Fishing For Brook Trout
In Ontario

Your resource for fishing Ontario Brook trout

Fishing For Brook Trout In Ontario

Brook Trout is the only native river trout in Ontario and fishing for Brook Trout in Ontario goes back hundreds of years. The Brook trout which is often called speckled trout, specs or brookies. Brook rout are found in almost every rivers system in Ontario.

Size: Although Ontario’s record brook trout was 14.5lbs from the Nipigon river in Northern Ontario, most brook trout in Southern Ontario rivers average about 5 to 7 inches in size and a 12 to 14 inch fish is considered a good fish. There are even a few rare reports of fish over 18 inches and up to 7lbs in some rivers of southern Ontario.

Food: Brook trout in rivers can feed on almost anything that is alive in the river but their main food sources include insects, small fish, crawfish, leeches and worms. Larger brook trout may even feed on mice, frogs, toads or anything that they can fit in their mouths.

IDENTIFICATION AND HABITAT

Identification – Brook trout can often look different from river to river and throughout the season. Brook trout often become more colorful during spawning periods. One of the easiest ways to identify a brook trout is by the spots which are often red or orange with a blue halo around them and the vermiculations which look like a worm pattern often most predominant on the upper back.

The bottom of the fins are also outlined with a white stripe and black stripe as seen in the pictures below. Below are 3 pictures of different looking brook trout, to see a bigger picture showing the blue halo’s, vermiculations and fin markings click on the picture.

Brook Trout Habitat – Brook trout can be found throughout the river, in the middle, off to the sides, in deeper slower water and in shallower faster water. On some of the bigger rivers like the one in the picture it’s common to find them anywhere there is a break in the current or a slight increase in depth.

 

In rivers the Brook trout prefer some flow to bring them cool oxygenated water, food, and cover or security where they can get away from any danger. In some rivers brook trout will prefer pond type areas around beaver dams. As with most trout they are often found in seams and current breaks where there is a concentration of food flowing past them but the best seams have some depth or cover to offer them some security. Brook trout will also use rocks, logs and trees as cover and the biggest trout are usually found near log jams and deeper water. Brook trout can also be found in rapids and pocket water.

Cold Water

Temperatures: Brook trout tend to be most active at certain temperatures. The optimal temperature range for feeding is about 50 to 66°F (10 to 18 °C) but they can survive and be active from 35 to 68 °F (2 to 20 °C). Even though the temperature may be in the perfect range there are times when a rising or lowering temperature may stop their activity and feeding. One word of caution is to not fish for brook trout or brown trout above 67°F / 19 °C because doing so can seriously stress the fish out or even kill them during the fight.

Rivers with lots of up-wellings or springs like in the picture bring in cold water which is great for brook trout because it keeps the river cool all summer and that keeps the fish more active.

Finding out what rivers and creeks have brook trout might be as simple as testing the water temperatures in the middle of the summer and if the water is very cold there’s a very good chance there are brook trout living in there.

Spawning: Brook trout spawn in the fall during the months of October and November and prefer to spawn on gravel sections of the river.

An angler fishing a small Ontario stream for brook trout

CATCH AND RELEASE

Catch and Release – Who am I to say that it’s very important to release all your fish when the OMNR allows you to legally keep 5 fish in southern Ontario. But, the keeping 5 fish rules is likely not the only mistake our government has made in my lifetime.  After fishing Ontario rivers and some USA and BC rivers for the last 32 years I’ve seen first hand the importance and the benefits of releasing all fish and the difference it can make in the quality of fishing and the fish populations.

Over the last 5 years I have obtained permission from friends and land owners to fish on their properties in untouched waters and can honestly say it’s hard to beat that kind of fishing on public waters where anglers harvest fish. The fishing in these private sections was the best I’ve seen in Ontario with lots of fish including some big fish up to 6 pounds. When I compare this private waters to other sections only a few miles both up and down the same river where anglers are allowed to fish the fishing was poor in comparison.

Even when using underwater cameras I found there were significantly fewer large fish in the pools in the public areas which indicates to me that the larger fish where caught and taken or were hiding deeper in the wood where anglers could not get them. Either way the fishing was not good and anglers of that river where not having good experiences when they fished it.

You do have the right to keep your limit but even if you keep 1 and the other hundred guys after you keep just one, it adds up quickly and the fishing reflects this on many of our rivers.

Please practice and promote the release of all resident trout and help make our fishery great for everyone.

