The Best Rivers In Ontario For Trout and Steelhead
The best rivers in Ontario for trout and steelhead are located in Southern Ontario. There are also some good rivers along the north shore of Lake Superior as well.
The best rivers in Ontario are the larger river systems like the Saugeen River, the Nottawasaga River, or the Grand river because these rivers also have many smaller tributaries with lots of opportunities for great fishing. The best rivers in Ontario will also be cold clean rivers with lots of fish.
Although there are hundreds of rivers, I discuss over 30 of the best rivers in Ontario for trout and steelhead.
Table Of Contents
- 1 The Best Rivers In Ontario For Trout and Steelhead
- 2 How Do Know What The Best Rivers Are?
- 3 Ontario Cold Water Trout Rivers
- 4 Fishing Methods For Fishing The Best Rivers In Ontario
- 5 Fishing Eastern Lake Ontario Rivers
- 6 Shelter Valley Creek
- 7 Fishing Cobourg Creek
- 8 The Ganaraska River
- 9 Graham Creek Fishing
- 10 Fishing Wilmot Creek
- 11 Fishing Bowmanville Creek
- 12 Fishing Soper Creek
- 13 Fishing Oshawa Creek
- 14 Fishing Duffins Creek
- 15 Fishing The Rouge River
- 16 South West Lake Ontario Rivers
- 17 Fishing The Humber River
- 18 Fishing The Credit River
- 19 Fishing 16 Mile Creek
- 20 Fishing Bronte Creek
- 21 Southern Lake Ontario Rivers
- 22 Georgian Bay Rivers
- 23 The Nottawasaga River
- 24 Fishing The Boyne River
- 25 Fishing The Pine River
- 26 Fishing The Mad River
- 27 Fishing The Noisy River
- 28 Fishing The Beaver River
- 29 Fishing The Bighead River
- 30 Fishing the Sydenham River
- 31 Fishing Lake Huron Rivers
- 32 Fishing Sauble River
- 33 Fishing The Saugeen River
- 34 Fishing The Maitland River
- 35 Lake Erie Rivers
- 36 Fishing Big Creek
- 37 Fishing The Grand River
How Do Know What The Best Rivers Are?
Almost all rivers and creeks in Central and Southern Ontario eventually flow to one of the Great Lakes, but it’s the Southern Ontario rivers that have trout, steelhead, and salmon in them.
The best rivers in Ontario are often located in Southern Ontario because they are surrounded by great lakes.
With Lake Ontario on the northeast side, Lake Erie to the south, Lake Huron to the west, and Georgian Bay to the northwest just about every way you go you will hit one of them.
Even the tiniest of creeks in Southern Ontario eventually ends up in one of the great lakes at some point.
Because the great lakes have good populations of steelhead and salmon most rivers in southern Ontario are likely to have trout, steelhead, and salmon in them.
Some of the best rivers in Ontario will have small and insignificant runs of stray steelhead and salmon while other rivers will have large runs of possibly over 30,000 steelhead and over 10,000 salmon.
Ontario Cold Water Trout Rivers
Most rivers in Ontario are fed by cold clean groundwater in the upper sections which means that most of them will have brook trout or brown trout and maybe even some rainbow trout in them.
The smaller creeks that are covered by trees and bush tend to be the coldest. For some anglers, these small trout streams are the best rivers in Ontario
There are hundreds of rivers and streams in Southern Ontario and to list them all would require pages and pages therefore we will list the main rivers and streams suitable for steelhead fishing.
Since there are hundreds of rivers and creeks in Southern Ontario we are only covering the best of the best rivers and creeks in this article.
There are so many trout rivers that the Ontario Ministry Of Natural Resources said there are at least 150 brown trout rivers in Ontario and the majority are here in Southern Ontario.
The amount of brook trout rivers might be triple that number. That is why we can’t cover them all but, chances are if a small creek or river around you drains into one of the bigger rivers mentioned on this page, it’s very likely that it will have trout and maybe steelhead and salmon in it.
Whether you are interested in fly fishing or not this book has a lot of information on the best trout and steelhead rivers in Ontario.
It’s been out of print once or twice before and is sometimes hard to get so get it while you still can. You can get it at Amazon – HERE
Book Description; This is your guide to fantastic fishing in Ontario. Coastal treasures such as the streams of lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, Ontario, Georgia, Hudson, and James bays.
Fishing Methods For Fishing The Best Rivers In Ontario
Just because I provide you with a list of the best rivers in Ontario doesn’t mean you will catch any fish on them.
It’s very important to know how to fish these rivers and what the best methods are. Lucky for you I’m the top river guide in Ontario and I will help you with that.
For my in-depth advice and tips on all the methods that I use when guiding and fishing for trout, steelhead, and salmon in Ontario you should check out my newest blog website call TroutandSteelhead.net
On the new blog, I break the tactics and methods down for you so you can learn better. You will find great post like:
- 4 Best Steelhead Baits
- Best Trout Bait – The Only 5 Baits You Will Ever Need
- Float Fishing For Trout – An Expert Guides Best Tips
- 2 Float Fishing Leader Setups From A Pro River Guide
- 3 Best Nymphing Leader Setups – Guide Secrets For More Trout
- How To Catch More Trout And Steelhead Guaranteed
Get all of this and more on the new website.
Float Fishing With Centerpin Reels and Spinning Reels
Many anglers enjoy using Centerpin reels or spinning reels to do float fishing on these rivers.
Float fishing is very productive but only if you know how to do it right, and if you have the right gear and you use the right leaders for float fishing.
