Two women fishing from a boat on Lake Simcoe.

Lake Simcoe | Colin Field

Ontario is Canada’s top fishing destination

Two women fishing from a boat on Lake Simcoe.

Lake Simcoe | Colin Field

Whether you're looking at a cottage rental for the family for a summer vacation, a fly-in outpost camp where you and your buddies are the only cabin on the lake, or a five-star resort where your meals are served and you have daily cleaning service, look no further than Ontario.

Ontario is the number one fishing destination in Canada and the sport continues to grow. Couples, families and groups of friends of all ages are taking up the sport faster than ever before.

Here are some of the factors that make Ontario the ultimate fishing destination in Canada.

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)

As an angler in Ontario, look to this Ministry for all the rules, regulations and licences, but—most importantly—this Ministry is a huge supporter of angling. Every dollar they get from fishing licences goes directly back to support fish and wildlife management.

This includes stocking lakes, rivers and streams with eight million fish a year. This fish stocking improves fishing, allows for longer seasons in some areas and rebuilds fish populations, including some species at risk. Collected funds also help to create and maintain the Fish ON-Line app and the Learn to Fish program. And yes, these dollars support enforcement and safety.

Other investments include: 

  • education and conservation officers
  • protection of fish from invasive species
  • monitoring of fish and wildlife diseases
  • conservation officers
  • work that improves fish habitat
  • surveying of fish populations to ensure the health of these resources

Number of fish species

The diversity of species you can fish for in Ontario is nearly as limitless as the number of water bodies. The Ministry of Natural Resources lists 35 different varieties of fish on their Fish ON-Line app. These range from the relatively easy-to-catch Sunfish (Bluegills) to the elusive "fish of 10,000 casts," the muskellunge or muskie.

Between those two ends of the spectrum are more popular fish like the beautiful rainbow trout and delicious walleye. Some fish like the smallmouth bass put up an exciting fight when hooked and perch travel in schools, so they’re easy to catch and offer a great opportunity for kids to get into the sport.

Bowfin, splake, catfish, carp and whitefish are some of the other species that can be caught in Ontario’s waterways. The majority of anglers go after the most popular fish in Ontario like trout, salmon, walleye/pickerel, bass, northern pike and muskie.

Variety of angling experiences

Whether you’re looking for a family fishing vacation where you rent a cottage, or an afternoon where you fish a river just minutes away from a 400-series highway, there is every level of commitment and passion to fishing in this huge province. And there are hundreds of businesses to support the sport, from charters and angling shops to river guides and five-star lodges. There is something for every budget and every level of angler.

The most accessible places to fish are in Southern Ontario, but once you’re hooked (pun intended) you’re sure to start looking further and further afield to get that ultimate experience.

With the landscape of Ontario being so vast, the variety of fishing experiences available is big enough to suit any need. Whether you’re totally new to the sport with a modest budget, or a seasoned veteran with time and money to spare, there’s something for everyone. From experiences you can drive to, fly-to or train to, Ontario has it all.

Beginner anglers in Ontario

If you’re just getting started as an angler, there are so many opportunities to get into the sport in Ontario. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is home to several rivers you can fish on from the downtown’s Don River to the slightly out-of-town Credit or Ganaraska Rivers.

And if you’re not sure you want to get into the sport, but want to give it a try, four times a year you can enjoy free fishing weekends in Ontario. On these dates, you can fish without a licence as long as you still obey all the Ontario fishing regulations. The Ontario Family Fishing events website is a great resource with a thorough Learn to Fish booklet.

Best drive-in fishing lodges

Ontario has over 2,000 fishing lodges. And while some are remote and hard to get to, most you can simply drive right up to. The majority of these fishing lodges are family-friendly and provide plenty of entertainment for kids.

Waterfalls Lodge just outside of Spanish makes for the perfect family experience. In Southern Ontario there are a huge number of drive-in lodges, such as Alpine Resort, Little Hawk Resort and Marina, Severn Lodge, Crane’s Lochaven Wilderness Lodge and many more.

Find the right lodge for you and it’s more than likely it will become a yearly tradition for you and your loved ones.

Train-in, fly-in and boat-in fishing lodges

If you really want to get away from it all, some of Ontario’s remote lodges are the perfect place to do it. These include fly-in lodges, boat-access-only lodges and—believe it or not—there are fishing lodges you can access by train. Places like Lodge Eighty Eight is far from any roadway and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you can get there by train (or float-plane). Opt for their American Plan, which is basically an all-inclusive resort kind of experience with everything, including food, taken care of while you’re there. Or you can choose to cook your own meals.

Other rail-access lodges include Wabatong Lodge, Mar Mac Lodge and Loch Island Lodge. For floatplane adventures, fly in to places like Buck Lake Lodge, Blue Fox Camp or Henderson’s Outposts. Hearst Air will fly you to one of their remote outpost camps where the fishing is incredible and the chance of running into anyone else is slim to none.

If you have your own boat, or are renting a boat, water-access lodges include Chaudiere Lodge, Red Pine Lodge, Prairie Bee Outpost Camps and more.

Experience ice fishing in Ontario

Believe it or not, there are places in the world where the lakes don’t freeze over all winter long. So they never get to experience ice fishing. Imagine! Ice fishing is a truly Canadian experience, and here in Ontario it’s an experience that anyone can enjoy.

The biggest hot spot around, Lake Simcoe rents ice fishing huts through outfitters like Ice Fishing Outfitters. They’ll set you up with a hut and everything you need to explore this unique experience. Or if you want to get into it yourself, shops like Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Store will have all the gear and knowledge to get you started.

Best fishing charters

Booking a charter for a morning or afternoon of fishing may seem expensive, but once you split the cost between a group of four to six people it becomes money well spent. And it’s almost unheard of not to catch something.

There are so many fishing charters it’s hard to choose, but if you’re in the GTA, try Phantom Sportfishing out of Oakville. Georgian Bay’s U Catch 'Em Charters can almost guarantee to catch you some fish. Further afield, Sault Ste. Marie’s Redwood Sportfishing Charters is always a good time. If you’ve never booked a fishing charter before and are unsure about how to do it, don’t worry, it’s easy; there are just a few key questions you need to answer.

Houseboating for anglers    

One of the ultimate do-it-yourself getaways is the houseboat rental. Imagine puttering from marina to marina, exploring the beautiful province of Ontario, casting a line whenever you feel like it and quite likely catching your dinner for the night. Whether you rent a houseboat with a couple of friends or with your family, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Passing through the numerous lock systems in Ontario also makes for an experience like no other; a trip over Big Chute should be on every Canadian’s bucket list. One of the most popular places to rent houseboats in Ontario is on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Stretching 386 kilometres from Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte to Georgian Bay, there are numerous hotspots to fish along this route and plenty of places to rent houseboats.

Most houseboats have accommodations for around six adults, or eight in total if there are a couple of kids in the mix. There are showers, toilets, kitchens and absolutely everything to really get away from it all. Happy Days Houseboats out of Bobcaygeon has an impressive fleet of boats; other places like Egan Houseboats, R&R Houseboat Rentals and Leisure Island Houseboat Rentals are all reliable, experienced companies.

Last updated: February 28, 2024

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