A great brook trout creek

ONTARIO'S BEST BROOK TROUT RIVERS

There are many brook trout rivers and creeks in southern Ontario for anglers to explore. There may be even hundreds of streams and creeks for anglers willing to take the time to find new brook trout water.

Brook trout reside in the upper reaches of most rivers and in the smaller creeks and tributaries where the water stays cold and clean year round. Some rivers may have over a dozen small tributaries cold enough to support brook trout.

Brook trout can also be found in some local ponds and lakes many of which are on private property. Because there are to many rivers and creeks for us to list here, the best thing to do if you are interested in fishing for brook trout is to look through the list of rivers we talk about on our best trout rivers of Ontario page and start at the upper most sections where there is public access and go from there.

Brook trout will remain in these rivers throughout their entire lifespan and many of the little creeks that enter these rivers have populations of brook trout in them but the hard part is finding access to fish for them, please respect other peoples property and do no trespass.

One trick for finding out if a stream your exploring has brook trout in it is to use a thermometer during the hottest weeks in the summer months, if the river is very cold still there’s a very good chance there are brook trout in it and if it’s to warm move on and find colder water.

Some of the best southern Ontario brook trout rivers that we know of were found by looking up the conservation authorities that manage these rivers and seeing what their website says. As an example the Saugeen Conservation Authority has a Fishing Map on their website that lists over 20 rivers/lakes in their area where brook trout can be found. They also list other species and it’s not uncommon to find other maps and other information on what rivers have brook trout in them.

An angler fishing brook trout in Ontario

RIVER ACCESS

Yes, I did say there are lots of brook trout rivers and creeks in Southern Ontario but because brook trout are often found in the coldest cleanest sections of a river, that usually limits them to only the upper most reaches of most rivers where accessing these fish is often very difficult due to lots of private property or hard to fish conditions like thick over grown bush, trees and grasses. In Ontario it is possible for a landowner to own the actual river bottom and the bank and the smaller the river the more likely the river bottom is private property. If you see “No Trespassing” signs on a small river you may want to look for another location. As of now I have now way of determining the ownership of the river bottom and the OMNR does not notify or help angles with this on-going problem.

The angler in the picture crouches down to get a good drift under the branches and is rewarded with a few nice trout. It’s amazing where these trout will hide and it’s often these super tough to fish spots where the biggest fish are.

Most rivers that I know of have limited access of only a few very small sections which include along side of roads or under bridges or the odd conservation area or park area where it’s public. These areas often get heavily fished and the big fish get fished out making for often tough and poor fishing but if you’re prepared to walk a bit to get away from the main access points you may be rewarded with some good fishing. 

ONTARIO TROUT SEASON

Ontario Trout Season and Regulations: Ontario’s resident trout fishing season is from the 4th Saturday in April to September 30th. There are a few exception to this but for the most part all brook trout sections are closed after September 30th.

For more information and the full OMNR fishing regulations check out the OMNR website . At the time of writing this Southern Ontario is listed under zone 16 and some rivers we cover are under zone 17 in the OMNR Fishing Regulations.

Some sections of some rivers may also have different open seasons where they may open later or they may have special regulations like being barbless hook areas, no organic bait or might be catch and release only area so before going fishing be sure to look up the OMNR fishing regulations and look up the river you plan to fish first under the ” Exceptions to zone 16 or 17 regulations” section.

Prime Time: The best time to fish for brook trout on most rivers is from opening day in April or early May and throughout the month of June with sporadic to good fishing from July until the end of September depending on the water temperatures.

An Ontario Brook trout

Fishing Methods For Brook Trout

The most common methods of fishing for brook trout on Ontario include Fly Fishing or Spin Fishing using lures or using floats that suspend bait like roe or worms. Regardless of your methods everything is scaled down and smaller than what you might use for brown trout or rainbow trout. This includes smaller rods and reels that are easier to fish with in tight cover and make playing the smaller trout more challenging, smaller lines are also used since the fish are smaller, and smaller hooks are often better.

Fly fishing for Brook trout on an Ontario River

FLY FISHING FOR ONTARIO BROOK TROUT

Fly Fishing: When fly fishing for brook trout we recommend that you use lighter weight rods from 6.5 feet to 8.5 feet in the 2 weight to 4 weight sizes with a suitably matched reel and a floating line that is either a weight forward or double taper style. I personally prefer the Airflow Ridge lines for their high floatability and durability.

Because the rivers and creeks are often on the smaller side and so are the fish it makes sense to always keep things on the smaller lighter side. Leaders in the 5x to 6x is recommended even though brook trout are not usually too line shy. With that said it is not recommended to use really heavy line of 10lbs or more either since many of the rivers and creeks where brook trout are found are very clear water and the brook trout may see a very thick line.

