion of Ontario’s iconic cottage country. It stretches from Georgian Bay, to the western border of Algonquin Provincial Park, encompassing almost 6,500 square-kilometres.
Muskoka’s landscape varies from thick boreal forests to the kind of rocky shorelines and windswept trees immortalized in classic Canadian paintings. Muskoka is also dotted with an incredible 1,600 lakes, most of which have boat launches or public access, so adventurous anglers can cast a line almost anywhere.
The region’s three largest bodies of water are Lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph, which are all over 20 kilometres long, and linked by a system of rivers and locks. These “big three” Muskoka lakes are known for lavish vacation homes owned by the rich and famous, including pro athletes, superstar musicians and Hollywood celebrities. This has led some to believe that Lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph are the exclusive outdoor playground of the wealthy, and unlikely to have good fishing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, anglers have discovered that the big three lakes boast some of the very best fishing in Ontario, including trophy-sized lake trout, walleye and northern pike.
Muskoka’s fishing lakes come in all shapes and sizes. They range from the wide expanses and the developed shorelines of the big three, to the rocky channels and islands found near Georgian Bay, to small backcountry lakes only ever seen by a handful of hikers or paddlers. All of Ontario’s most popular sportfish can be caught in the lakes and rivers of Muskoka, but the fishing is especially good for smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, lake trout and northern pike. Here are some expert, local fishing tips and techniques for all five of these popular species, plus some of the best places to catch them. It’s everything you need to know to put together an unforgettable Muskoka fishing trip.
When planning your fishing trip, remember to consult the local fishing regulations for species limits and seasons, which can vary from year to year. An excellent resource for anglers is Ontario's Fish ON-Line tool which lets you search for individual waterbodies, and then see the available fishing species, regulations, maps and other trip-planning information.
Smallmouth bass fishing
Smallmouth bass are renowned for their remarkable strength and tendency to perform dramatic head-shaking leaps, making them a favourite of anglers everywhere. Muskoka’s hundreds of rocky lakes offer ideal smallmouth habitat, and biologists refer to the local population as “abundant.” In fishing terms, that means smallmouth are present in almost all of the region’s lakes and rivers, often in vast numbers.
Juvenile smallmouth are extremely aggressive, and can be caught from docks and from shore, making them a memorable first catch for many kids and novices. Pursuing larger bass requires a little more experience. Serious bass anglers should be prepared to fish in both shallow and deep water. The smallmouth’s prey—including minnows, crayfish, leeches, aquatic insects—are most plentiful in shallow water. However, when the Muskoka bass season starts in late June shallow water has become uncomfortably warm for large smallmouth. So, they linger in deep water (roughly 15 to 25 feet deep) but make periodic trips into shallow water to feed heavily. These dining excursions can happen any time, but are most likely under overcast skies, at dawn and dusk and on windy days.
Prime deep-water smallmouth locations include rocky reefs, steep drop-offs and gradually sloping points. The best deep-water fishing techniques include casting deep-diving crankbaits, heavy swimbaits and hopping jigs along the bottom. The most popular local jigs are, by far, crayfish-coloured tube jigs and Ned-rigged jigs. Some top shallow areas for smallmouth are the mouths of inlets, broad shallow areas with scattered rocks or weeds and sandy bays—including quiet times at popular swimming beaches. The best shallow-water lures include spinnerbaits, minnowbaits and various topwater lures. Fly fishing for shallow smallmouth with popper, slider and streamer flies is also very effective. Ultimately, no fish in Muskoka is more plentiful and cooperative than the scrappy smallmouth.
