Imagine living in an area that more than satisfied all of our angling needs and desires. For most, our angling aspirations are not what dictate where we make our home. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I was born and raised in Northern Ontario, and although I have travelled extensively, the North will always be home. Other like-minded souls, who would enjoy the angling lifestyle here, are compelled to live elsewhere due to occupation, family or other factors. Fortunately, there’s always the option to travel here.
Angling is a key ingredient to my notion of living well, and great fishing serendipitously coexists with a multitude of activities supported by wilderness. The rugged bedrock and mixed forests of the Canadian shield join vast tracts of boreal landscape to envelop an interconnected tapestry of lakes and wild rivers.Boating, camping, canoe tripping, and hiking are just some of the activities that can complement an angling adventure in Northern Ontario.
Living well includes surrounding ourselves with the things that we love. From an angling perspective, the things I love can be broken down into species and all the good things that swirl around them. If you share my angling inclination, you are sure to enjoy experiencing the allure of the following fish. And you might just find a favourite of your own.
I think the explosive rise of a smally blowing up on a top water bait is the quintessential angling experience. Aggressive, strong, and acrobatic, these revered game fish have traditionally not been synonymous with Northern waters. Smallmouth bass have slowly been infiltrating Northern Ontario lakes and rivers, to the point that waters that once had no bass now hold thriving populations. The result is an underutilized species easily accessible to boat anglers looking for heart-stopping action.
Chasing Ontario’s most popular game fish in Northern waters generally means fewer anglers and more fish. We have a choice of drive-to destinations or the unique experience of accessing remote waters by floatplane, boat, or train. They may not be the hardest-fighting fish, but there’s a certain thrill to catching and releasing large walleye, and of course the “Golden Wanderer” as table fare is an undisputed delicacy. One of my favourite activities is a family fishing trip built around a shore lunch of freshly caught walleye fillets.
Perhaps it’s the stunning beauty of their speckled hides, their eagerness to strike a dry fly, or their performance at the end of a line, but I have a soft spot for brook trout. These graceful species also demand cold, clean water and tend to live in beautiful surroundings. It follows that accessing great brook trout waters can mean paddling and portaging a canoe, or casting into a river at the end of a long hike. Northern Ontario’s Nipigon River is home to the world record, and still provides fish-of-a-lifetime opportunities. While native trout may remain sequestered by wilderness, there are hundreds of easily accessed stocked lakes that provide excellent fishing.
These strong fish can grow much larger than their speckled cousins, and after setting the hook into a thick laker, we’re in for a dogged fight. While lake trout are found in large to mid-sized waters across Northern Ontario, the greatest of the Great Lakes is one of my favourite places to troll for “Togue.” Lake Superior is an experience in itself; remote and rugged shorelines with big fish plucked from gin clear waters that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Northern Ontario steelhead are rainbow trout that live in the Great Lakes and migrate to the tributaries of lakes Huron and Superior. They visit swollen creeks and rivers to spawn in spring and to feed in fall. Anglers who don’t mind the harsh weather that can accompany the shoulder seasons hit the tributaries to catch large, aggressive fish in tight quarters.
Find Your Favourite
These are not the only fish to chase here, just a few of the species that keep me entertained in my own backyard. Not all of us can be lucky enough to live here, but Northern Ontario remains a generous destination for the travelling angler—a perfect place to find a favourite species of your own.