Top 5 Fish Species to Fish for in Northeastern Ontario

By Mathew Koprash January 20, 2016

You spoke and we listened; here are the top five fish species as voted by you, the anglers of Northeastern Ontario.

BIG doesn’t only describe the region, but also the size and range of fish species to choose from. Endless opportunities and species are available to target in any of the plentiful lakes and rivers. See the Top 5 Fishing Holes to plan your next trip.

Many residents and anglers rank their favourite fish species in many different ways including taste, fight vigour, abundance, ease of catching, size and natural beauty. Below you will find a breakdown of each species and what makes them stand out from the rest in the BIG Northeastern region.

5. Yellow Perch

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Yellow Perch are by far the most abundant fish species in the region. They are a schooling fish and generally travel in packs. This makes perch a great species to target with children or those just getting into fishing.

Panfish have been a part of every angler’s life and there is something to be said about a good perch bite. Nothing beats the thrill of hooking a fish almost as soon as your bait hits bottom and the rush to get your bait back down to the fish below you. These are days often spoken of for many years thereafter and a friendly competition is abundant.

Yellow perch is found across the region and are a great tasting species. The 7-11″ class make for great table fair and the 12-15″ fish are an absolute treat to catch. The yellow and orange colourations with the dark vertical bars make these a truly beautiful species.

4. Northern Pike

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Northern pike are an abundant species across the entire region and are an absolute thrill to catch. They are an apex ambush predator in the freshwater food chain. The rows of razor sharp teeth and streamlined structure provide pike with a powerful and damaging bite along with the ability to scream drag off your reel with one kick of their tail.

The size variations of these fish can be quite large ranging from 1–20 plus pounds. These sizes can be found in the same body of water with the biggest ones being few and far between. These larger fish have been roaming our waters for 25-40 years in order to reach these sizes and most of the large northern pike 40”+ are generally females. These fish contribute to the overall pike population in a lake and needed to be treated with respect and released to continue to maintain a trophy pike population.

Northern pike are a great tasting fish and, if harvested in the cold water months, the meat is comparable to walleye in taste. Stories from many an ardent pike angler include “you wouldn’t taste the difference between walleye and pike if I cook them” and it might very well be true!

The Top 50 Pike tournament trail spans across the region making northern pike a sought after species for tournament anglers. Take a look for an event near you this upcoming year or just head out and have a great time targeting northern pike this year!

3. Walleye

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Walleye are hands down one of the most popular game fish in Northeastern Ontario. They are a heavily armoured fish with sharp puncturing teeth and a very sharp dorsal fin. Dark backs are accented by glowing gold sides, a glowing white belly and white on the bottom half of the dorsal fin. They are notorious for their heavy head shakes and drag peeling runs back down to bottom.

Walleye can be targeted in a wide variety of water bodies and with an endless number of techniques. These range from a simple vertical jigging, trolling worm harnesses and crank baits, and utilizing planer boards and down riggers to move baits away from the boat and deeper in the water column.

Walleye are best known for being the tastiest of the freshwater selection. They are a very clean white meat with a very minimal “fishy” taste which makes them sought after. A walleye fish fry can bring entire families and communities together when they are on the menu.

Northern Ontario Walleye Trail (NOWT) is an excellent tournament series run across Northern Ontario and showcases some of the best walleye fisheries. If you are thinking about entering a walleye event or tackling a new tournament series this is a great series to look into.

2. Trout

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Trout are a sought after world class fish and held in the highest regard by many anglers. The streamline beauty, patterns and colourations these fish present are truly remarkable and I cannot thank Mother Nature enough. Trout are some of the hardest fighting fish in our water bodies demonstrated by heavy head shakes, explosive runs, and surface breaking acrobatics.

Many different trout species can be found across the BIG region including lake trout, brook trout (a.k.a. speckled trout), splake and the elusive aurora trout. Splake are a result of cross breeding brook and lake trout to produce an aggressive, fast growing sterile fish; they are a perfect target for the ice angler. Trout species are stocked annually by the MNRF with splake being the most common—check out the stocking lists for your district to find new exciting opportunities. The MNRF also opens two different stocked aurora trout lakes each year. Check out the Ontario Fishing Regulations for your chance to catch one of these rare species of trout. Most of the aurora trout lakes are located right in Ontario’s Northeast!

Brook trout are for the more adventurous anglers as they are most often found in smaller remote lakes often accessed on portage trips, day hikes, or in the winter months by sled or snowshoe.

Trout are abundant across the entire region and can be targeted in many different ways including down rigging, trolling, and casting. Choose to fly fish in the many streams, rivers and smaller lakes.  Due to their aggressive nature and affinity for taking top water flies, brook trout make great angling opportunities for first time or seasoned fly fishers.  Some of the world’s best brook trout fishing is found right here in Northeastern Ontario.

1. Bass – Large and Smallmouth

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Smallmouth and largemouth bass cover every part of Northeastern Ontario and anyone who has fished has likely encountered one of the two strains. Bass are a predatory species and very protective of their surroundings. This makes them easier to catch as, more often than not, they will strike a lure or bait within its vicinity. They travel in packs and when they start to feed there is almost nothing you can do wrong.

Smallmouth bass are pound-for-pound the hardest fighting fish swimming in our waters. A 2lb smallie will nearly pull the rod out of your hand, peel the line off your spool, and jump 3′ in the air within the first 10 seconds of being hooked!

Bass can also be found at all depths and types of cover from shallow weed beds, rocky points, and timber dead falls. They have a similar meat as walleye and perch however harvesting them from shallow depths can result in a poorer quality taste similar to summer pike.

Bass tournaments are in abundance across the entire region with many different series to choose from with local clubs; Nickel City Bass and North Bay Bassmasters along with the larger series Temiskaming Smallmouth Bass (TSB) that spans the entire region. The smaller clubs are a great entry into tournament fishing and the TSB is an excellent step into a more competitive field.

There is no shortage of species to target across the province and our readers chose the top 5 above. Each of these species offers a different approach, technique and presentation and that is what makes Northeastern Ontario such a special and diverse place to fish. The best part of Northeastern Ontario angling is that you can target at least one of these species all year long!

Try something new this upcoming year and target a species not on your list. If you are mainly a bass, walleye and pike angler, give one of the many trout species a fair effort this upcoming year. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself—this could lead to a new-found passion and an experience you will never regret.

Northeastern Ontario is incredibly BIG and is filled with many opportunities to target BIG fish in a wide variety of species. Have fun this upcoming year and most importantly have fun out on the water!

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