Unfortunately, many anglers don’t float fish well and they end up catching nothing except maybe a small fish or two. For my tips and advice on how to float fish effectively check out my Trout and Steelhead Tips and Advise Page.
Fly fishing can be very productive and fun when fishing in the upper and lower sections of these Ontario Rivers.
Different species will require different setups, different flies, and different tactics. I cover all of that and more on my Fly Fishing Tips and Tactics page
Spin Fishing Ontario Rivers
Spin fishing is very versatile. You can spin fish for trout steelhead and salmon using lures.
Check out my page Best Lures For Steelhead – A Pro Guides Recommendations to see what I use when I fish and when I guide clients.
You can see my favorite lures for trout which are listed on the Lure Fishing For Trout: Tactics From A Pro River Guide page.
You can also float fish for trout, steelhead, and salmon which means that you are drifting a bait under a float.
You can also use the very effective method of bottom bouncing. I provide advanced bottom bouncing techniques and set up on my page Bottom Bouncing – 5 Proven Guide Tips For More Fish
Fishing Eastern Lake Ontario Rivers
Some of the best rivers in Ontario are known as the eastern rivers. When I say eastern rivers, I’m referring to rivers east of the city of Toronto to about Trenton. There might be some rivers east of Trenton that get small runs of steelhead and salmon, and some will have trout in them, but the best rivers in the east are from Trenton to Toronto.
Just about all the rivers and creeks in this area get runs of steelhead, salmon, migratory brown trout, and will have brook trout and brown trout in the upper parts of the river.
Most steelhead rivers in this area would be considered small to medium-sized with many averaging only 10 to 20 wide and have an average depth of 2 or 3 feet.
Shelter Valley Creek
FISHING SHELTER VALLEY CREEK
Shelter Valley Creek is a nice small creek about 80 minutes drive from Toronto that is about 12 feet wide and is located near the little town of Grafton.
For a small creek, it has good runs of steelhead, and salmon, and some lake run brown trout.
There are also brook trout in the upper sections but both anglers and the landowners on this creek tell me that much of this creek is private property which also includes the river bottom.
Shelter Valley Fishing Access
Many landowners will charge anglers for trespassing on this river so if you plan to fish this river make sure you either have permission or that you only fish a public section.
Most anglers fish down at the mouth area below highway 401.
If you plan ahead, you may also be able to pay to access this creek at the Shelter Valley Park and Camp Grounds. Make sure to contact them before you go.
We only included this creek on the list because anglers and clients of ours have asked about it and because it has healthy populations of trout, steelhead, and salmon. But, because it has poor access to fishing, this is not one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish unless you have permission to access private property.
Fishing Cobourg Creek
Cobourg Creek is another smaller cold water creek that is about 15 feet wide.
It stays cold year-round and has good hatches of aquatic insects for those that like to fly fish.
Anglers will find this river has lots of private property in the upper sections but it has decent access in the lower river.
There are runs of big steelhead, salmon each season and there are also brown trout and brook trout located in the upper sections.
Cobourg Creek is located about 80 minutes east of Toronto and because of the good access in the lower river and because of the many species of fish, this is one of the best rivers in Ontario for anglers living in this area.
This river is small but there are sections that are suitable for spin fishing with lures or a with a float. Centerpin fishing and fly fishing are also good on this river.
Fishing Access On Cobourg Creek
- The Cobourg Conservation Area is a great place to start if you want to fish this river and it provides you with a large stretch of both forks.
- Anglers can also target aggressive steelhead and salmon that first enter the lower river by fishing at Peace Park in the town of Cobourg
- Sinclair park also gives anglers access to the river between Peace park and the Conservation area.
The Ganaraska River
FISHING THE GANARASKA RIVER
The Ganaraska River is also known to many anglers as the “Ganny” and is a nice mid-sized trout river about 70 minutes east of Toronto.
This is likely the most popular river of all the eastern tributaries due to its large runs of steelhead and salmon.
The Ganaraska river also has good populations of brown trout and brook trout but unfortunately, a lot of the upper river where the trout live is private property and heavily posted so there is very little or no fishing access.
The Ganaraska is one of the best rivers in Ontario for fishing multiple cold water species.
The mouth area of the Ganny in the town of Port Hope can be a hot spot for anglers looking to hook into fresh runs of salmon and steelhead. This river is also now being stocked with Atlantic salmon with some decent catches being reported.
The crowds on the Ganaraska can be very large at times, especially on the weekends and during the salmon runs or on the opening day of trout season so be prepared for that.
The Ganaraska River is the biggest trout river in this area and is a really nice river to fish with its clear water, ripples and runs, and big pools.
I used to fish this river in its prime when it would get runs of over 18,000 steelheads annually.
Ganaraska Fishing Access
The Ganaraska has some decent access at the mouth in the town of Port Hope at East Beach.
Anglers can also access the first rapids area at Riverside Park.
This river is heavily enforced by police and OMNR officers and the charge a lot of anglers for fish limits, trespassing and littering. I have heard talks of access being denied in certain areas due to many unethical anglers littering, excess noise, and causing property damage.
There is a Live Camara Feed which shows the migratory steelhead and salmon as they pass through the fish ladder at the dam in Port Hope.
Ganaraska Fishing Methods
The Ganaraska is a decent-sized river of 25 to 40 feet wide in most places and it can be fished well using many methods. Fly fishing, float fishing, and casting lures are popular and productive on the trout, steelhead, and salmon on this river.
Graham Creek Fishing
Graham Creek is a smaller creek that is less popular than some of the other eastern Rivers.
Graham Creek gets runs of steelhead, salmon, and some brown trout.
It’s not clear if the smaller brown trout caught in this river are resident trout or if there are migratory trout but there are some good ones to be caught for the lucky angler.
