There are many places where you can fish from a motorized craft with all the electronic accoutrements of modern fishing. Generally, the quality of the fishing in such easily accessible areas deteriorates over the years due to a variety of factors, particularly over-fishing and the weakening of natural fish population due to introduction of hatchery fish, non-native fish stocks and other invasive species. Fortunately there are a few places, like the interior of Algonquin Park, where the native fishery remains more or less undisturbed and is naturally reproducing. This is why dedicated fishermen will leave the metal-flake bass boat at home and fish from a canoe in Algonquin Park.
Can I Really Catch Fish From A Canoe?
The results of canoe-based fishing can be impressive. In 1990, both the largest lake trout and speckled trout caught in Ontario came from “canoe only” lakes in Algonquin Park. For two years in the late 1980’s, the largest walleye caught in Ontario came from Algonquin waters. Algonquin Park lake trout and speckled trout have frequently appeared on prize lists. We know that several of our staff and customers have caught qualifying fish, but prefer to keep the locations to themselves.
Where Are The Big Ones?
The highest quality trout fishing in the park is in interior lakes and streams, inaccessible by road, where both flying in and outboard motors are prohibited. If you want to go to these lakes, you are going to have to use a canoe, carry your gear over portages and adjust to life without outboards, fish finders, downriggers and the like. As we like to tell people who ask, “How’s the fishing up there?” – Algonquin Park offers excellent fishing for the ambitious. For those not willing or able to get deep into the interior, don’t despair. Most road access lakes in Algonquin Park offer fantastic smallmouth bass and lake trout fishing. Ask most experienced Algonquin Park anglers “where should I go to catch brook trout in Algonquin Park?” and you will probably get a vague, rambling response that gets you excited but doesn’t leave you with much specific information. They will tell you how great the fishing is but probably not tell exactly where that great fishing took place.
This is understandable. People like to protect their “secret stashes,” whether it is a fishing destination, powder snow run, photography hotspot or swimming hole. When someone works hard to get somewhere, and gains precious knowledge and experience through research, trial and error, perseverance, getting skunked a few times and hitting the jackpot a few other times, they are not likely to be inclined to simply give that information away freely. There are other good reasons to keep certain information to yourself, number one being resource protection.
A Protected Fishery The quality of Algonquin Park fishing is enhanced by MNR regulations that close trout season in the fall and don’t reopen it until April – effectively eliminating ice fishing. The use of live bait fish is also prohibited. Several excellent speckled trout lakes have been established where only artificial lures can be used and lower catch limits apply. Results from the 2012 Algonquin Park Trout Fishing Survey indicate that over 60% of the fish caught are released.
Know Your Fish
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources studies show that the most important factor affecting fishing success (or lack of it) is the knowledge of the angler. Like any other sport, you must first master the fundamentals before you can expect any great success. Visiting a new area presents a new set of fishing conditions to learn and understand. When well-known television fisherman Babe Winkelman visited us in 1989, we were very impressed by the amount of time he spent experimenting with different methods and patiently figuring out the right techniques for the conditions. Even with his considerable fishing knowledge, Babe spent over two hours surveying the lake before he wet a line for the smallmouth bass segment. For Babe, it paid off. His patience, knowledge and willingness to experiment resulted in some outstanding angling. In one of the two programs resulting from the visit, he stated, “I intend to return to Algonquin Park again and again!”
Principle Fish of Algonquin Park
Speckled (Brook) Trout
Specks are among the most sought after game fish in North America. Extremely sensitive to pollution, the range of speckled trout has narrowed considerably in recent years. Algonquin Park is indeed fortunate to have strong naturally reproducing brood stocks of these beautiful fish in its interior lakes. Found in both streams and lakes, speckled trout are widespread throughout the park. Trout season opens on the last Saturday in April and closes on September 30, with the best fishing in May or June. They can be taken on fly or spinning tackle with lures like small spoons, spinners and flies. Expert fly fishermen enjoy success in streams all season long.
The “laker” is possibly the most widespread fish in Algonquin Park. Many people think that the only way to catch them is to troll deep with specialized tackle but during May and June lakers can be taken at or near the surface with spinning or even fly equipment. The best method is trolling spoon lures along rocky shorelines or over shoals. As the water warms, the laker goes deep, specialized tackle is required and only 10% of a lake is likely to be productive. The season is the same as for brook trout.
The Smallmouth was not one of the original piscine inhabitants of Algonquin Park. Introduced at the turn of the century, “smallies” are found in more easily accessible lakes than trout, often with road access. Bass season opens on the last Saturday in June and continues through November. The Smallmouth is a surface or near-surface feeder and can be caught on light tackle throughout the season. One of the most exciting methods of fishing for bass is with a fly rod and popping bug.
