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Fishing in Canada

By Edited Sep 8, 2014 1 0

The jokes are true, when people find out your Canadian they say 'I have a friend up there, do you know Tom, Dick or Harry, maybe a John or Jane'. Canada is the second largest country in the world. We are a vast country with ten provinces and three territories. It's bigger than the entire European Union (thirty-three times larger than Italy, fifteen times larger for France), more than thirty times bigger than Australia, five times as big as Mexico and three times larger than India. So ... no, I don't know your Tom, Dick, Harry, John or Jane, eh. 

Crazy Canuks Ice Fishing

Not to brag or anything, but we also have more lake area than every other country in the world. The Great White North has 563 freshwater lakes that are larger than 100 square miles and the Great Lakes alone hold more than 18% of the worlds fresh water supply[1]. We have another 2% or so of the worlds freshwater supply in the smaller lakes and creeks. 

Of the 35.1 million[2] people or so in Canada, over three million of them are license carrying recreational anglers[3], which comes as no surprise when you learn that Canada has the longest coastline - by far more than any other country. Of the 356,000 km of coastline in the world, Canada has 202,080 km of it. Indonesia is the next largest, with 54,716 km of shoreline. Being bordered by three oceans - Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific - comes with its perks.

With over 200 species of fish in Canada available to be caught during both winter and summer fishing, it all adds up to an anglers wet dream, a fisherman's paradise. If fishing is your thing, then you need to be in Canada. 

Location Is Important

Some of the best fishing locations are found in Canada. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia may have some of the more well-known 'Edens' for fishing and tend to catch the larger portion of fish caught seasonally, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Maritime provinces all have lakes and water ways that are hidden gems in the angling world with a reliable catch rate of big fish.

Many of the top-notch, pristine and highly sought after locations are found in the Northern sections of the country. These offer private cabins or bunk style camping once you fly in and land on water of course. The views are idyllic and the fishing (and the fish caught) tend to be priceless experiences. 

Whether you fly in, drive in or walk in you can fish nearly anywhere in any fashion - so long as its legal (no dynamite folks). Most Canadians are introduced to the sport or activity of fishing by standing on the banks of streams, rivers and lakes. Those with cottages love fishing in any type of watercraft - I have even seen a guy fishing off a skidoo - crazy Canuks. Even when ice covers the land you can still fish, hole and pole and you are good to go.

Boy and his Walleye
The beauty with fishing in Canada is that you do not always have to fly in or drive north for double digit hours to find good fishing spots. Short drives outside the major cities and boroughs will find plenty of ideal fishing spots whether lake or a creek. Rice Lake is just a short drive of a hour or so from Toronto and offers some great fishing as well boat rentals and camping locations. 

Species to Catch


To some of the older anglers of Canada, walleye is known as pickerel. Regardless of its name Ontario is known as Walleye country - no it's bigger than geographical borders - Ontario is walleye heaven. Not only is this tasty fish found in nearly all the various waterways and lakes of Ontario, it can also be fished during summer and winter. It's no wonder it is such a popular fish. 

Walleye or Pickerel

Walleye or Pickerel enthusiasts are dedicated, because Walleye are low light feeders, the best times to catch them are during the early mornings of dawn and when the sun is setting. This means being on the lake ready to go before the sun comes up. During the day and particularly a sunny mid afternoon, they are found in deeper and cooler waters. 

Walleye are wily prey if you do not know their behaviour. They are not aggressive usually during the day hours but in rainy, cooler weather they tend to be more active - Spring and Fall are the best seasons for fishing them. The type of bait, lure and style of fishing are all key factors to your pickerel fishing success. Walleye is my favourite fish to eat and to traditionalists they are the only fish for shore lunches. 


Yellow or Jumbo perch is a feisty fish for its size, fun (and easy) to catch in the summer and they are always biting rain or sun, hot or cold. They are known to be a little  bass like in how they bite the bait or they can be sneaky and tug the worm off without getting hooked. These are the fish I spend the dog days of summer fishing for while I drift around in a boat, lounging and soaking up the sun.

Yellow Perch Ice Fishing
But these fish really come into their own as a game fish come winter. 

It's not hard to see why Yellow Perch have a devoted following of anglers when you take into account that they are ridiculously abundant in numbers, easy to catch, give some good fight for a fish their size, are a good choices for new anglers- young or old and they do not need any special equipment or fancy gadgets whether you are fishing summer or winter.

And to add a cherry on top of that list. Yellow perch are some of the finest eating fish to come out of Canadian waters. 


The proud, the mighty and the feisty bass - the fight, the leaping and the audacious act of spitting my lure out at me - sealed this fish as my all-time favourite fish to catch. Large mouth or small mouth this fish is feisty. 

My personal experience is they are active feeders day and night - kind of like pigs that way - but do quiet down on hot days. If you have ever been out on a lake when the sun is going down and you hear splashes around you or the water's surface breaking - chances are that's the bass, small and large mouth. 

Bass are notorious for swallowing lures, stealing the bait then spitting the lure out all before you get a chance to hook them. They can hit hard and always fight you all the way to the boat. I tend to find them in areas with lots of protection like fallen trees and reeds, they are hunters and aggressive feeders when they do eat, but they are stealthy too. 

