Angler, Glen Hales holds up a record-sized 29 pound coho salmon.

Ganaraska River | Glen Hales

Ontario’s top ten record fish

Angler, Glen Hales holds up a record-sized 29 pound coho salmon.

Ganaraska River | Glen Hales

The stories recounted here prove that. Some of the anglers who caught record fish were experienced, but just as many were average anglers that for that one moment in time, found themselves blessed with a mix of good luck and perfect timing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s an account of the top ten record fish caught in Ontario and where you can try your luck at reeling in a trophy.

Brook trout

Weight: 14 pounds 8 ounces
Measurements: L: 31.5 inches x G: 23.0 inches
Date: July 21, 1916
Angler: Dr. J.W. Cook, Fort William
Water body: Nipigon River

Ontario's record brook trout has the extra distinction of being the all-tackle, world record. The story of Ontario's record ‘brookie’ is one of the classic tales in the fishing world, even though the fish was caught over 100 years ago. On July 21, 1915, Dr. J.W. Cook, of Fort William Ontario, was part of a large fishing party that had put in at the headwaters of the Nipigon River on Lake Nipigon. During this trip, the group set up camp at a large pool called Rabbit Rapids, located one mile below Virgin Falls. "The river that day was covered in brown flies,” Cook recalled during an interview in May 1950."I was fishing with a minnow. When it had settled below the surface, the big fish took bite and was away." Cook was using a five-ounce fly rod and played the huge trout for some time before finally leading it into shore. The fish was so unusually large that Dr. Cook had the mounted specimen identified as a speckled trout by scientists at the Department of Biology at the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology in Toronto.

Giant brook trout still reside in many parts of Ontario including Algonquin Park, Lake Superior Park and the Albany River. There are also many stocked lakes throughout Ontario that have produced brookies that have weighed over 10 pounds. Yet most think if a new record is ever caught, it will be in the Nipigon system. Brook trout will hit spoons like the Nipigon spoon and Little Cleo. They also like spinners, with the #Mepps Aglia and Panther Martin Black Fury being well-known favourites. Fly fishermen use classic flies like the Muddler minnow, Strip Leech and Butt Monkey to fool these fish.

Brook trout lodges

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Brown trout

Weight: 34-pound, 6.1 ounce
Measurements:  L: 38 inches x G: 28 inches
Date:  September 9, 1994 
Angler: Richard Matusiak
Place: Lake Ontario
Bait used: Little Cleo 

In the fall of 1994, Mississauga resident Richard Matusiak was shore casting on Lake Ontario with his then 12-year-old son Albert. They were fishing at the Lakeside Promenade Park, beside the Lakeview Generating Station. Matusiak was casting, and then sporadically retrieving a one-third of an ounce chartreuse Little Cleo spoon with orange dots. Then something enormous hit the spoon and immediately tore off 100 yards of line as it ran for the safety of deep water. "I was sure I'd hooked a chinook until some 30 minutes later when another angler managed to stuff it in a small net and unceremoniously dump it onshore," Matusiak told the Toronto Star. "That's when I discovered it was a brown and my knees when to rubber." The record brown trout measured 38 inches and had a girth of 28 inches.

Today, big brown trout can still be caught in Lake Ontario and in the lower Niagara River. Large brown trout also appear in the most unlikely places, including on the north shore of Lake Superior and occasionally in Lake Nipigon. Breaking the brown record will not be easy, but it is possible. Brown trout will hit spoons such as the Little Cleo, Krocodile and EGB spoon when cast or trolled. Crankbaits like the Rapala Countdown #9 in silver and black are also great for catching brown trout. Brown trout take a fly well, with wet flies such as the Sex Dungeon and Marabou Muddler fooling some whoppers. When browns are feeding on top, a dry fly such as the #4 Stimulator or a hopper pattern can elicit exciting strikes.         

