A rustic lakeside fishing lodge with cabins near Kenora.

Tips for an Ontario fishing lodge vacation

A rustic lakeside fishing lodge with cabins near Kenora.

Whether you pick a full American Plan package, with all your meals prepared for you, or if you want to cook in your own cottage, there’s something about being by a lake that truly does ‘iron the wrinkles out of your soul’. 

And there’s no better place for that than Ontario. With 250,000 lakes, four billion fish and over 2,000 lodges to choose from, it's not difficult to understand why Ontario is the number one fishing destination in Canada.  

If it’s your first time at a lodge, we’ve put together a list of helpful hints that’ll make you look like a pro. So when you and your group arrive, unpack and head directly to the dock excited to get out on the water, these tips will help to keep you safe and happy out on the lake.

Double check everything

Before starting the engine of your boat, check the basics. 

  • Have enough life jackets for everyone in the boat. 
  • Have the mandatory safety gear you are required to carry in your boat. Review the complete list of boating safety rules, including mandatory gear. 
  • Check to make sure everyone has packed their hat, sunscreen and make sure your cooler is full of water. When the sun is high, it can dehydrate you quickly. 
  • Let the lodge know where you are heading and your approximate return time. 
  • If you are planning for a full day out on the lake, lunch and snacks are a must. 
  • A map of the lake is a requirement, especially if you have never fished the lake before. 
  • Check your gas tank and ensure you keep an eye on the gas all day. When it's time to head back after a full day of fishing, rowing is probably not an acceptable means of transporting your group.
  • Depending on the size of your group, make sure to bring an extra rod or two. There is nothing worse than watching everyone else fish.
  • When packing up your tackle box, it's always a good idea to chat with the lodge owner and ask lure questions and bait questions. The better prepared you are, the more success you will have on the water. 

Have a fishing licence

Make sure that everyone on the boat who is fishing has their Outdoors Card and Fishing Licence for non-residents or residents.

The only exceptions for non-residents are children under the age of 18. They don’t need a license when they are fishing with an adult. However, the fish caught by the child become part of the limit of the license holder.

For residents of Ontario, if you are over 18 or under 65 you need a fishing license. Please make sure and carry identification to prove your age. 

Hire a guide 

Consider hiring a guide for the first day.

Don’t let your pride or wanting to save the money stop you from hiring a guide for your first day out on the lake. It’s simple: a good guide can get you yelling “Fish On” much faster, as they can narrow down the good spots based on water temperature, season, etc. They help you choose the best lures for your species of choice, and they know the good, the bad and the ugly about the lake, including locations of nasty hidden deadheads. 

So make the most of your time and hire a guide, you won’t be sorry. And many times, your guide will cook you up a shore lunch that is something to be remembered. Don’t forget to tip your guide... they will appreciate it. 

Watch for others on the water

Be mindful of other anglers on the lake. Slow down and don’t rock their boat. Not only is it dangerous, but you won’t be making friends to hang out with at the campfire by swamping others in their boats.

First come, first serve

Steer clear of other boats who’ve already claimed an area in a lake. If they are having some great luck, wish them well and head to your own spot. Always remember “first come, first serve”.

Follow the rules

Follow all wildlife rules and regulations.

In Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry develop Ontario Fishing Regulations each year. They are available online and many lodges will have copies in their cottages. Be mindful of open seasons, bag limits, and size limits. These regulations are all meant to keep the resource healthy for generations to come.  

Catch and release 

The CPR of fishing is: Catch, Photograph and Release. Catch and release practices have greatly improved the quality of fisheries in Ontario and the likelihood of catching a trophy is better now than any time in the last 50 years.

Across this great province, CPR is widely utilized as the fishing resource is vital to so many businesses in the province. If you have caught your catch of a lifetime, remember a few things when handling that beauty: 

  • When you weigh it, don’t weigh it by its mouth. Attach the hook to the net and weigh the fish in the net. Just subtract the weight of the net. While still in the net, remove the lure. 
  • Make sure and wet your hands before handling the fish. You don’t want to cause any damage, and your wet hands will ensure that you won’t remove the fish's protective "slime". 
  • Cradle the fish with both hands, ensuring that the fish will not fall. Be gentle but firm to keep the fish safe by cradling its stomach. Move quickly, as you don’t want to distress the fish too much. 
  • Smile… quickly! 
  • Release the fish slowly into the water, allowing it to get over the shock of being out of water. It may take them a few seconds, but then that beauty will splash and be gone.

Leave no trace

Keep the lake and shore lunch areas clean. Remember, you are in the forest and it's always best to limit your interactions with the forest. Not leaving a footprint is the best way to ensure that the next time you visit, your trip will be just as successful. 

Return before dark

Head back well before dark. You don’t want the lodge to send out the staff to look for you while you wander around lost on a dark lake. Make sure to head safely back when there is a lot of daylight so you can swap your fishing stories with the other guests at the lodge. 

Have fun

Enjoy every single minute. Stay out on the lake and fish, dive into the water when you are too hot, enjoy a campfire and maybe cook a s'more. Break out that guitar and sing some old standbys.

Fishing at an Ontario lodge or resort is truly an experience to remember. 

Last updated: April 18, 2024

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