Walleye (Yellow Pickerel)
Walleye are also a relatively recent addition to the Algonquin fishery. They are found only in the northern part of the park, in lakes near our Brent base, on Cedar Lake, and downstream from there in the Petawawa River system, in lakes like Radiant. The season opens on the third Saturday in May and continues through November, with the best fishing in late May and early June. Yellowish jigs and lures seem to be the most effective.
Tackle Tips From The AO Gurus
In the eyes of fish all anglers are equal. This is certainly true in Algonquin Park, where the reward goes to the person willing to put in the effort and travel to the better lakes. Our Brent and Opeongo bases offer access to some the finest Algonquin interior fishing.
Algonquin Park fishing conditions are fairly predictable and simple, so there is no need to bring a monster-size tackle box with your 16 favorite bonefish lures. Tackle for canoe-based fishing needs to be simple, versatile, portable and reliable. A two-piece medium weight spinning rod with a well-matched reel is probably the most versatile set up for Algonquin fishing. Six or eight pound line is a good compromise between durability and castability. While best suited for shoreline and river casting, this set up can be used for trolling, using three-way swivel rigs and devices like the “Dipsy Diver.” Consider how you will pack and protect your tackle. Portaging is particularly hard on exposed fishing rods! Many park fishermen break down their rods and carry them in rod tubes lashed to the canoe’s thwarts. Reels can be carried separately in a waterproof bag or box.
Lure selection is a very personal thing. We recommend a selection of small to medium size spinners, sinking and diving minnow-type lures and at least one kind of surface lure. Jigs are very effective for bass. Algonquin smallies seem to like the natural colors and darker varieties. For the first three weeks or so of trout season, fly fishing enthusiasts will have good luck using wet flies like midges and nymphs. At that time of year, the most productive for trout fishing, our fishing gurus recommend using attractors, rather than emerges or terrestrials. In general, throughout the season, natural colored flies work much better. Our favorite flies are the Blue Winged Olive #18 (early spring), Pale Evening Dun #18 (late spring), Damsel Fly #6 (summer) and the Dark Grey Stonefly #12 (fall). Summer anglers should remember to pack their favorite bass bugs, especially the Soft Shelled Crayfish.
Three of our locations sell tackle, with the most comprehensive selection at the Oxtongue Lake and Opeongo and a good selection at Brent. You’ll find an excellent variety of lures and flies for Algonquin fishing, rods, reels and a host of accessories.
Anyone fishing in Algonquin Park needs a valid Ontario license. Licenses are available at any MNR permit station or access point in Algonquin Park. Algonquin Outfitters does not sell fishing licenses. Ontario residents under 18 and over 65 do not require a fishing license.
Up-to-date Ontario fishing license fees and regulations can be found at the MNR’s Let’s Fish Ontario site.
Algonquin Park Fishing Resources
• Start by reading this really good article from Hatches magazine by Nick Pujik. The piece discusses fishing in the park in general, how to identify trout habitat, specific fly-fishing techniques, equipment suggestions and an excellent conservation message. Worthwhile reading for any Algonquin Park angler, no matter what your experience and whether fly-fishing or not:
• It is always a good idea to know the catch limits, rules, regulations and learn from fishing research. The Friends of Algonquin Park web site has a very comprehensive fishing information page with links to Ontario fishing regulations, backcountry trout fishing survey results (pro tip: read this), fish stocking lists and useful publications:
• Get good information on what fish are in which lakes and learn strategies for successful angling:
1) The Friends of Algonquin Park publish two inexpensive and useful booklets on fish and fishing, plus a lake depth map book:
- Fishes of Algonquin Provincial Park
- Fishing in Algonquin Provincial Park
- Lake Depth Maps of Algonquin Provincial Park
2) Stephen Molson’s new book Algonquin Park Depth Maps is a “must have” for any Algonquin angler. While individual maps are available for purchase online, the 60-page book includes “15 bathymetric maps of char lakes and comprehensive sections packed with fishing tips and techniques, char seasonal preferences, physiology, locational information, recipes and more…” You can order the book from Stephen’s website and Algonquin Outfitters carries it at the Oxtongue Lake and Opeongo stores. The fishing tips section is VERY comprehensive and covers tackle, strategy, lure selection and more.
3) Read the Algonquin Park fish survey results, stocking lists and find links to fishing regulations:
Fishing in Algonquin Park web page
• Make sure you have (or know how to get) a valid Ontario fishing license.