There is also and brook trout in some of the upper sections of Graham Creek and can be a lot of fun on light fly rods and spinning rods.
The mouth of Graham Creek the most commonly fished area and is located in the town of Newcastle. The creek in this section is slow with lots of wood in the water but can be great to fish when the steelhead or salmon are moving in from the lake.
Graham creek goes through a lot of farmlands and access is limited due to private property in the upper reaches. You may find some coldwater areas upriver with good populations of brook trout but you may need to ask for permission to access these areas.
Fishing Wilmot Creek
Wilmot Creek is another favorite creek of many steelhead anglers and although it’s not a big creek this river is known for large runs of steelhead and salmon which makes it one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish.
Wilmot Creek also has migrator and resident brown trout and some big brook trout in the upper sections of the river.
There is also the chance for migratory brown trout and Atlantic salmon in the fall.
Most of the fishing on this river occurs in the lower sections of the river at the mouth in Newcastle to Highway 115. There is parking access at the Highway 2 bridge and downriver at Samuel Wilmot Nature Area where you can access the trail system to the river, HERE.
The is a very cold clear river with lots of good water for natural reproduction. Some sections are heavily wooded and tough to fish and land fish in. Some of the big log jam pools have big browns and trout all year.
Much of the river above highway 115 is private property and should not be accessed. For fishing access to some of the upper sections of this river a popular access spot is at Thurne Park Conservation Area.
This is another river that has it’s issues with over crowding, littering and poaching.
Fishing Bowmanville Creek
Bowmanville Creek is known for its runs of steelhead and salmon. It also gets good runs of migratory brown trout along with some Atlantic salmon.
There is a lot of good access on Bowmanville Creek which makes this one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish.
Bowmanville creek splits just before it enters Lake Ontario. The east fork is known as Soper Creek and the west fork is Bowmanville creek.
Fishing access for Bowmanville creek is good at Bowmanville Creek south parking lot off of Baseline road west. You can also try the north parking lot at Roenigk Drive.
If you are interested in fishing upper Bowmanville Creek you can get fishing access at Bowmanville Valley Conservation area and can park at the Jackman road parking lot.
Check out these link for some good information and pictures.
Fishing Soper Creek
Soper Creek is the smaller fork of Bowmanville Creek. It gets runs of steelhead and salmon and is a good alternative if you want less crowds.
You can much of the lower creek from David Boyde Memorial Dog Park or from Soper Creek Trail Park off of Simpson Ave.
This little creek is worth exploring is you are in the area,
Fishing Oshawa Creek
Oshawa creek flows through the town of Oshawa and is not really the prettiest of rivers in that area but as you get out of town this little creek is a nice piece of water.
Because the access can be good in lower and upper Oshawa creek and because of the large runs of steelhead and salmon I would consider this to be one of the best rivers in Ontario, especially if you live in this area.
There’s also brook trout and brown trout in this river and it has some decent access through the town and in parks like Cedar Valley Conservation or at Healing Lodge – Cedar Valley Conservation.
Fishing Duffins Creek
Duffins Creek is one of the bigger creeks and is about 20 to 30 feet wide near the mouth. Duffins creek splits into two rivers, the east Diffin Creek, and the West Duffins Creek, and both are good to fish.
Duffins creek has resident brook trout way up in the headwaters with some brown trout mixed in.
Duffins Creek can be excellent fishing and the access is really good which is why I would consider it to be one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish. Duffins creek can get good runs of steelhead and salmon and I have heard of the odd lake trout and Atlantic salmon being caught in this creek.
This is a pretty river that offers good fishing with an extended fall open season near the mouth.
Fishing west Duffins creek is accessible at Whitevale Park, from here you can access the Seaton trail which runs along a good stretch of the river. There’s a dam in the town of Whitevale that prevents migratory species but there are brook trout above the dam. Possible access to Seaton trail and the river is at Whites rd further downstream of Whiteville.
Good fishing access can also be found at the Pickering dog park and Seaton trail access off of Concession road 3. There is also access at Brock Ridge Community Park off of Brock street.
On the east fork of Duffins Creek, there is a long section of the Trans-Canada Trail in the lower section that will give you access or you can try at Devonside Park or from Greenwood Conservation Area.
Fishing The Rouge River
The Rouge River flows at the edge of Toronto and although it’s not as popular as some of the other rivers I have discussed, it offers good fishing opportunities for trout and salmon with some pretty good access.
You’ll find rainbows, salmon, and migratory brown trout in the fall and steelhead in the spring.
There are sections of the upper river that have good brook trout fishing and maybe a brown trout or two.
Access is good in the lower areas especially around the Rouge Park area
South West Lake Ontario Rivers
There are a bunch of good rivers on the west and south shore of Lake Ontario.
The South-Western rivers are the rivers that are on the west side of the city of Toronto and go all the way south to the Niagara River. These rivers are more urban and are often close to some larger cities but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t some of the best rivers in Ontario to fish for trout steelhead and salmon.
Although some of these rivers run through cities, many of them are often set down in a ravine or valley and often still have the look and feel of a wild natural river once you get down to the river to fish.
Some of the western rivers a much larger in size than the eastern rivers and access is often good on these rivers.
Fishing The Humber River
The Humber River flows right through the Toronto area and most of the lower river is accessible and surrounded by houses, buildings, and traffic and therefore it’s not very scenic and is not as popular as some other rivers.
However, it does get good runs of steelhead, salmon, and migratory brown trout and that attracts some local anglers.
The Humber River is a bigger river and is considered one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish. The Humber River splits into two main rivers and both have steelhead, salmon, brook trout, and brown trout and both are worth exploring.