Brown trout guides and charters

Coho salmon

Weight: 29 pounds, 2 ounces
Measurements: L: 40 inches x G: 24.25 inches
Date: September 24, 2013
Angler: Glen Hales
Place: Ganaraska River, Port Hope
Bait used: egg pattern fly

In September of 2013, Glen Hales went to the Ganaraska River in Port Hope, hoping to catch some migratory species of salmon and trout. “I was particularly looking and scouting for coho,” said Hales. “But to my surprise I saw nothing but Chinooks and only one small coho at the tail end of a pool.” Hales then moved to another spot and saw a half dozen large salmon holding together in a school. He got out his fly rod and cast a red/orange egg pattern fly to them. On his second cast a fish lunged and took the fly. It ran downstream and then jumped out of the water. “I saw everything,” said Hales.” The colours, the type and the size. It was not a Chinook; it was a giant coho salmon.” The coho weighed 29 pounds and two ounces. Hales had beaten the old record by almost two pounds.

Anglers best bet for breaking the Ontario record remains in Lake Ontario, where conditions are perfect for growing massive coho salmon. Many charter boats target these hard-fighting fish. In the late summer and fall, Lake Ontario’s tributary streams like the Ganaraska River and Duffin’s Creek remain a good bet for catching giant coho salmon. Coho can also be caught on the tributary streams of Lake Superior, located between Wawa and the town of Nipigon, although the average size is smaller.

Coho salmon in the Great Lakes are often caught trolling a variety of spoons and flashers. A Hotspot flasher and a hoochie fly are a popular combination on the big lakes. Also spoons such as the Luhr Jensen Coyote. In rivers, a silver #4 Vibrax spinner is a go-to as is the Luhr Jensen Kwikfish. Fly fishermen use a lot of egg patterns including the crystal fly and a coloured Creek Candy bead.

Salmon charters

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Weight: 22.25 lbs.
Measurements: L: 36.5 inches x G: 21 inches
Date: May 26, 1943
Angler: Patrick Noon
City: Fort Erie
Water body: Niagara River, Fort Erie
Bait used: worm

On May 26, 1943, Patrick Noon rowed his boat 30 yards offshore on the Upper Niagara River near Fort Erie and set his anchor down on a big sand bar. Noon then cast out onto the bar, known as the Pickerel Hump, with a hook, sinker and worm. That was when he hooked into a walleye that would become the Ontario record. The fish was 22 pounds, 4 ounces with a length of 36.5 inches and a 21-inch girth.

While these waters remain a hot spot for record class walleye in Ontario, it is far from the only spot. Some huge walleye are taken every season from the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie has some trophy sized fish as well. Massive walleye can also be found further north on the French River in Lake Superior, near Thunder Bay and on the Rainy River. A 22-pound walleye is a giant, but it is a record that will be beaten in Ontario. The vast majority of Ontario walleye are caught with a lead head jig baited with a minnow, worm or leech. Some anglers use a plain hook, sinker and worm or minnow supported beneath a bobber to catch walleye, and that works well. Trolling a Little Joe spinner and bait is another time-tested technique as is trolling a #9 Rapala Shad Rap.

Walleye lodges and charters

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Chinook salmon

Weight: 46 pounds, 3 ounces
Measurements: L: 47 inches x G: 30 inches
Date: August 7, 2000
Angler: Harry Oosterveld
Place: Lake Ontario
Bait used: Rac Spoon

On the morning of August 8, 2000, Harry Oosterveld, of Rockwood, reeled in Ontario's largest Chinook salmon. The fight took approximately 40 minutes and finally a giant salmon was netted and dispatched. Oosterveld weighed it on the boat scale and it read 46 pounds. The men quickly powered to shore and Oosterveld weighed the salmon again at Bronte Harbour. The official scale read 46.38 pounds, a new Ontario record. The salmon also went on to win first prize in the 2000 Toronto Star Salmon Hunt. Lake Ontario remains the best bet for a new Ontario Chinook record, but great salmon fishing can be enjoyed at Sault Ste. Marie and on Lake Superior at Wawa and in the Nipigon area.
Chinook salmon in the Great Lakes are often caught trolling with spoons, flashers, hoochies or plugs. The Hotspot Flasher with a Silver Horde Ace High Fly “hoochie’ is a popular choice. Trolling with the Luhr Jensen Coyote spoon or Silver Horde Coho Killer flutter spoons also accounts for many Chinook caught. Casting with a bullethead jig and 4-inch Berkley Power Minnow accounts for many fish each season as well. Fly anglers in rivers use Creek Candy green or red coloured beads as a well as Chartreuse green Caddis Mop flies to turn Chinook salmon.       

