Lake Simcoe is a four-season fishing hot spot
Many lakes claim to offer something for every angler, but in the case of Ontario’s remarkable Lake Simcoe, it’s actually true. The fishing action on Lake Simcoe includes the chance to catch trophy-sized fish, panfish by the bucket, and everything in between.
Powerful lake trout and hefty whitefish can be found in Simcoe’s cool depths. The shallow, weedy areas play host to aggressive, well-fed largemouth bass and northern pike. Some of Canada’s largest smallmouth bass roam Lake Simcoe’s mid-depths. And then there are the lake’s beloved (and delicious) yellow perch, which are found almost anywhere.
When it comes to great Ontario fishing destinations, Lake Simcoe exceeds many expectations. Quality fishing for this mix of gamefish is more commonly found further north, but Lake Simcoe is only 50 kilometres north of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), still very much in Southern Ontario.
Top-quality fishing is often associated with remote regions that are thinly populated and time-consuming to reach. Simcoe, however, is encircled by houses, cottages, towns and highways. That puts Lake Simcoe just a few hours’ drive from literally millions of Canadians. The cities of Barrie and Orillia are right on the shores of Simcoe, while York and Durham regions are close by. Visitors from New York and Michigan states are also common. All of this makes Simcoe one of Ontario’s most intensively fished inland lakes, yet its fish seem to get even larger and more plentiful with every passing season.
Perhaps even more impressive, Lake Simcoe is a true four-season destination, with world-class fishing every season of the year. Here’s a trip through Lake Simcoe’s fishing calendar, highlighting the fish species you can catch, along with tips on locations and tactics.
When planning a visit, also remember to consult the local fishing regulations for species limits and seasons, which can vary from year to year. For a list of local fishing guides and ice-hut rentals, see the end of the article.
Winter fishing on Lake Simcoe
In winter, much of Mother Nature may be dormant, but Lake Simcoe comes alive. Once the lake’s surface freezes, usually in mid-January, literally thousands of anglers take to the ice every weekend. Ice fishing on Lake Simcoe is so popular because the fishing is excellent from freeze-up to mid-March, especially for yellow perch, lake trout and whitefish.
Simcoe is famous for its jumbo perch (fish over 30 centimetres or 12 inches), which are excellent to eat, often easy to catch and found throughout the lake. Since you can find good perch action within a few hundred metres of shore, you don’t need a snow machine or ATV to get in on the fun. You can just walk out on the ice—it’s open to anyone with warm clothes and winter boots.
Unlike summer, when most people fish from boats, winter anglers can take to the ice in groups of any size and spend a day fishing together. Ice fishing for perch also requires only simple equipment: a basic rod and reel, plus a few hooks, weights and lures or a little bucket of bait. Live minnows are the most popular bait, but perch also love small jigs, spoons and Jigging Raps. Ice-hut rentals are available in most parts of the lake. Operators often supply a cozy heated hut, tackle, bait and a ride onto the ice.
Yellow perch are typically found in the shallow to mid-depth areas of the lake. Cook’s Bay, a large, relatively shallow area extending down from the lake’s southwestern corner, is often thought of as Simcoe’s perch-fishing capital. However, perch are found all around the lake’s shore. Other popular spots include Port Bolster, Beaverton, Orillia and the back of Kempenfelt Bay, along Barrie’s waterfront. For a little extra excitement, northern pike are found in the same locations as perch and are well known for snacking on perch baits. Feeling a 10-pound pike on the line when you’re expecting a one-pound perch is a memorable thrill.
More adventurous Lake Simcoe anglers looking for bigger fish can travel to deeper water (usually via snow machine or ATV) to fish for beautiful lake trout and hefty whitefish. Early in the ice season, trout and whitefish can be found around humps and shoals as shallow as six metres (20 feet), but they move deeper as the weeks go by, out to water as deep as 30 metres (100 feet). Action remains good until the trout season ends in mid-March.
Minnows are also popular for trout and whitefish, but often lures can be more effective. Some of the most popular lake trout lures include swimbaits, tube jigs, jigging spoons and lipless crankbaits. Whitefish will hit most of the same lures, though they favour them a little smaller. Hot spots include the deeper water at the mouth of Cooks Bay, around Simcoe’s westernmost islands, and Kempenfelt Bay, which is one of the few trout areas that can be reached by foot.