Both the East Humber River and the West Humber River are best accessed through the parks and the many trails along the river.
The upper West Humber has good wild brook trout populations and some nice brown trout mixed in and is much more scenic than the lower river. Most of the best trout fishing occurs upriver of the town of Bolton.
The 2 downsides to these two branches of the Humber River are what’s known as sinkholes which are often hidden soft clay sections under the gravel. Many anglers have been stuck in these and some of my clients refuse to fish this river anymore because of these sinkholes so I recommend using extreme caution when fishing the Humber River.
The other issue with the upper Humber River is the close proximity to a population of over 5 million people and the fact that there is no catch and release sections on this river. It is poorly managed and now has limited trout in the upper section.
Thanks to people eating what they catch combined with the Ministry of Natural Resources lowering or stopping the stocking of brown trout on the upper river, what once was a very good trout river to fish is now a very tough river to catch trout on.
Both the OMNR and the Toronto Conservation Authority need to get their head out of the sand and use modern fish management practices to improve and protect such a great river in an area with so many people.
The upper Humber river is 10 minutes east of Orangeville and has lots of good access points. This upper section is guided by A Perfect Drift Guide Company for those looking for a guide service to teach you how to navigate the sinkholes and how to fish the upper sections of this river.
Trout may be kept in this river but we strongly urge all anglers to release their trout to help grow this fishery to its full potential again.
Fishing The Credit River
Once known as the “Crown Jewel of Southern Ontario” the Credit River is one of the largest rivers in the Toronto area and one of the best rivers in Ontario for trout, steelhead, and salmon.
The lower Credit River provides anglers with good opportunities for steelhead and large runs of salmon as well as smallmouth bass.
Migratory species on the lower Credit river can make it all the way to the Norval Dam in the town of Norval which is just upriver from Hwy 7. Salmon and can be found in the river from August to November and steelhead from September to late May.
Peak runs of salmon on the Credit river are from September to late October and the steelhead runs can be good in Early October to December and then again from March to May.
There are a number of parks and fishing access is generally good through the whole lower Credit river. One of the most popular sections is Erindale park which is part of the year-round open section and has good runs of migratory trout and salmon.
The Credit river has a year-round open section for fishing steelhead from highway 403 to Lake Ontario. – Always check the fishing regulations before you you in case this has changed
The upper Credit River is one of the best rivers in Ontario for fishing brook trout and brown trout.
The upper credit river is a very pretty trout river with large brown trout and brook trout and is a very popular section of river for fly anglers.
The upper sections have special regulations so be sure to check the fishing regulations before you go.
Credit River Special Regulations as of 2020 and 2021 – Credit River and its tributaries – Town of Caledon in Regional Municipality of Peel, Upstream of Old Baseline Road• Only artificial lures may be used• Only one single-pointed barbless hook may be used• Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trou must be released – NO KEEP ZONE
Thanks to the catch and release only and special regulations sections there’s a good population of trout in the upper sections with good access through the parks in the area but because the upper Credit River gets a lot of fishing pressure the trout can be very difficult to catch and most anglers struggle to catch trout here.
The guides at A Perfect Drift Guide Company are the experts on the Credit River and they have been the top river guide service on Credit River for almost 20 years.
There head guide has been fishing this river for 36 years and in an expert at fly fishing, Centerpin fishing and spin fishing methods on this river.
They guide the upper and lower sections of the Credit River and they can put you in front of some of the biggest fish in the river and teach you how to catch them.
You can watch them in action fishing for Credit River Brown Trout- HERE, or watch them fishing for steelhead on the lower Credit river – HERE
Fishing 16 Mile Creek
Sixteen Mile Creek is a lesser know creek that offers some steelhead and salmon fishing.
This river is less fished because it sits between the more popular Credit river and Bronte creek and also because it tends to get smaller runs of salmon and steelhead.
It is set in a deep scenic valley in the middle of the city of Oakville.
It also has some brook trout and brown trout available near the town of Milton and up near Kelso Park in the upper sections.
The is also a little-known small mouth bass fishery that can be excellent in the lower river once the season opens.
Carp fishing can also be good down near the mouth of the river. Access is good with trails and parks all along the river for those looking to explore this river.
Fishing Bronte Creek
Bronte Creek could be considered one of the best rivers in Ontario for steelhead, salmon, and migratory brown trout.
Bronte Creek is one of the more popular rivers due to it being close to Toronto and Hamilton and because it is a smaller river that gets big runs of salmon, steelhead, and migratory brown trout.
The mouth of Bronte Creek is in the town of Bronte which is set between Oakville and Burlington. Bronte Creek has very good access and has an extended open season section in the fall until December 31st.
Petro Park near the mouth up through Bronte Valley and throughout the Bronte Creek Provincial Park which is where this salmon was caught has great access and is popular with anglers. Much of the lower Bronte Creek is in a deep scenic valley so be prepared to hill climb, but and once down in the river, you would never know you are surrounded by big cities.
Further up the river in Lowville park is large 30-foot waterfalls that prevent the migration of migratory species.
There are brook trout and brown trout in the upper sections of this river and it’s well worth trying to catch these trout.
Check the fishing regulations for extended seasons on Bronte Creek Before you go fishing there.
Southern Lake Ontario Rivers
Rarely heard about and few are fished but there are a number of small creeks from Burlington to Niagara river that can have small runs of steelhead and Salmon.
Many of these rivers have waterfalls on them which limit the salmon and steelhead from accessing good spawning grounds. Some of these creeks may have brook trout in the headwaters sections.
