Ontario Salmon Fishing – Tips And Advice From An Expert

While fall is a great time for Ontario salmon fishing, knowing where to go and what to use considerably boosts your chances of catching one of these large salmon that may weigh more than 40 pounds.

Chinook Salmon are the most frequent of Ontario’s four salmon species. Today, we will go into depth about each salmon species below.

For many fishermen, the goal of fishing for Ontario salmon is to capture a big salmon like this one.

Ontario Salmon Fishing - Tips And Advice From An Expert

Using the correct baits, lures, and gear increases your chances of catching these enormous fish tremendously.

Additionally, it is advantageous to understand when and where to fish, which will be discussed in greater depth later.

How To Fish For Salmon In Rivers

Anglers in the vicinity of the great lakes enjoy a one-of-a-kind chance for superb salmon river fishing from August to November, with the prospect of capturing monster salmon.

This article explains the tactics I use while guiding and training fishermen on how to catch great lakes and salmon on rivers.

To learn how to fish rivers for great lake salmon, you must first master one or more of the four most effective methods of catching salmon, which are float fishing, fly fishing, lure fishing, or bottom bouncing.

Anglers who are aware of the appropriate methods to use in different conditions may considerably increase their haul.

If you’re going salmon fishing, I highly suggest you spend some more time learning how to do it correctly and doing some additional preparation ahead of time to ensure that you have everything you need and are properly set up. This is an excellent place to begin.

The fundamental fact is that the majority of anglers make one or two significant blunders when fishing for salmon in rivers, which results in their failure to capture fish.

Anglers may use the proper float but end up with a huge hook that the fish notice or they may use the inappropriate bait for the conditions, or they may wind up with a leader that is so thick that the fish overlook their bait.

Other anglers may have a fantastic set up, yet fail to catch salmon owing to the poor presentation or a lack of information about how to cover the water effectively.

Doing one thing badly may have a major influence on the amount of fish caught, my best advice to all river fishers is to learn to do everything right.

The guys who consistently catch fish will have the proper salmon fishing equipment; they will have the proper line and leader, a good leader setup, the appropriate hooks for the size and type of bait being used, they will know how to make an excellent presentation, and they will cover the water well.

Additionally, they are aware of the salmon run and the best times to fish.

Ontario Chinook Salmon

Due to their size and quantity, Chinook salmon are the most sought-after fish in Ontario. Locals refer to Chinook salmon as Chinooks, Chinnies, King Salmon, Nooks, or Kings.

Salmon is considered to be an invasive species in the great lakes, migrating up rivers in the fall.

In the fall, salmon is the first and largest species to enter rivers.

While salmon fishing is normally best from mid-September to late October, fishermen move to steelhead fishing once the salmon seasons finish.

Steelhead may reach more than 25 pounds and migrate up rivers in Ontario from October to May.

These Chinooks may weigh up to 40 pounds, although they are normally between 15 and 25 pounds on most rivers.

Once captured, it may seem as though you’ve grabbed the back of an unstoppable boat.

On some days, a few thousand salmon enter rivers, offering good fishing for anglers.

The Ontario Salmon Run

Salmon return in great numbers to the majority of Ontario rivers in September.

Silver, acrobatic, and one of the hardest fighting fish in Ontario, fresh early September salmon are silver.

They develop darker spawning colors, hooked jaws, and maybe some large dog-like teeth after a week or two in the river.

During the spawn, they may seem damaged, with many scars, scraped-off scales and skin, and an almost black tint.

Salmon that have been spawning for many days and are in this damaged condition often do not fight well and are unfishable.

Some guys may even refer to them as “old boots” because they are pulled in with minimal resistance remaining.

If you fish for salmon that are holding in pools or slowly moving up the river, your odds and fight will be much boosted.

Snagging is prohibited in Ontario, although this method is used to catch the vast majority, if not all, of fish taken from spawning areas.

Other Ontario Salmon Species

Fishing in Ontario Salmon is not limited to Chinook salmon.

Ontario is home to several distinct salmon species: Coho, Pink, and Atlantic. These Ontario salmon species are substantially rarer, and it may be difficult to time their flows.

However, if you follow my timing guidelines below, you should be able to schedule the salmon runs perfectly.

Pink salmon are more abundant farther north in the St. Mary’s river, and other rivers in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron have reported unusual catches.

Ontario Coho Salmon

While Coho salmon are smaller than Chinook salmon, they are noted for their fast runs and plentiful jumping style of battling.

Coho Salmon in Ontario begin their migration into rivers in September and continue until November.

Coho salmon are found mostly in Lake Ontario’s rivers and are very rare in Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Georgian Bay rivers.

Coho Salmon from Ontario are often more vibrantly colored, ranging from red to pink to purple to orange.

Ontario Atlantic Salmon

For about 10 years, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has been seeking to restore Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario and its tributaries in partnership with other organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

They have stocked tens of millions of Atlantic salmon in some of the world’s top steelhead rivers, and although some lucky anglers have caught them, they remain a rare catch.