Always go as heavy as possible in order to both get them to consistently bite and to enable you to get those bigger brook trout out of wooded areas once hooked but make sure it’s not so heavy that they see the line and wont bite. The tippet or leader diameter that I use will also depend on the method I’m using at the time.

DRY FLY FISHING FOR BROOK TROUT

Dry Fly: Dry fly fishing for brook trout can be a lot of fun since they are sometimes quite eager to come to the surface. I use traditional dead drift methods but will sometimes have more success using skittering techniques or a dry dropper method. For more information or to learn how to do all the various dry fly techniques consider a lesson or guided trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company. For common dead drift dry fly methods check out our dry fly fishing video.

Although at times you’ll need to match the hatch or use a similar fly pattern to that of what the trout are eating, often brook trout aren’t that picky when it comes to fly patterns. Some favourite and productive patterns include: The Royal Coachman, The Humpy, The Adams, The Orange Devil, and the Elk Wing Caddis.

Dry fly fishing in Ontario

OTHER FISHING METHODS FOR ONTARIO BROOK TROUT

The main fly fishing methods for brook trout include dry fly fishing, nymphing, the wet fly swing and streamer fishing. For more detailed information on each one of these methods go to the Fly Fishing for Trout page.

Spin Fishing for Brook Trout: Spin fishing is still very common with brook trout anglers. Using lures or drifting a bait under a float are the most common methods. For more information on spin fishing for brook trout go to the Spin Fishing page.

Centerpin Fishing: Centerpin fishing for brook trout is something not many anglers are doing but there are a few who do. For more information on Centerpin fishing methods go to the Centerpin Fishing page

A nymph from an Ontario Stream

NYMPH FISHING FOR BROOK TROUT

Nymphing: It is said over 90% of the time trout feed on insects below the surface and this makes the method of nymphing one of the most productive way to catch trout in a river. The most common nymphing method often includes a strike indicator or float with some split shot/weights and a fly called a nymph or wet fly. Watch the video on how to nymph for more information.

There are over 7 methods or styles of nymphing and some methods work better then others especially under different river types or different conditions. The indicator style of nymphing is the most common method and because it works but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best or most productive method for trout in Ontario. Some popular nymph patterns include: The Prince Nymph, The Hares Ear Nymph, The Pheasant Tail Nymph, The Caddis Larva, and the San Juan Worm.

For more advanced and productive nymphing methods and more productive nymph patterns consider looking into the Advanced Nymphing class or booking a guide trip from A Perfect Drift Guide Company. Their reputation as experts in modern nymphing have produced many fish like the ones below and have helped out hundreds of anglers consistently catch more and bigger trout.

WET FLY FISHING

Wet Fly and Streamer Fishing: Another productive and fun fly fishing method is wet fly fishing or streamer fishing. Traditional wet fly fishing is using a swing style retrieve where you cast across and slightly down stream and with a tight line just let the fly swing across the pool until it’s directly below you or out of the main current or target zone.

For more advanced wet fly fishing consider a lesson or guide trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company. You can also check out this video on the wet fly swing fishing.

Some favorite brook trout wet fly patterns include the: March Brown wet, the Black Gnat, the Leadwing Coachman, the Prince wet fly, and the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear but there are many more patterns that will entice a strike from a hungry brook trout.

Fishing Oshawa creek

STREAMER FISHING FOR BROOK TROUT

Streamer fishing can be productive and at times may produce the largest brook trout in the river. There are multiple ways to use a streamer but the most common method is to cast a streamer across and slightly down river and retrieve the streamer fly by stripping in the line with short steady pulls until the line is out of the target zone or you fully retrieve the line. Check out this Streamer Fishing Video. For more advanced streamer fishing and multiple streamer methods and flies consider a lesson or guide trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company. Some favourite streamer patterns are the Muddler Minnow, the Clouser Minnow, the Woolly Bugger or the Mickey Finn.

Fly casting lessons in Ontario

FLY CASTING

Fly Casting : Although brook trout are not as cautious and don’t spook as easily as brown trout even beginner casters have a chance at catching brook trout. But if you ever want to learn how to become a better caster which will surely increase your catch rate consider checking out Metcalfe School of Fly Casting

PRIVATE PROPERTY AND TRESPASSING

Private Property and Trespassing: This is a tough one considering there is so much gray area and very little public information on what is and isn’t private property but let me just state a few opinions so you don’t get yourself in trouble. First, my words are not law and I am not an authorization on this matter and you should find out from the proper authorities before you enter any area you are not sure about. But, here are some things to consider based on my research and experience. It is my understanding that in Ontario:

  • A sign is all that is required to notify you an area is private so don’t enter unless you know otherwise.