Some of the more notable creeks in the areas that are worth trying are Grindstone Creek, Forty Mile Creek, and Port Dalhousie.
Fishing The Niagara River
The biggest river south of Toronto and to some it’s the best river in Ontario for fishing is the Niagara River.
The Niagara is a huge river, more like a moving lake and it has huge runs of steelhead, salmon, migratory brown trout, lake trout, and warm water species like bass, pike, walleye, and musky.
There are a number of good guide services on this river on both the Canadian side and the USA side.
Most anglers fish the Niagara River in the area known as the whirlpool which is just downriver of Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. Anglers wanted to fish the whirlpool will need to climb the crazy big hill on the way back.
The Niagara is a huge river and requires extreme caution when wading the banks of this river. The flow, the currents and the mini whirlpools in this river can easily drown the best swimmers.
Georgian Bay Rivers
Georgian Bay has some of the best rivers in Ontario for trout, steelhead, and salmon but most of the best rivers are on the southern shoreline of Georgian Bay. The northern rivers tend to be warmer rivers with great bass, pike, walleye, and musky in them.
Although there is the odd stray salmon or steelhead in some of these more northern rivers, and if you go far enough up the river you’re likely to find some native brook trout in them the best trout and steelhead rivers of Georgian Bay are between the little town Cold Water in the east to the little town of Wiarton in the west.
Between these two towns, there are about 20 rivers and creeks that get runs of steelhead and salmon. All of these rivers will have brook trout and maybe brown trout in the upper sections.
I would guess that any creek or river in this stretch that has any significant flow would get some steelhead or salmon entering them.
Georgian Bay is a massive bay or an extension of Lake Huron. It is so big that it takes a few hours or more to drive from the furthest southern point to the most northern point. Much of northern Georgian Bay and the rivers in the northern part of the bay, north of Port Severn are warm river systems and are not worth fishing for cold water species.
The Nottawasaga River
The Nottawasaga River also known as the Notty, is the biggest wild steelhead and salmon river flowing into Georgian Bay.
The Nottawasaga River is said to have the largest runs of wild steelhead in all of Ontario but don’t go running out to fish it just yet.
Some anglers love this river but many hate it. Much of this river is private property and can’t be accessed and the parts that can be accessed in the middle and lower sections are slow, flat muddy, and full of logs and sticks.
This makes reading the water, finding fish, and catching fish very difficult for most anglers and many give up to go fish more trout-like rivers. Walking along this heavily wooded river can also be very difficult.
The river bottom on much of the lower section of river is mud or sand which often keeps it from being very clear. Because a lot of the bottom is sand, walking and wading this river can be very difficult and dangerous. Many areas can be 6 feet deep only 2 feet from shore and with poor visibility is easy to make one bad step and end up swimming.
This river is so big that there are a dozen smaller creeks and rivers that flow into it and just about all of them will have steelhead, salmon, and trout in them.
The mouth of the river is over 60 feet wide on average and can also have good populations of bass, pike, musky, carp, and even the odd Sturgeon which makes this one of the best rivers in Ontario for multi-species fishing.
In fact, the lower 75 km of this river can have any of those species and it’s this lower 75 km where the bulk of the access and fishing takes place.
The majority of this 75 km section from the mouth of the Boyne River in Alliston to Georgian Bay has a year-round open section on trout and steelhead, but check the official fishing regulations before you go just in case that has recently been changed.
The upper stretch of the Nottawasaga River, which is the section upriver of the town of Alliston to Orangeville might be another 40 or 50 km of windy forested and wooded river. This upper section of the Nottawasaga is more trout-like with clear water and gravel bottom but it is also mostly private property.
If the river conditions are good, the Nottawasaga River offers Steelhead fishing from early September to the end of May with peak times being mid-October to late December and then again in late April and early May.
If you are looking for the best guide service on the Nottawasaga river you won’t find better guides than the guides at A Perfect Drift Guide Company which is based at the headwaters of the Nottawasaga River in the town of Orangeville.
Many anglers have noticed these wild steelhead of the Nottawasaga fight far better than in other rivers in Ontario which is likely due to the genetic strains and the fact this river has never been stocked with steelhead.
A Perfect Drift Guide Company does a lot of guided trips on this river and can show you how to find fish consistently in this type of water and show you how to fish it effectively.
The slower deeper water of this river is really good water for anglers who like to Centerpin float fish and for anglers that like to use lures.
Aside from some faster water near the mouth that is good for fly fishing and Spey fishing, this is not the best section of the river to fish with a fly rod unless you know how to fish flat water.
There are a few faster water sections up the river that are great for fly anglers but they are few and far between and are very short sections between the slower deeper waters. Most of these faster sections are on private property and can’t be accessed by foot.
The majority of the river downstream from the town of Alliston is private property so access is limited but there are some access areas in the parks and forest areas. Anglers should be aware that the town of Essa requires all anglers to have a special fishing pass on their lands and parks.
Anglers fishing without the pass may be charged with trespassing. Good access for anglers without a pass can be had in the mouth area near Wasaga Beach.
There is now a special NO KILL section for steelhead/rainbow trout between Angus and Alliston so all anglers MUST now release their steelhead (see MNR regulations for details). Local anglers have been known to report anglers not abiding by this law.
Salmon can enter the Nottawasaga River in small pods after big rains starting in July, and this river has been said to have the earliest salmon runs in the province.
The bulk of the salmon runs will start in early September and continue through the middle of October.
Due to issues with the baitfish in Georgian Bay, the salmon that enter the Nottawasaga River and most Georgian Bay rivers are on the small side averaging around 10 to 15 pounds. These are small in comparison to Lake Ontario salmon which can average 20 to 30 pounds.
