Fishing on the Escarpment (Part 1)

The Niagara Escarpment is the headwater of five major river systems, and over 90 types of fish have been reported in its waters. Whether you want to fish in a lake, stream, or river, the range of options for fishing is fantastic!

Let’s take a look at some of the common species that anglers try to catch.

Resident Fish

Fish such as the black crappie and yellow perch are great for summer fishing. They travel in schools during the summer and are most easily found in the shallow bays of lakes, ponds, or slow moving streams in the morning and evening. These fish are fairly small, weighing between 0.5 and 1lbs. Black crappie is a very palatable fish and is often caught for food.

Bass are usually active from late spring/early summer to early autumn. Smallmouth bass can be found in more open water, whereas largemouth bass prefer areas rich in aquatic plants, logs, and brush. Bass can weigh up to 3.5 or 4lbs are are edible, although the largemouth bass is generally considered the better food. However, there is pressure for anglers to practice catch and release fishing for largemouth bass as several Canadian populations of this fish have declined.

Walleye are schooling fish most active in the spring and fall. Their eyes are specialized to low light conditions, so they are easier to catch at night, or on overcast, windy days. Walleye can be found in just about any water body, but prefer weedlines or rocky points. They are fished commercially as well as recreationally, so there is usually a low catch limit in order to protect populations from overfishing.

Northern pike is another popular fish due its large size (average between 4 and 10 lbs, but can be over 20 lbs). They are often caught as trophy fish. Spring, early summer and fall are peak periods. in the early spring and fall they can be found in weedlines, flats, and creek mouths and in the hotter months they move to deeper waters.

Other fish you may catch include carp, catfish, freshwater drum, sturgeon, and whitefish.

Fall Migration

In Ontario, there are 3 major salmon species: Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon, and coho salmon. The Great Lakes were once home to very large populations of Atlantic salmon. Settlement and human activity resulted in this species being extirpated (made locally extinct) from the area, although restoration efforts are underway. Conversely, chinook and coho salmon were introduced to Ontario waters in the late 19th century and 1960s, respectively.

Lake trout is a native deepwater predator found in the Great Lakes. However, populations of this species have been impacted by pollution and predation by the invasive sea lamprey. Brown trout and rainbow (or steelhead) trout are both Pacific species which were introduced to Ontario waters and are now found throughout the great lakes.

Salmon and trout are both migratory fish, making their way upstream to spawn between late August and October. The fall migration, or run, is an excellent time for salmon fishing in many Great Lakes tributaries. Even if you don’t want to catch fish, viewing the migration is a worthwhile experience. There are some good viewing locations along the Credit River. The best time to view the migration is a few days after a rainfall when the river is low and clear.

Here is a selection of great fishing spots along the Escarpment:

  • Bruce County is a favoured fishing destination in Southern Ontario. During the summer, you can try your hand at downrigging in the cool, deep waters of Georgian Bay. Spring and fall are great times to cast from the banks of the Saugeen River into Ontario’s best salmon and trout runs.
  • Halton Region also offers some great fishing spots, such as Kelso Lake and Campbellville Conservation Area. A diverse fish community consisting of rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed can be found in the small lakes and pools.
  • In the Niagara Region, Jordan Harbour is a great spot for both migratory species (salmon and trout) and resident northern pike, bass, carp, and freshwater drum.