Muskoka smallmouth bass fishing hot spots
Walleye are Canada’s most sought-after sportfish, and that’s certainly true in Muskoka. Walleye can be found throughout the region, though many of the best lakes and rivers are found in the west, closer to Georgian Bay. Walleye season begins in mid- or late May, and this springtime fishing action can be fast and furious. Top spots for early-season walleye in Muskoka’s Canadian Shield lakes include gravel or rubble shorelines (especially ones exposed to the wind), gravel-bottomed inlet streams, shallow, rocky reefs and shallow flats near these areas. As the season continues, walleye migrate to somewhat deeper water, where they feed primarily on minnows and juvenile gamefish. From summer through to mid-fall, classic Muskoka walleye spots include gradually sloping reefs, the tips of long, gradually sloping points, mid-lake shoals and channels around small islands.
Muskoka’s all-time, top-producing walleye presentation is casting a simple lead-head jig tipped with a minnow, leech or soft-plastic grub. A close second is trolling a nightcrawler on spinner rig (locally known as a “worm harness”). For anglers who prefer artificial lures, trolling mid-depth or suspending minnowbait lures (such as Rapala’s X-Rap or the Cotton Cordell Wally Diver) is often just as effective. An excellent strategy is trolling prospective walleye areas, and then switching to casting once you’ve located a group of fish. And if you keep a few fish for dinner, you’ll learn why walleye are so popular.
Muskoka walleye fishing hot spots
Lake trout fishing
Streamlined, powerful and beautifully marked, in colours ranging from green to grey to purple, lake trout are one of Muskoka’s most prized catches. Lake trout can only live in water that’s deep and cold, meaning Muskoka is at the extreme south end of their range. Still, these big trout are found in many Muskoka lakes with water deeper than 60 feet, which provides the sanctuary they require. The bigger and deeper the lake, the more and larger trout you’ll find. Typical lake trout in the region range from five to 10 pounds, but it’s quite possible to hook fish over 20 pounds, particularly in the big three lakes of Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph. And there’s no mistaking the jarring strike of a big lake trout, which bends your rod double and begins a dogged fight.
Ice fishing for lake trout is quite popular in Muskoka, from the beginning of the season on January 1, until mid- or late March. In winter, lake trout tend to concentrate on sharp-breaking points, deep humps and deep holes in otherwise shallow sections of water. They can be in water as shallow as 20 feet, but 40- to 60-foot depths are more common. The top ice fishing lures in Muskoka are live minnows, jigging spoons and white tube jigs. An ice fishing sonar unit is also quite helpful for locating trout hot spots on large lakes. Shortly after ice-out, typically in late April, when the water is still very cold, lake trout can be found in shallow water. During this brief, exciting period, anglers can hook lake trout—sometimes even from shore—by casting light spoons and minnowbaits. By early May, the fish move back to deep, cool water. Through to the end of the season in late September they’re found near the same kind of places as in winter—drop-offs, humps and holes—except in water ranging from 40 to 100 feet deep. The most popular tactic this time of year is trolling with large spoons. It may take some time to connect but landing a big lake trout is a truly memorable angling experience.
Muskoka lake trout fishing hot spots
Largemouth bass fishing
Without question, largemouth bass are Muskoka’s most underrated sportfish. Largemouth are almost as plentiful as their cousins, the smallmouth bass, but they’re often more aggressive, and hit a wider variety of lures. And once hooked, largemouth are pugnacious fighters. In addition, while hardcore bass anglers are known for their large, flashy fishing boats, throughout Muskoka you can enjoy good largemouth fishing using small boats (including canoes and kayaks) or even fishing from docks or the shore.
Unlike their cool-water cousins, largemouth bass prefer water that’s warm, shallow and weedy. From the time the season opens in late June, largemouth can typically be found in the warmest and shallowest part of lakes. While lakes in Muskoka tend to be cool and rocky, almost all of them have at least a few shallow areas where the bottom is sandy or muddy. That’s where the largemouth will usually be. They especially favour weedlines at the edge of deeper water, shallow bays with dense weeds or lily pads, and shallow water shaded by trees or docks. In water that’s sparsely weeded, a few top largemouth lures include crankbaits, spinnerbaits and the soft-plastic wacky worm. For fishing around vegetation, it’s essential to have a few weedless bass lures, including weedless spoons, Texas-rigged soft-plastics and flipping jigs. Fly-fishing for shallow largemouth is also great sport, especially with topwater flies. For many Muskoka anglers, nothing says summer like a hot day of battling burly largemouth.