Clients of A Perfect Drift Guide Company have had multiple big fish days with salmon and some steelhead mixed-in in the month of September. Anglers can have some pretty good salmon fishing in early October but if you want a guided trip for salmon these dates book up fast so don’t hesitate. A Perfect Drift Guide Company offers boat trips and walk and wade trips for salmon and steelhead through most of the river from Alliston to Wasaga beach.
Fishing The Upper Nottawasaga River
The upper sections of the Nottawasaga River start just upriver of Alliston and this is where the Nottawasaga River starts to become a cold water river with clear water and a more gravel type bottom.
The river continues all the way to the town of Orangeville.
This upper area has some of the nicest stretches of river in Southern Ontario flowing through the scenic Hockley Valley, but unfortunately, there is almost NO public access through this entire stretch. If the upper river was more accessible to fishing this would be one of the best rivers in Ontario for trout, steelhead, and salmon.
There used to be few sections of river that landowners would let people in to fish but thanks to ignorant anglers littering, camping, and abusing their properties they have all been closed down.
Unless you have permission to enter a property, 95% of the upper river is all posted “No Trespassing” and it is enforced.
There is a section up in the Hockley Valley Nature Reserve that gives anglers a small area to fish but this stretch of river can be very difficult to fish because it is small fast water or is full of trees and logs crossing the river.
There may be a few active bed and breakfast places along the river that might be a good way to pay, stay and fish along their private sections of rivers.
The upper river is great spawning grounds for steelhead, salmon, and trout with lots of gravel beds and cool summertime water temperatures.
There are brook trout and brown trout in the upper reaches and in the small creeks that enter this section. The upper river branches off a few times into smaller forks and fishing can be difficult and again with literally zero access.
The hatches along the whole river can be very good and the fish can become active during these times.
Fishing The Boyne River
The Boyne River is one of the Nottawasaga River’s main tributaries. The Boyne River has steelhead, salmon, resident brown trout, and brook trout in it.
The Boyne River is a smaller river averaging about 15 to 20 feet across and it can fish well after the trout opener.
The Boyne River can be fun with smaller rods and flies. The Boyne can have huge hatches with non-stop action with the smaller resident fish and the baby steelhead for the dry fly anglers as well.
May and June can be good a good time to fish the Boyne river, but if it’s a hot dry summer July and August can be very low water and is not worth fishing.
This could be considered a technical river with lots of bush and rocks and log jams and it can be tough wading for some guys.
Access can be good through a couple of different park areas along the river between the town of Alliston where it enters the Nottawasaga river and the upper sections near the town of Shelburne.
Like many of the best rivers in Ontario, the Boyne River is suffering from low fish populations. Although there are some bigger resident brown trout and brook trout in the river they are few and far between which is thanks to anglers that keep the bigger resident fish.
The steelhead and salmon numbers are also way down which is also believed to be from anglers taking fish either before they enter the Boyne river or once they enter the river.
The Boyne River has great potential to be one of the best rivers in Ontario for both resident trout and for steelhead which is why I highly recommend and that you please release your fish and help make this a great fishery again.
Be careful what you read on the Boyne river because there is another Boyne river near Flesherton and another Boyne river in Michigan.
Fishing The Pine River
The Pine River is another tributary of the Nottawasaga that is very much like the Boyne river and has plenty of different types of water from smaller rapid sections to slower riffles and pools.
The pine river has a good year-round flow with good fish populations and this makes the Pine River one of the best rivers in Ontario.
The upper Pine river normally runs very clear but the lower Pine river starts to go sandy and the clarity can change to a more green milky color especially during high water.
The Pine River is likely the best tributary of the Nottawasaga for reproducing steelhead and salmon because of its high water quality.
The Pine River also gets a good early run of salmon and steelhead in September but it’s hard to fish because the river is mostly private property.
The Pine River is also difficult to fish due to a large number of log jams, lots of overhead bush, and shallow water.
There some big brown trout and big brook trout in this river, but again, due to anglers keeping fish they are few a far between. Access to this river is tough due to it being mostly private property but there are some park areas near Anus that anglers can fish. Please practice catch and release to help grow this fishery into a great one.
Fishing The Mad River
The Mad River is another tributary to the Nottawasaga River and is primarily a brook trout and rainbow trout river.
This river will get some salmon running up in the fall and will get some steelhead in the fall and the spring.
The rainbow trout that you catch in this river are likely steelhead.
May and June are the best times to fish this river in the few accessible areas that are available to anglers around the Creemore Area or at the Conservation Area in the little town of Avening.
These rivers are often fast-flowing fun rivers to fish but they can get extremely low during the months of July to September. Please practice catch and release to preserve the good fishing. The main tributary of the Mad River is the Noisy River.
Fishing The Noisy River
The Noisy River is a small creek like river around a small ton of Dunedin.
It has steelhead and brook trout in it and much of the fishing access is in the Noisy River Provincial Park.
This river does not get a lot of fishing pressure in the park because it’s a bit of a hike to get in.
It’s best fished in the spring when there is good flow otherwise it can get very shallow in the later summer months.
This is a small river suitable for fly fishing and spin fishing but Centerpin anglers will struggle since there are not many big pools to fish.
Fishing The Beaver River
The Beaver River is host to brown trout, brook trout, a few resident rainbows, salmon, and large runs of steelhead.
The Beaver River flows into Georgian Bay just east of Owen Sound in the Town of Thornbury.
Combined with some awesome scenery, good fishing and good access make the Beaver River one of the best rivers in Ontario to fish and it’s a favorite of many anglers.
