Great Lakes Trout & Salmon

Big water has a scent of its own. You could close your eyes, listen to the seagulls, and let your senses transport you to another dimension. Ontario’s Great Lakes offer all that, plus the opportunity to fish for some of the world’s most challenging game fish: Steelhead, Chinook and Coho Salmon. In some areas, the fabled Atlantic salmon, the diminutive pink salmon, the wary brown trout, and coaster brook trout and lake trout add even more diversity to this outstanding fishery.

When fishing the big, intimidating water of the Great Lakes, the services of a guide or outfitter are always recommended, particularly for anyone unfamiliar or under-equipped to meet the challenge of these inland seas. These professionals are adept at factoring in water-temperature fluctuations, baitfish movements, and the lifecycles of game fish and utilizing specialized tackle, such as downriggers, temperature probes, and fish finders, to keep on top of this information and catch fish. Most use heavy casting tackle and 20-pound-test-or-better line to troll spoons or bait behind flashers and dodgers. Minnow-imitating plugs such as Rapalas and Rebels also get a good workout.

Fish here can grow big. The current Ontario record Chinook salmon weighed 46.38 pounds (21 kg), the rainbow trout 29.12 pounds (13.22 kg), the brown trout 34.4 pounds (15.61 kg), and a coho pushed the scales to 28.64 pounds (13 kg).

For experienced anglers with their own rigs, area tackle shops are top spots for up-to-date information. Tournaments and derbies are another good indication of hot locations and top times. It’s a fishery that begins as early as late April in many areas and carries through September.

Spring and fall are top times to fish the hundreds of major tributaries that feed the Great Lakes from Ontario for tackle-busting steelhead. Throw spawning salmon and browns into the mix on most rivers in the fall. Many streams offer year-round or extended seasons in their lower stretches.

Small spoons and spinners and 8- to 10-pound-test line on medium-action spinning rods are basic gear in deeper rivers. Many anglers opt for lighter float rods up to 13 feet in length to drift bait (trout or salmon spawn, worms, tube jigs, and flies) under floats, while purist fly-rodders can handle most situations with an 8-weight rod and floating or sink-tip lines.

So, whether you prefer the hypnotic hum of downrigger wires slicing through a calm summer sea, your lures below seeking salmon, or you like the challenge of wading chilly rivers for spring and fall silver, you’ll find it all here in Ontario’s Great Lakes and tributaries.

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