Chinook salmon charters

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Weight: 65.0 lbs.
Measurements: L: 58 inches x G: 30.5 inches
Date: October 16, 1988
Angler: Kenneth John O'Brien
Water body: Blackstone Harbour, Lake Huron
Bait used: 4" Rapala Countdown

On October 16, 1998, Toronto resident Ken O'Brien achieved a milestone that thousands of muskie anglers across North America can only dream about. He caught a giant muskie. O'Brien and two friends were on a week-long fishing holiday in the Moon River basin on Lake Huron. O'Brien began to retrieve and felt his Rapala snag bottom. Then the "snag" started to move.
The net in the boat was too small for the fish, so it was gaffed through the mouth and deposited into the 14-foot boat. The muskie was weighed on a 100-pound scale provided by Deer Horn Lodge. The scale read 65 pounds. The O'Brien muskie measured 58 inches long and had an amazing 30.5-inch girth. The Royal Ontario Museum aged the O'Brien muskie at 29 years old. Ontario still has some of the best trophy muskie fishing in the world, with Lac Seul, Eagle Lake, Lake of the Woods, Lake Nipissing and the Ottawa River being a few of the better ones. A new record muskie seems inevitable in Ontario.
Casting bucktail spinners is the most popular way to catch muskie across Ontario. The Mepps Musky Killer still does the job, but there are many others including the Buchertail and Muskie Attacker. Larger lures such as the Suick and Reef Hawg are cast and pulled over the tops of weed-beds and reefs. Trollers do well with a 10-inch Jake or Trofik crankbait.               

Muskie lodges

Find more muskie fishing in Northeastern Ontario, Algoma Country and Superior Country.

Largemouth bass

Weight: 10 pounds, 4 ounces
Measurements: L: 22 inches x G: 19.5 inches
Date: August 26,1976
Angler: Mario Chrysanthou
Water body: Preston Lake
Bait used: red and white jitterbug

On August 26, 1976, 15-year-old Mario Chrysanthou, his parents and his girlfriend decided to wet a line at Preston Lake, a small fishing hole they often would stop at while driving from Willowdale to Lake Simcoe. "On the 4th or 5th cast the jitterbug just disappeared. I thought all right! I got something!"  When the giant largemouth hit the shallows, it started to thrash and roll. Not knowing what to do, Mario simply put the fishing rod over his shoulder and walked away from the lake, dragging the fish up on shore. The fish was weighed at 10 pounds and 4 ounces. Chrysanthou says the fish was cooked by his mother, but he still has the jitterbug he used to catch the bass with. He says it was the only bass he ever caught on the lure.

Largemouth bass fishing in Ontario has only improved in recent years, the chance at a new record is real. Just a few of the great largemouth fisheries include Rice Lake, Bay of Quinte, the St. Lawrence River and Big Rideau. Lake of the Woods, in the north west, also has some very impressive largemouth bass.
The largemouth bass is a creature that tends to live in heavy cover, so most lures are weedless. Safety-pin spinners like the Strike King runs through weeds well and catches many largemouth. Rubber worms that are “Texas Rigged” are weedless as are the many weedless topwater “frogs”, including the LIVETARGET frog. Crayfish coloured tube jigs also work well on largemouth in more open water.

Largemouth bass lodges

Search for more largemouth bass fishing in Northeastern Ontario, Algoma Country and Sunset Country.