The Beaver River is a great river to fly fish but it’s not just for the fly guys. The beaver river is also a great river to fish with a float rod or to throw lures in.
Much of the upper Beaver river is private property which allows the fish to do well with little pressure from anglers.
The Beaver River is best fished from May until the end of June when the water flows and temperatures are good.
Some of the brown trout and brook trout sections are very technical with lots of wood and forest cover to contend with. The brown trout can be very difficult to catch in the gin-clear water but for the persistent angler, the rewards can be worth it.
The biggest brown trout reported from this river in 2011 was 8lbs which was caught on a fly.
Steelheading in the lower sections can be some of the best steelhead fishing in the area and this lower section is good to fish with a fly rod, a float rod, or spinning reel.
Up to 30 steelhead a day on a fly rod is possible when the runs are at their peak in the spring but it can also get very busy, especially in the lower section below the dams. You can access this river at the mouth in town or at the Clendenan Conservation area.
A Perfect Drift Guide Company offers drift boat trips and walk trips on this river for steelhead, resident brown trout, and resident rainbow trout in late April, May, and June and walk and wade trips are also available in the upper sections throughout the summer and in September.
Fishing The Bighead River
The Bighead River is a favorite among steelhead anglers and fly fishermen.
There many great pockets, runns, and pools drift a fly through and the steelhead on this river seem to smash a well-presented fly.
Some sections are also big enough to swing a fly with a Spey rod or are great for Centerpin Fishing.
The scenery on the Bihgead river down in Beautiful Joe Park looks like some of the BC rivers that I fished. The access to this river is very good in the lower section near town which makes the Bighead River one of the best rivers in Ontario for steelhead fishing.
This river is located just east of Owen Sound and flows into Georgian Bay in the town Of Meaford. There are brook trout and brown trout in the upper sections but due to lots of private property and very little accessible water, not many anglers target them.
A Perfect Drift Guide Company Guides this river for steelhead from October to December by foot or by boat and then again in late April and May.
Fishing the Sydenham River
The Sydenham River flows into Georgian Bay in the town of Owen Sound.
The lower part of the Sydenham river has a year-round open section just below the dam.
The Sydenham River also has special regulations applied to the river upriver of the dam and it does not open to anglers until June 1st.
It’s best to check the regulations under exceptions in zone 16 for clarification on the rules of this river.
The migrating steelhead and salmon are stopped by a large waterfall called Inglis Falls.
Above and below the falls are resident brown trout and brook trout and it can have good fishing there.
A good starting point on this river would either be right in the town below the first dam for steelhead or try below Inglis Falls Conservation area. You can access the lower and upper river through Inglis Falls Conservation area.
Fishing Lake Huron Rivers
Most lake Lake Huron rivers are cold clean rivers with good runs of steelhead and salmon and most should have brook trout and maybe brown trout in the upper sections.
There are dozens small to large rivers along the Lake Huron shoreline which some call Ontario’s West Coast. We are going to cover the primary rivers here and may add more rivers in the future.
Fishing Sauble River
Many anglers would fish just above or below the falls and good catches of big brown trout were common.
The Sauble River is a slower meandering river mostly known for its steelhead runs.
Most of the fishing on the Sauble River is for steelhead and salmon around Sauble Falls and the Sauble Falls Provincial Park.
Many years ago the Sauble River was also known for its Migratory brown trout fishing in the fall.
Just above the falls, the Sauble River splits into two rivers with the bigger one called the Ranking river. Steelhead and salmon can be caught in both of these rivers when they are running.
For the adventurous anglers, there are some good brook trout water in the upper Sauble river and the Upper Rankin River and a few of the tributaries that enter these rivers. In fact, most of the small creeks in this area have good brook trout fishing.
The Sauble River is also known for it’s pike and bass fishing during the summer months.
Fishing The Saugeen River
The Saugeen River is one of the best rivers in Ontario for many reasons.
The Saugeen River is one big river with many tributaries that are all worth exploring. The lower Saugeen River is over 100 feet wide and even 50 km up the river it still averages 40 to 50 feet wide.
The Saugeen River is well known for its steelhead runs which some year have been over 30,000 steelhead, but it does get some salmon in the fall and it has good fishing for resident smallmouth bass, musky, and pike.
The upper sections of the main Saugeen and most or all of its tributaries have resident brook trout, brown trout, and even some rainbow trout.
Some of the tributaries of the Saugeen river could be considered some of the best rivers in Ontario for trout. Some of the more notable tributaries of the Saugeen river are the Beatty Saugeen Rivers, The Rocky Saugeen River, the South Saugeen River, Teeswater river, the North Saugeen River. There are other smaller creeks and river the end up in the main Saugeen river that are worth fishing.
There is good access at the mouth, as well as access at Saugeen Bluffs Provincial park, and in Walkerton.
Most steelheaders focus on the river below the Walkerton Dam, through Paisley, and below Denny’s Dam close to South Hampton.
The Saugeen River has an extended fall season section, and it also has a year-round season below Denny’s dam. Check the Ontario fishing regulations for more details.
The Saugeen River flows into Lake Huron in South Hampton and is a very large size river at the mouth.
The Saugeen River is probably the nicest river I’ve seen for brown trout, brook trout, and resident rainbows and all that fishing takes place up river of the town of Hanover and in the many tributaries. The Saugeen River is also a favorite for many canoeists and in One of the best rivers in Ontario for drift boat fishing.
The steelhead section of the Saugeen River is about 2.5 hours drive from Toronto but can be worth the drive. The distance from the city keeps the crowds away.
The Saugeen river offers fast rapids, long slow meadow sections, deep pools and good hatches. This is a river that will challenge any angler but its sheer beauty and the potential for huge brown trout is something you don’t want to miss.