Spring fishing on Lake Simcoe
Shortly after the ice leaves Lake Simcoe, usually by mid-April, anglers can target one of the lake’s most prized and elusive fish: black crappie. This mid-sized panfish is plentiful in Lake Simcoe, but they are typically difficult for even expert anglers to locate. However, in early spring crappies move close to shore, primarily in the lake’s southern sections, around marinas, piers and in tributaries, including the Holland, Black and Maskinoge Rivers. Often measuring 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 centimetres), these “slab” crappies are very good eating and can be caught using light spinning tackle and many of the same lures and baits used for winter perch.
Perch fishing is also quite good in spring. It’s slightly less predictable than during ice season, but perch can be found close to the same general areas they inhabit in winter. It can take some searching, but when you do locate a school, the action is fast and furious. Both perch and crappie can also be caught from shore this time of year. Popular spots include docks and marinas, plus Atherly Narrows, near Orillia at the lake’s northern inflow.
Mid-May is when the open-water season begins for both lake trout and northern pike. Cook’s Bay is the most popular spot for spring pike, but they can be found in most of the lake’s shallow areas, typically where aquatic weeds are starting to emerge. Trolling spoons, large spinners or crankbaits are typically the best way to find and land pike in Cook’s Bay. There are a few very large fish in the 20-pound range, but mid-sized pike in the five- to 12-pound range are quite plentiful and offer excellent sport.
Late-spring fishing lake trout and whitefish is also quite good, though fewer anglers target them this time of year. They can be found in deep water throughout Lake Simcoe’s western half, particularly around submerged points and humps. The most popular tactic is deep-water trolling with spoons and minnowbaits, though vertical jigging can also be effective.
Summer fishing on Lake Simcoe
In late June, the season opens for smallmouth and largemouth bass. It’s an exciting time for the many anglers who love these aggressive, hard-fighting fish. In the last two decades, Lake Simcoe has slowly become one of Canada’s premiere destinations for giant smallmouth bass.
Starting in the late 1990s, the lake has been colonized by the round goby, a small invasive baitfish. While invasive species are always a concern, Simcoe’s smallmouth have grown fat on the bottom-dwelling gobies. Five-pound bass are rare in Ontario, but they’re now routine on Lake Simcoe, thanks to both the gobies and a strong catch-and-release ethic among anglers.
Smallmouths up to eight pounds are now caught regularly, and many believe the lake will soon produce a new Canadian record. Lake Simcoe’s large smallmouth tend to be found in relatively deep water, typically 15- to 30-foot (4.5- to 9-metre) depths around islands, rocky shorelines, drop-offs and points all around the lake. Artificial lures are by far the most popular and effective bait, especially crankbaits and goby-imitating soft plastics.
As anglers turn their attention toward Lake Simcoe’s enormous smallmouth bass, it’s easy to overlook the lake’s excellent fishing for their cousin, the largemouth bass. While they don’t reach record-book size, Simcoe’s largemouth are still plentiful, well fed and often easier to catch than the smallmouth. Warm, shallow Cook’s Bay (including the mouth of the Holland River) is again the focus, but largemouth bass inhabit most of the lake’s shallow weedy areas. Most classic bass lures work well, but you can never go wrong with soft-plastic worms, spinnerbaits and weedless topwater frogs.
Fishing for lake trout and whitefish remains good all summer, in part because fewer anglers target them in the summer. Anglers who like venturing further from shore to fish in deeper water can catch trout using the same tactics and locations as in spring. Perch are now more dispersed throughout the lake, but you will sometimes find a school of them while fishing for smallmouth. When you do, the perch almost always bite enthusiastically.
Fall fishing on Lake Simcoe
After Labour Day, the first Monday in September, the number of anglers on Lake Simcoe drops sharply, even though the lake now offers some of its best fishing. Autumn is prime time for the lake’s largest bass and pike. These fish are feeding heavily in anticipation of winter and most were plump to begin with after a summer of gorging on gobies.
