Best Time and Places to Fish Close to Toronto
It’s always a good idea to know what you’re hoping to catch; walleye, salmon, trout, bass, pike or musky are all options in Ontario. The first step is to get a fishing licence (or take advantage of one of the free family fishing weekends) before you head out. And make sure you know when the fishing season is open in your area. Once you’ve got those steps done, here’s a guide to the best times and places to go fishing in Ontario.
When to Fish in Ontario
There are exceptions to every rule, but each species have their own habits. Depending on what kind of fish you’re after, knowing the behaviour of each fish will help you catch them. The lifecycle of each fish determines where they’ll be, when they’ll be there and when they're most likely to take your bait.
What Fish are in Season in Ontario
The best way to know where you’re allowed to fish at any given time of year is to consult the Fish ON-Line website. Read through the disclaimer, agree, then you’ll see a map. Scroll to the area you want to fish, click on the fish icon and the info will pop up at the bottom of your screen (on a desktop it pops up on the side). Follow the link to the Zone Regulations then read through these carefully. There are exceptions and exemptions for different fish and different locations, but the info is all here. If you find this information too confusing the next best resource is a local angler or your local fishing supply store.
Best Time to Fish for Trout
Generally trout season opens in Ontario on the fourth Saturday in April and goes until September 30 (double check with your local bait shop or other anglers before casting). Remember just because the season is open, doesn’t guarantee that the fishing will be good. Earlier in the open season is best. From late April to late June should be good. Steelhead and trout are in the rivers at the same time, so when they overlap, this is a great time to fish; generally about the second week in May. Trout fishing can be great until the rivers get too warm in July. Weather and water temperatures will affect the best time to fish for trout; trout are most active in cooler water temperatures, so if it’s hot out, go early in the morning to get those cooler water temps.
Best Time to Fish for Salmon
The salmon season generally opens in Ontario on the fourth Saturday in April and goes until September 30. Check for any exceptions to that rule by using the Fish ON-Line website. That said, salmon don’t start travelling up the rivers until late August, or September, so September is generally the best time to catch them. Salmon that are just coming up the river from the lake are a beautiful silver and will put up a good fight. 12-to-24 hours after the first big rain in September is often a great time to catch salmon; once the muddy runoff clears, that’s your window. Colder morning water temps will also help as the fish will be more active.
Best Time to Fish for Walleye/Pickerel
Walleye (also known as pickerel) are one of the fish that you can fish for in the winter as well as the summer. The general rule is that the season is open from January 1 to March 15 and the second Saturday in May to December 31, but again, check Fish ON-Line website for any exceptions to the rule. It’s commonly held that spring and fall are the best times to catch walleye. The best time of day is around sunset, or the final hour of daylight. This is the walleye’s most active feeding period. The first hour of daylight is the second-best time, especially when the days are hot as the river will have cooled down overnight.
Best Time to Fish for Bass
As always, it’s best to know when bass are legally in season. The general rule is the fourth Saturday in June until November 30, but always check to confirm this in the area you’ll be fishing. In certain areas of the province, there are actually year round seasons for bass. The spring before spawning is a good time to catch bass, so once that fourth Saturday in June hits, you should get out there. That’s just before they start spawning. They typically won’t take any bait while spawning, but they’ll start again afterwards; around mid-summer, so late July through August. Bass like low light conditions, so it’s best to be on the river as the sun rises. They’ll also be actively feeding as the sun goes down, which makes sunset another great time to get on the river. Bass can see in very low light so fishing at night can also be successful. Full moons are great opportunities to catch bass.
Where to Fish Close to Toronto
With so many rivers and lakes in Ontario, it’s hard to know where to go. But any good angler will first ask what you’re fishing for. Different fish will have different seasons and different locations. Ontario’s Fish ON-Line website helps you determine where you can fish, when you can fish there and what kind of fish you’re likely to find there. Of course, these guidelines are very broad; yes you can fish for salmon on the Saugeen River in April, but since they spawn in the fall, you’re unlikely to find any. So, while the government website does give you that guideline, a little more knowledge goes a long way.
Best Place to Fish for Trout
While the number of places to fish for trout in Ontario is nearly endless, certain rivers make angler’s top rivers list over and over. For people that live in the GTA, the Credit River and the Ganaraska River are easily accessible. The Ganaraska flows into Lake Ontario at Port Hope with lots of public access points. The Credit River flows into Lake Ontario at Port Credit and is a very popular place for anglers. Check out the Credit River Anglers Association for more information. Heading north from Toronto, the Saugeen River and the Nottawasaga flow into South Hampton and Wasaga Beach respectively. They’re both popular fishing spots; downriver from Denny’s Dam on the Saugeen is a particularly good spot to fish for trout.
Best Place to Fish for Salmon
For anglers that call the GTA home, there are a number of salmon rivers in the area. The Humber River, Credit River, Bronte Creek and Duffins Creek all have significant salmon runs in the fall. The Ganaraska flows into Lake Ontario at Port Hope and gets one of the largest salmon runs in Southern Ontario. That also means it attracts lots of anglers. Best to be on the river early. Further north, the Nottawasaga River and any river or creek that flows into Georgian Bay will have salmon. Again, just be sure to check fishing regulations on where you can and cannot fish. The Saugeen River that flows into Lake Huron in the town of Southampton is a massive river with anglers gathering around the Denny’s Dam Conservation Area, all the way downstream to Southampton.
Best Place to Fish for Walleye/Pickerel
Prince Edward County’s Bay of Quinte is well-known as a walleye hotspot; Belleville’s Zwick Park is a good option for fishing from shore. In the Kawartha Lakes region, Balsam Lake can be accessed from Balsam Lake Provincial Park and Indian Point Provincial Park. Both parks have good walleye potential. The Great Lakes’ Lake Erie is another great spot to cast for walleye; the pier at Sugarloaf Marina is an easy access point.
Best Place to Fish for Bass
Smallmouth and largemouth bass are found throughout Ontario and don’t be surprised if you hook into one while casting off the smallest of docks. If you’re in southwestern Ontario, London’s Thames River is a good bet for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. To get to the Thames, Greenway Park and Harris Park both offer river access. In cottage country, Huntsville’s Big East River is a great place to get away from the crowds and fish for small and largemouth bass. Likewise the Kawartha Lakes region boasts 15 lakes with lots of public access points; the town of Bewdley is a great place to fish from shore on Rice Lake.
Last updated: April 20, 2022