Rainbow trout

Weight: 40 pounds, 6 ounces
Measurements: L: 39.1 inches x G: 29.4 inches
Date: September 21, 2005
Angler: Joanne Vendramin
City: Sudbury
Water body: Lake Huron, Little Current

On September 21, 2005, a 40.68-pound rainbow trout was caught off the shores of Little Current, and became the official Ontario record. The monster rainbow trout surpassed the previous Ontario record, caught in 1975 near Midland, by over 11 pounds. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters verified the fish, which was caught by Joanne Vendramin.

“We’re just happy to go out fishing. We never thought of catching a record fish ourselves,” said Vendramin who said she enjoyed hundreds of family fishing trips with her husband and two boys. While a 40-pound rainbow will be hard to beat, the waters around Little Current and Manitoulin Island continue to have big fish. Record potential rainbow trout can also be caught in Lake Ontario, in the Niagara River and in Lake Erie. Rainbow trout of substantial size are also caught at the St. Mary’s Rapids at Sault Ste. Marie.

Rainbow trout are aggressive and will chase down spoons such as the Krocodile and little Cleo when cast or trolled. Trollers also catch rainbow trout on crankbaits including the Rebel Fastrack and the Rapala J-11. Casting angler will find black bucktail jigs and white tube jigs to be very effective. Fly anglers can’t go wrong in rivers if they use a black nymph pattern or a Blacknose Dace streamer. Ontario steelhead anglers often fly fish or float fish with Creek Candy beads and pink, purple or orange Cactus flies.

Rainbow trout charters

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Lake trout

Weight: 63 pounds, 1 ounce
Measurements: L: 51.5 inches X G: 32.8 inches
Date: May 25, 1952
Angler: Hubert Hammers
Water body: Lake Superior

While little is known of the story behind Hubert Hammers massive Lake Superior lake trout, it remains a long standing Ontario record. Yet that doesn’t mean it can’t be broken. There are several fisheries in Ontario that continue to have record breaking potential and that includes Lake Superior, where this record was taken. Other good bets for record sized lake trout include the Great Lakes of Ontario and Huron and the huge inland sea that is Lake Nipigon. There are also some large lakes in northwestern Ontario that produce huge lake trout every year. Those include lower Manitou, Clearwater Lake and White Otter Lake.
Trolling is how most lake trout are caught, generally in deeper water. The go to lures for big lakers look like the food the eat. Top trolling spoons for lakers include the Williams Wabler and the Lucky Strike Canoe Spoon. Large crankbait style trolling lures for lake trout include the Flatfish and Rapala Super Shad Rap. Anglers who want to vertical jig can use a one-ounce Buzz Bomb or Swedish Pimple. Casting anglers will be well served by a white tube jig, Bullethead jig and Berkley Power Minnow or silver Eppinger Daredevle.

Lake trout charters

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Northern pike 

Weight: 42 pounds, 1 ounce
Date: July 14, 1946
Angler: Harry Bell
City: Covington, Kentucky
Water body: Delaney Lake near Kenora

Like many anglers who come to Ontario, Harry Bell was from the United States, specifically Covington, Kentucky. Bell was after a big pike, and he was not disappointed. On July 14, Bell hooked into a pike on Delaney Lake, near Kenora that remains the Ontario record over 70 years later. While Bell has managed to hold that title a long time, there are still many huge pike spots in Ontario that could topple it. Places like Lac Seul, Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and Lake Nipigon have record fish potential. Plus, you can never count out the Great Lakes, as Superior, Huron and Ontario all have impressive pike.
The northern pike is a fish that has simple tastes. Flashy and bright lures usually get the strikes. The red and white Eppinger Daredevle spoon is still a fantastic choice as is the weedless Johnson Silver Minnow. Spinners are also deadly, with the Mepps Musky Killer and Blue Fox Classic Vibrax.

Northern pike lodges 

Search for more northern pike fishing in Algoma Country, Superior Country, Sunset Country and Northeastern Ontario.

Last updated: August 22, 2023

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