Smallmouth bass can be found in similar locations as in summer, and similar tactics continue to pay off. Though on windy or overcast days, it’s also worth checking shallow, rocky shoals and flats. If the next provincial or national record smallmouth bass is indeed caught on Lake Simcoe, expert anglers think it will be on a cold and cloudy day in late October or November.
In the fall, largemouth bass tend to move to deeper water that’s close to their summer locations, and they remain quite aggressive well into October. Again, a wide variety of lures are effective, but anglers tend to use larger, flashier ones than in summer. Big northern pike can often be found nearby and are particularly drawn to weeds that remain green and healthy since these areas will hold more prey. Many approaches will work, but it’s hard to beat trolling with large spoons and crankbaits.
Yellow perch fishing is also very good in fall, as perch start to congregate in larger schools, and move toward the shallower areas where they’ll spend the winter. As in spring, use light spinning tackle with jigs and soft plastics, and small, flashy lures such as spoons or spinners. Not as many anglers are on the water in the fall, however sometimes word gets out about schools of perch swimming close to one of the popular boat launches. When that happens, it’s common to see 10 or even 20 boats clustered together, with anglers eager for a last chance at Lake Simcoe’s superb perch fishing—until it all starts again in January.
No matter what time of year it is, Lake Simcoe’s fish are always biting. Whether you’re looking for some family fishing fun close to shore, or you’re a hardcore angler chasing big trout, pike and bass, this amazing Ontario lake really does have it all. To learn more about fishing on Lake Simcoe or book your own adventure, check out these ice-fishing rentals, fishing guides and lakeside accommodations.
Ice fishing rentals
Bear Point Fish Hut Rentals, Innisfil
Huts and transportation onto the ice in Barrie, Orillia, Beaverton and the surrounding area.
Cook’s Bay Marina, Innisfil
Hut rentals and transportation to the ice, with breakfast and lunch available for purchase.
Fish Simcoe Hardwater Outfitters, Churchill
Rental huts of various sizes, including a 12-person overnight hut, all situated in a prime perch/pike fishing location.
Floyd Hales Ice Huts, Beaverton
40 modern fish huts, suitable for four to six anglers with transportation to the huts via classic Bombardier snow buses.
Goy Fishing, Gilford
Distinctive, blue-coloured day huts and one overnight hut in a prime Cook’s Bay fishing location; bait is included.
Lucky’s Sons Ice Huts, Lefroy
Hut rentals in both shallow-water (perch/pike) and deep-water (trout/whitefish) locations; bait is included.
Tim Hales Fish Huts, Beaverton
Fishing for perch, trout and whitefish; all huts have padded benches and back rests, plus interior lights and a 12-volt power system with USB ports.
Lake Simcoe fishing guides
Year-round guided fishing services, including ice huts located for trout and whitefish, and open-water charter fishing on Lake Simcoe.
Well-known local guide Taro Murata, which offers charter fishing for up to four anglers, for perch, bass, pike and walleye.
Four-season guided fishing on Lake Simcoe. All tackle provided, included rods, reels and bait for open-water fishing, and portable huts and sonars for ice fishing.
Year-round guided fishing, with rental huts for perch, trout and whitefish in winter, and bass/trout charters in summer.
Four-season fishing with professional guide and tournament angler Steve Rowbotham, with charters for bass, pike, trout and whitefish.
Accommodations near Lake Simcoe
The Briars Resort & Spa, Jacksons Point
Victorian-style lakeside resort, offering guest rooms, suites and a housekeeping cottage, with access to indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.
Inn on the Lake, Keswick
A 16-room lakefront motel, with a variety of rooms and suites, close to several public beaches and boat launches.
Lakeside Inn Orillia, Orillia
Lakefront location on Lake Simcoe, near Atherly Narrows, with a private dock for guests; located minutes from Orillia’s waterfront downtown.
Peninsula Resort, Pefferlaw
Lakefront suites and waterfront cottages, with a sandy beach, on-site boat launch and a 250-metre boardwalk for fishing.
Just steps away from Lake Simcoe at Athlerly Narrows, offers an on-site restaurant, complimentary breakfast and access to a range of outdoor activities.
Last updated: November 30, 2022