  • A trespassing fine can be up to $2000.00 but is usually less then $200.00 and the dollar amount depends on the discretion of the officer and the severity of the offence.

  • A land owner can legally detain you until the police arrive if you are caught trespassing in an area that is posted or noticeably private and they are not required to warn you first if it is posted.

Signs from along a river in Ontario
  • Notification that the land is private can come in various ways including verbal or written warning from a landowner or authorized person, a sign, a red dot, a maintained fence or maintained lawn, livestock or other signs of the land being farmed or any other indication that the area is being maintained by someone, if you see any of this and you should assume you can’t trespass and look into the area further before doing so.

  • You can access forested or seemingly vacant lands or river areas if there is no signs or indication that the land and river are owned or maintained by anyone but you must leave immediately if notified that it is private or you could be charged.

  •  Not all river bottoms in Ontario are public but most river bottoms especially on larger navigable rivers the bottom or river bed is usually public access and as long as you keep your feet in the water you should be ok.

  • Some river bottoms are owned by the land owner and therefore you can not legally walk the river bottom without permission.

  • In all but a few cases the water itself is not owned even if the river bottom is owned so boating through should not be an issue as long as you’re not touching bottom,  anchoring or tying off to shore.

  • The high water mark is a rumour or is false or is no longer valid in Ontario meaning that if you’re standing on dry land of any sort and you are not standing in the water and the land is owned by someone you are trespassing and could be charged.

Please respect the rights of all land owners and do not trespass for any reason!

Signs from along a river in Ontario
Garbage left on the side of the river by ignorant anglers

LITTERING

Garbage: The number one reason many of our rivers are so heavily posted with NO TRESPASSING signs is because of ignorant anglers that litter. It still surprises me that I even have to bring this up. I’ve talked to many land owners, many who are even anglers themselves and they all tell me their biggest complaint and the reason many of their neighbors along the rivers all have their properties posted “No Trespassing” and wont let anglers in, is because of garbage left by lazy ignorant anglers. You know the ones, they;re usually the ones complaining that properties they used to fish are now posted because the land owner is a jerk.

I recommend always having a bag in your pocket or vest to carry out your garbage and the garbage from the jerks that are to lazy to clean up after themselves. Cleaning up all the garbage you see may prevent more waters from being closed to you and other anglers.

The sad part about this picture is not only did these jerks leave their garbage at the side of the river but this was in a clearly signed “NO BAIT ALLOWED” section of the Grand River and these are worm containers.

BROOK TROUT RIVER GUIDES

Not all brook trout waters are small and hard to fish. This picture is an angler fishing some very productive water while on a trip with a local Ontario river guide.

Brook Trout Fishing Guides:  A Perfect Drift Guide Company offers guided trips by boat or by foot for brook trout. There are about 13 rivers both large and small that they guide brook trout on and some rivers can produce dozens of brook trout per trip. For more information check out their website at www.aperfectdrift.com.

Brook trout fishing in Ontario

THE FUTURE OF BROOK TROUT

The Good: The good thing right now is we do have some good opportunities for resident wild brook trout and just about every river system still has some brook trout in it for anglers to pursue. The OMNR is also focused on maintaining and preserving these native brook trout for future generations.

 Brook trout are also relatively easy to catch using a variety of methods from spinning gear to fly rods and because of this they can be a great fish to introduce young kids and new anglers to.

Both the number of rivers containing brook trout and the ease of catching them allows anglers in the know the opportunity to catch these beautiful fish during the open season.

The Bad: Although I hate to be writing anything negative about our fishery and although some will disagree with me there has been some recent studies that show brook trout populations in general are in decline due to a number of reasons. A warming environment along with population increases causing more pollution, mismanagement and over use of water from farms or for drinking water or from water bottling companies is also a concern. Then there is angling pressure and in Ontario the OMNR allows anglers to keep up to 5 brook trout a day in most southern Ontario rivers. A combination of any or all of these issues are among some of the major reasons for the declining brook trout populations. 