Muskoka largemouth bass fishing hot spots
Northern pike fishing
In the majority of Muskoka lakes, the largest fish and the top predator is the northern pike. Long and powerful, with an oversized toothy mouth, pike are built to eat just about anything that swims in—or on—the water. In smaller lakes overpopulate with hammer handle-sized pike, some anglers find them a nuisance. But once northern pike get longer than 24 inches, they’re on the way to becoming a formidable gamefish. In almost all Muskoka lakes with a pike population, there are fish over 36 inches long, and these trophy-sized pike are common in the largest waterbodies.
Pike season begins in mid- to late May. At this time, most pike—including the very biggest ones—are in shallow water, feeding heavily after an gruelling spawning period. Top locations include weedlines and weedy points near very shallow bays (one-two feet deep), shallow rocky bars, and flats outside shallow bays, especially ones with emerging weeds. Popular lures for early-season pike include spoons, large in-line spinners and suspending minnowbaits. As the season progresses, smaller pike stay in these same areas, but the larger fish move into deeper water. From mid-June through to autumn, large Muskoka pike can be caught by casting or trolling around rocky reefs in 15 to 25 feet of water, weedy or rocky points sloping into deep water, submerged weed beds (especially around islands) and the mouths of inflows. Popular lures for reaching these deeper fish include large crankbaits, heavy spoons and spinnerbaits and large soft-plastic swimbaits. Large pike can also be a surprise catch when fishing for summertime lake trout or walleye, and it’s quite a thrill to see a trophy pike’s giant head and long, thick body emerge from the deep.
Muskoka northern pike fishing hot spots
Accommodations for anglers in Muskoka
Muskoka has a wide variety of places to stay that cater to anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are waterfront accommodations ranging from full-service hotels to cozy housekeeping cabins, suitable for families, couples or groups of avid anglers. Many also have boat launches and docks and can hook you up with local fishing guides.
Year-round, all-inclusive getaways on Sparrow Lake include fishing packages with boxed lunch and boat rentals. Choose from rooms, suites and cottages.
Four-season waterfront cottages on the Lake of Bays with numerous amenities, such as a private beach, boat docking and nearby boat launch and rentals.
Family- and pet-friendly one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages on Three Mile Lake, with a private beach, boardwalk, tiki hut and boat and dock rentals.
Two- and three-bedroom cabin with lake views, fire pits, decks and a large lakeside patio, plus a recently added Country Marketplace with an in-store butcher, bakery and hot table.
All-season rooms, cottages and suites on the sandy shore of Dwight Bay. Accommodations range from traditional rustic cottages with private decks, to modern suites with en-suite Jacuzzi tubs.
Two- and three-bedroom cottages with kitchens, living rooms, private decks and BBQs, with access to both Little Hawk and Big Hawk Lakes and popular snowmobile trails.
Pet-friendly housekeeping cottages nestled in a quiet cove on Three Mile Lake, offering a variety of activities including both fishing and ice fishing packages.
Located on Gloucester Pool, a lake with Georgian Bay Township, with rooms, suites and cottages, offering both housekeep and all-inclusive packages. Guest facilities include canoes, kayaks, a sandy beach and boat docking.
On the shore of Lake Joseph, many of the modern guest rooms and cottage suites have wood-burning fireplaces. Amenities include beach, boat docking and daily bonfires.
One, two- and three-bedroom cottages with full kitchens, fireplaces and decks, and a swimming pool, overlooking Little Lake at Port Severn. Boat launch and rentals available.
Year-round full-service hotel on Lake Muskoka, with sleek, modern accommodations, offering golf and tennis, as well as watersports and boat docking.
Get online maps of Muskoka’s Lakes and find the lakes name listed.
Last updated: August 22, 2023