Jumping Bass

The only thing these two fish share is the fact they are fish. Small mouth bass prefer cooler waters, tend to fight stronger, move in and out of deeper waters and can be found in Canada's waterways from the Maritimes to the Prairies. Large mouth bass on the other hand like warmer water, have a little less flash to them when fighting, prefer shallower waters all year long and have a smaller range than the small mouth bass.

Both species are abundant, relatively easy to catch, best pound for pound line action of any freshwater fish. 


A clear cold water loving fish that is a popular choice with anglers.

Northern Pike
Pike are notorious for playing with their 'food', and anyone aiming to hook a pike will wait to set the hook till the fish starts running.

Found often in the weed beds they like to hide due to being an ambush type hunter. They are patient fish too, waiting for the right prey and the right moment before bursting out of hiding with shocking speed. More active in cooler temperatures and found deeper in the water when it is hot outside.  

Capable of growing quite big, 50 pounds is not unheard of, particularly in the more remote fishing spots in Canada. For a large size fish they are quite abundant, unlike their larger cousin the Muskellunge. 


For some anglers muskellunge or muskie as they are known, are the holy grail of wall mounted singing fish. Everyone wants to battle and catch one of these top of the water food chain predator.  

Muskie being released after capture

Do a Google search, 97% of the pictures have a fisherman beaming proudly in it while holding aloft the conquered muskie.  These fish may be one of the most sought after fish in the fishing industry, but they are only kept if being mounted, they are not often eaten.  

It's best to fish for muskie after the season opens in June and again in September when water temperatures begin to cool. 

A notoriously elusive fish, though once on the line you will have quite the fight on your hands. The largest muskie in Ontario weighs in at 65 pounds. 


A favourite of many anglers. British Columbia and Quebec are the popular choices for fishing locations for these fish.

Big Brook Trout
There are a number of sub species of trout such as Rainbow, Brown, Steelhead and Lake trout. They can be found in lakes, rivers and in smaller water ways. Trout can by caught using fly fishing or more conventional methods. 

Trout can be tricky to catch particularly if you do not understand water currents. Trout can be often found during dawn and dusk in eddy pools created by current and some sort of obstruction like a rock.

Brown and Rainbow trout are excellent eating.  Lake trout are often seen as the champion of trout fishing. They need deep lakes that offer cold waters at the beginning of the season they are nearer the top and as it gets warmer they go deeper again.

Nuances of Fishing

Before you go anywhere to fish in any part of Canada you need a license that allows you to fish. Don't worry there is no test involved and we don't need to know your mental health status. 

There are a variety of licenses for various fishing needs. Every province and territory charges a different fee, has different requirements and different rules as to how many fish you can catch and at what size, how many you can possess and for transporting them. 

Fishing in Canada

In many places in Canada live bait is not allowed. You also need a license to catch your own live bait. If your fishing in a National Park or in a Parks Canada area you can't use lead sinkers or jigs. A little research and the little nuances that can ruin a trip, won't. 

If you are bringing your own boat into the country, usually the Americans, you will need to declare it, provide proof of ownership and bill of sale, don't forget to declare the trailer too. 

Canadians love fishing and we have license free days through out the year for all the provinces and territories just so you can bring your wife, friend, child or parent with you for a one time outing without having to buy all the licenses. It's a great way to spend time with family or friends, encourage kids into a new outdoor activity and just get out of the house for a change.

The Traditional Canadian Shore Lunch

Shore lunches are likely popular in places other than Canada, technically its just fishing and eating your catch at lunch time, but it's been described by some as a 'integral part of the Canadian fishing experience'. 

Shore Lunch
You really do not need a lot of hardware to have a shore lunch, you do need to plan ahead a little though for a successful shore lunch - mainly the other ingredients and food you will bring.

Walleye are not only the best fish to use for these outdoor lunches, bass and perch would be fine too, but there is no denying the richer flavour of walleye. And to some of those stubborn old times who call walleye pickerel, its also traditional or more authentic to use walleye. It's really all a matter of personal taste and what you caught that day. 

If your at one of those cabins with guides often the guide prepares everything before hand, and honestly you really do not need a whole lot of things to make a shore lunch fabulous. Some pans, dishes and utensils, ingredients such as breading, potatoes or cans of beans. 

 I think a fire pit with a metal grate over is best, but a move towards propane or stoves seems to be picking up speed, but I really find that the fire methods adds a smokeyness to the fish. There are a plethora of recipes out there for the fish, some suggest beer and some suggest milk or egg. Some think breading the fish is ruining it and health nuts come close to passing out at the amount of lard used to deep fry the fish - they gotta float you know.



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  1. "Interesting Facts on Canada." First Contact. 4/09/2014 <Web >
  2. "Stats on Canada." Stats Canada. 4/09/2014 <Web >
  3. "Survey of Recreational Fishing." Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 4/09/2014 <Web >
  4. "Land and Fresh Water Statistics By Province and Territory." Stats Canada. 4/09/2014 <Web >
  5. "For the Love of Perch." Time on the Water. 5/09/2014 <Web >
  6. "Rules for Fishing in Canada." Ontario Government of Canada . 5/09/2014 <Web >

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