 If low numbers and poor fishing is a concern for you and you’d like to see better all around fishing I would highly recommend you contact the closest Trout Unlimited or other local conservation group and join the fight to save our rivers. It would also be wise to contact the OMNR and let them know 5 fish possession limit is to high and should be lowered to a more reasonable number that is suitable for making the fishing better and maintaining the numbers of brook trout. Lastly it is important that you and anyone you fish with limit how many fish you do keep or practice 100% catch and release.


Ontario Conservation Groups: Trout Unlimited is one of the major groups that are very pro active protecting the brook trout and the rivers they live in. There are also a few other groups helping to maintain and improve our brook trout rivers. Consider joining one near you to show your support or even volunteer with a group near you to help out. The trout we love need your help.

Trout Unlimited Ontario Chapters – A great way to meet new fishing buddies, learn more about our rivers, find a mentor to teach you more and most importantly to help protect the rivers and the trout in them.

Ontario Streams – Working to protect our rivers.

Credit Valley Conservation – working to protect one of Ontario best brook trout rivers. They also have some good maps that may help you find some more fishing spots.

Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority – Working to protect the many rivers and tributaries of the Nottawasaga River system. They also have some good maps that may help you find more fishing spots.


Fly Fishing Clubs: There are also a number of good fly fishing clubs in Ontario and some of these clubs help with conservation projects and help protect our rivers. They are a great source of information and a way to make friends who share the same interests that you do.

Izaak Walton Fly fishing Club – A great group of anglers specializing in teaching the sport of fly fishing and working to maintain good fishing on the credit and nearby rivers. They are located in Mississauga and hold monthly meeting. They are knowledgeable and readily share information with new anglers. They also put on the annual Canadian Fly Fisher Forum so check out their website for more details. 

Friends of the Grand – Many thanks to this group for their on-going efforts to make the Grand River trout fishery so good. A great group of guys with vast knowledge of fly fishing the grand river and a great source of information for new anglers. They also host the annual Grand Opportunities fly fishing event. Check their website for more details.

Headwater Fly Fishing Club–  This is a group of fly fishing and fly tying enthusiasts who meet monthly in the headwaters area. They’re surrounded by the headwaters of the Nottawasaga, Humber and Credit rivers and are a 15 minutes drive from Orangeville and Bolton. They share their experiences, learn new skills and techniques and participate in environmental activities. They are a great club for anyone wanting to learn more and meet new friends. 

Winter Hatches Fly Fishing Club – This friendly group of conservation minded fly anglers hold their meetings in the Toronto area. They welcome all new comers to their meetings and fly tying classes. They are a wealth of information and a great way for new and veteran anglers to meet new friends.

KW Fly Fishers – This club is in the Kitchener Waterloo area it’s members range in experience from complete novices to professional guides. Whatever your level of expertise, they will help you improve your fly fishing and tying skills and are always welcoming new members.

Forest City Fly Fishing Club  A great group of anglers from the London area with tying lessons, guest speakers, and presentations available to their members.

Hamilton Area Fly Fishers – A group of dedicated conservation minded fly fishers promoting and teaching fly fishing to anglers of all ages. Learn cold water and warm water fly fishing techniques during their meetings or attend one of their event outings.

Pine Ridge Fly Fishing Club – The Pineridge Fly Fishing Clubs members have interests in the Kawartha’s and the north shore of Lake Ontario. They have combined the interests of both cold and warm water fly fishing. They are a friendly group and invite all fly anglers to come out and take part in one of their meetings.

Cold Creek Fly Fishers – Cold Creek Fly Fishers club is a long standing organization which has been looking after one of Ontario’s best trout fisheries since 1976. They are a group of river keepers as well as fly fishing and fly tying enthusiasts. Cold Creek Fly Fishers members have private stream access thanks to their stream monitoring and conservation efforts on the river. They have regular meetings and would be a benefit to fly anglers of the area.

Glenn Haffy Fly fishing Club: Located in the headwaters area between Orangeville and Bolton. These are private stocked ponds with resident brook trout and stocked rainbow trout.

Approved Retailers

Check out these approved retailers for all your river fishing needs.

These approved retailers meet our high standards for great customer service, great selection and competitive prices.

Don’t forget to check out our Best Products page to help you figure our what you might be missing.

Bass Pro Shops is the leader in everything fishing gear related. There have a huge selection of river fishing gear and great prices.

FishUSA is one of the best places that I know of to get river fishing gear that is relevant to the great lakes area, and they often carry a larger selection of river fishing gear then any other online shop. If you haven’t seen what they have to offer you should check them out.

If you are local to Ontario then this is a great place to order your Centerpin and River fishing gear!