Unfortunately, considering the millions of Atlantic salmon introduced into Lake Ontario rivers and the time and effort necessary, adult Atlantic salmon return to the rivers at an alarmingly low rate, with the majority of anglers never catching even one.

If you’re seeking Atlantic Salmon in southern Ontario, your best bet is the Ganaraska River, where the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has focussed recent efforts on stocking with a landlocked Atlantic salmon strain.

A better option for fishing and collecting Ontario Atlantic Salmon in Ontario is to go north to the St. Mary’s River in Northern Ontario, where they were supplied by the US and are now returning in fishable numbers.

When Is The Salmon Run In Ontario?

When Is The Salmon Run In Ontario?

Certain rivers support salmon runs. Ontario rivers may begin flowing as early as August or even July, although this is unusual, and the flows are often small and inconsistent.

Beginning in September and lasting through late October, the bulk of Ontario salmon enter rivers in significant numbers. Often, the runs occur after significant rain that elevates the river’s water level.

The huge Chinook salmon prefer high water to enter the river because they are more exposed and also because swimming across shallow sections and rapids is more challenging when the water is low.

Additionally, salmon runs are more likely to begin in the nighttime and early morning hours, when it is dark and they feel more confident swimming into deeper areas.

Thus, even if it rains severely in the late morning, the salmon may not begin their run until almost dark, meaning that the next morning may be superb fishing and a good time to be on the river.

It is advised to get to the river within 12 to 24 hours of the first heavy rain in September to be in with a chance to catch the first exceptional salmon run.

Each successive good rain should bring in more salmon, and colder nights mean cooler water, which helps as well.

If you arrive at the river 24 hours after it has rained and the water is clear, the salmon will be unable to see your bait, making catching them difficult until the water clears.

If a river’s water is filthy, consider a smaller river that may clean up more rapidly.

Rather than a single huge flow, hundreds of tiny to medium-sized salmon run rush up the river after each rain.

A small run may comprise 100 salmon, but a large run may number more than 5000. A run may last many days, with salmon entering the river every day.

If the year is unusually dry and September does not bring rain, the salmon may join the river at any time.

However, if the winds are very strong and blowing in-shore toward the river mouths, and the river water is sufficiently cold, salmon may enter the rivers even if there is no rain and the river is quite low.

If there is no rain, salmon will often wait to enter the river until the last possible minute, but their overwhelming need to reproduce compels them to persevere even in the lowest of water.

Large salmon are sometimes forced to swim through water so shallow that their backs are exposed and they drag their bellies down the rocks, often scratching their scales off.

Capturing them in this very shallow water is futile since they never bite. It is preferable to seek the next deep spot above the rapids where they will relax and rest and fish for them there.

Strong winds sweeping offshore and out into the lake may suffocate baitfish and salmon, preventing them from recognizing rivers.

Strong winds blowing into shore, on the other hand, may drive those fish closer to shore, where they will locate the river’s flow, triggering massive salmon runs.

Anglers with foresight in my neighborhood anticipate these wind shifts and fish the river that day and the next day, often with favorable results.

Where Are The Best Salmon Rivers In Ontario?

Salmon runs occur in almost every river and tributary that empties into Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, or Georgian Bay.

Certain runs may be small in size, while others may reach 10,000 salmon in certain years.

The bigger the river, the higher the salmon run, yet even minor rivers may become highly filled with salmon in the fall.

Additionally, salmon flows will be increased in supplied rivers and the coldest, cleanest rivers with a high survival rate for young wild salmon.

Which salmon river in Ontario is the best depends on a few criteria.

Smaller rivers and streams with a width of 10 to 20 feet are preferred by some fisherman because they are often colder and the salmon runs begin earlier, as well as because the salmon gather in the smaller pools, making them simpler to hook.

These smaller rivers have the drawbacks of being more crowded, having more wood and log jams, which results in greater salmon mortality, and being more difficult to land.

Additionally, the pools are sometimes too small for the salmon to run, jump, or fight.

Within a short drive of Toronto, the Humber River, the Credit River, Bronte Creek, and Duffins Creek are four of the greatest salmon rivers.

The Humber River is situated near downtown Toronto and is home to a healthy salmon run that begins in September.

Etobicoke Creek and the Don River will also see reduced salmon flows.

Alternatively, you may try the Credit River west of Toronto, between Highway 403 and its mouth. This river gets some of Ontario’s greatest salmon runs.

Further west, you may like to visit Oakville Creek, 16 Mile Creek, or Bronte Creek, a favorite location for many.

In September, these rivers are often low, and it may take a large amount of rain to bring the salmon in.

East of Toronto, there are some good salmon fishing rivers, however, the majority are rather small, averaging around 15 feet wide.