It’s a big river in comparison to rivers like the Credit River, Beaver River, or the Humber River, and it’s one of the biggest rivers in Ontario that offers brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout in the same sections.
In the lower Saugeen River, anglers have opportunities to fish for steelhead, salmon, bass, pike, and musky in pretty good numbers.
A great way to see this river is by guided boat trip offered by A Perfect Drift Guide Company.
They fish and guide the limited access water sections of the upper Saugeen in a comfortable stand-up pontoon drift boat which gives anglers the opportunity to see some of the nicest and scenic water and a chance at some of the biggest brown trout in the river.
Steelhead fishing on the Saugeen River is best in late October, November, and December, and can be caught all winter if the water is open below Denny’s dam. Anglers can catch steelhead all winter below Denny’s dam. When the spring runs of steelhead come in, it can be good until the end of May.
Fishing The Maitland River
The Maitland River is another big river that known for it’s large Steelhead.
With runs of salmon and a very good smallmouth bass fishery, the Maitland River is one of the best rivers in Ontario.
It’s a favorite river for both Centerpin anglers and fly anglers.
It’s also a well liked river by Spey fishing anglers. When there’s lots of flow, it huge river and it can dangerous and intimidating.
The Maitland River is known for its steelhead being bigger and stronger on average than what you would find on other rivers. There are some brook trout that can be found in the many tributaries as well.
Access on this river is good along the many bridges and roads.
This river has extended open sections in the fall and year-round open sections. Check the fishing regulations for more details.
Other Lake Huron Rivers
Nine Mile River – This is a smaller river that gets runs of steelhead and salmon in the fall.
Bayfield River – This is a pretty little river that gets good runs of steelhead and some salmon. It flows into Lake Huron and has an extended fall season worth checking out.
Other Rivers – There are some other smaller rivers and streams flowing into Georgian Bay and Lake Huron for the adventurous angler.
Lake Erie Rivers
Lake Erie is the southern most area of Ontario and it has a few decent rivers for anglers to try.
The two main rivers that anglers should try are Big Creek and the Grand River.
Fishing Big Creek
Big Creek is know as a wooded and tough river to fish but it gets runs of steelhead and has big resident brown trout and brook trout.
Big Creek flows into Lake Erie near Long Point and has an extended season that allows anglers to fish a large section that is open year-round. Check the regulations for detail. Big Creek tends to flat, with a sandy muddy bottom, and is not very clear like most Ontario rivers.
Anglers fishing steelhead and brown trout in this river may need to up-size their leaders to get big fish out of all the logs along the river. This river does not get a lot of fishing pressure and may be a good option to get away from the crowds.
Fishing The Grand River
The Grand River is likely the largest of our trout rivers and is often split into two sections by a series of dams. The grand river is one of the best rivers in Ontario and it is said to be the best brown trout fishery in Eastern Canada.
The lower section of the Grand River is HUGE with some areas big enough for motorboats.
This lower section does have steelhead but is better known for its warm water fishing. Species like walleye, pike, bass, and musky are found in the lower river from about Brantford down to Lake Erie.
The Grand River has been getting good runs of steelhead and the runs seem to be getting better now that some of the dams near Cambridge have deteriorated enough that the steelhead can access some good spawning grounds. This river is becoming one of the best rivers in Ontario for steelhead.
There is limited to no salmon in the Grand river but there are resident brown trout and rainbow trout in the areas around the town of Paris.
Some of the tributaries of the Grand River will have good brook trout and brown trout and maybe steelhead. Some of the better rivers and creeks that flow into the Grand rivers are Whiteman’s Creek, Speed River, Eramosa River, and the Conestoga River. You are likely to find good brook trout fishing in the upper sections of those rivers and possibly some brown trout and rainbow trout in some.
The Grand River near Fergus is said to be the best tail-water brown trout fishery in Eastern North America and is arguably the most popular fly fishing destination in Ontario.
Regardless of the fishing pressure on the Grand River near Fergus, there are always un-crowded sections that have lots of big, scrappy, and numerous brown trout over 14″. Brown trout in the 25″ to 27″ size are caught every season.
10 to 50 trout a day is not uncommon and days of multiple brown trout over 20 inches is very possible. This tailwater section has about 30 km of accessible brown trout water to fish and is mainly a walk and wade section.
Special regulations apply on most of the trout water section. – it’s mostly a No Kill on all trout, single barbless hook only, and no organic bait is permitted in many sections here.
There is also some very good bass and pike fishing in this section of the river for anglers interested in fishing during the hotter summer months.
Some of the upper an middle sections of the Grand River can produce dozens of bass a day. Pending water levels
Regardless of the fishing pressure on the Grand river there are always un-crowded sections that have lots of big, scrappy and numerous brown trout over 14″ and browns in the 25″ to 27″ size are caught every season.
10 to 50 trout a day is not uncommon and days of multiple brown trout over 20 inches is very possible. The guides at A Perfect Drift Guide Company are known to put their clients onto multiple big browns in a day and they claim that some days over 5 brown trout over 20 inches end up in their nets.
This tailwater section has about 30 km of accessible brown trout water to fish and is mainly a walk and wade section.
Special regulations apply on most of the trout water section. – it’s mostly a No Kill on all trout, single barbless hook only and no organic bait is permitted in many sections here. There is also some very good bass and pike fishing in this section of the river for anglers interested fishing during the hotter summer months.
Some of the upper and middle sections of the grand can produce dozens of bass a day. Pending water levels A Perfect Drift Guide Company can guide you in these sections by foot or by boat.
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