Duffins Creek, the Rogue River, and Oshawa Creeks are the nearest to Toronto and are very popular with salmon fishermen.

You may also continue west on Bowmanville Creek, Wilmot Creek, or Grahams Creek.

Large Ontario Salmon Rivers

Larger salmon rivers generally have the greatest runs of Ontario salmon and are often the best choice for fishing Ontario salmon.

Credit River, Humber River, and Niagara River are all wonderful alternatives as well.

While some of the major rivers may get rather crowded at times, for anglers willing to explore and get away from the throng, September frequently offers miles of open water with significantly fewer people.

The benefit of salmon fishing in these bigger rivers is that the pools are substantially broader and deeper, which makes fighting salmon significantly more pleasant.

I’ve observed that salmon jump higher and are less likely to leave the pool to go up or down the river when the pool is bigger and deeper.

The Niagara River is the largest salmon river in Ontario, producing huge runs of hardy salmon.

Ganaraska River

The Ganaraska River, which flows through Port Hope, is prominent east of Toronto, receiving one of the greatest salmon runs from eastern Lake Ontario tributaries.

Furthermore, it gets fairly crowded towards the river’s mouth.

This is a good river for seeing salmon. ascend the river to the Port Hope Conservation Reserve and try to jump the dam.

Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay is home to several cold, clean rivers that are vital to the survival of Ontario’s salmon species.

Nottawasaga, Beaver, Bighead, and Sydenham rivers are only a handful of the world’s finest rivers.

From Waubeshene to Tobermory, almost every river and stream that runs into Georgian Bay has salmon.

Further north on Georgian Bay, few salmon-fishing rivers exist, however some fishermen claim salmon in the Parry Sound River, the Magnetawan River, and the Port Severn Severn River.

Anglers on the eastern side of Georgian Bay may choose to try their luck on the Cold Water River in Cold Water, as well as the Sturgeon and Hoggs rivers near Midland, which both see small salmon runs.

The Nottawasaga, Beaver, and Bighead rivers are all teeming with salmon.

Fishermen may target salmon farther west on Georgian Bay in the Sydenham, Colpoys, and Pottawatomi rivers.

Lake Huron

Ontario Salmon live in over a dozen rivers and streams that drain into Lake Huron. The Saugeen, Sauble, Maitland, and Bayfield rivers are Lake Huron’s primary salmon rivers.

Lake Huron’s rivers get much less salmon than those of Lake Ontario.

The Saugeen River is the biggest and maybe most well-known salmon river in Ontario. It is located within the municipality of South Hampton.

The majority of anglers here fish in the Denny’s Dam region, which is included inside the Denny’s Dam Conservation Area, as well as downstream towards the outflow.

This portion of the river is year-round accessible and quite popular with steelhead fishermen.

Salmon in this river may reach as far as Walkerton, providing enough possibilities for fishermen to catch them.

Paisley and Saugeen Bluffs Provincial Park are well-known fishing sites along this river.

Additionally, autumn salmon fishing is permitted in the Sauble, Penetangore, Maitland, 9 Mile, and Bayfield rivers.

Lake Erie

There is no considerable salmon stocking on the Ontario side of Lake Erie, and hence few to no salmon flows in the rivers.

However, salmon may be captured inadvertently from Lake Huron or the limited number of fish supplied on the United States side.

Are There Different Ways To Fish For Ontario Salmon?

Are There Different Ways To Fish For Ontario Salmon?

In Ontario, there are numerous methods for capturing salmon, some of which are great, while others are less so.

Once salmon enter rivers, one of the most efficient means of getting them is float fishing.

To catch the most salmon, it’s critical to use the correct rods, lines, floats, and baits.

There are four successful techniques for getting great salmon in rivers.

The primary and arguably most productive approach is float fishing, followed by lures. In low water, bottom bouncing is quite effective.

Finally, there is fly fishing for salmon, which may be quite successful in a number of the smaller Great Lakes rivers and streams.

Fly fishing for salmon might involve nymph fishing, streamer fishing, and Spey fishing.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing Salmon is a common and effective method of capturing these magnificent fish once they enter a river.

Certain anglers like to target them with indicators and nymphs, much as they do with steelhead and trout, and this is often the most profitable method of catching Ontario Salmon.

Lure Fishing

Salmon lure fishing is another technique that many anglers like since it can be lucrative and thrilling.

It’s tough to beat the adrenaline rush involved with watching a big salmon smash a bait and then dash away with hundreds of feet of line.

We suggest a longer, beefier rod between 8 and 10 feet in length with a 12 to 14-pound test line, as well as a spinning reel capable of holding a lot of lines and having an effective drag system.

When battling huge fish in strong currents, smooth drag is critical.

Make use of vibrantly colored lures that move freely when dragged in gently. Spinners and other loud lures are also efficient in attracting and catching salmon from the Great Lakes.

The beauty of lure fishing is that it allows you to fish in both calm and tumultuous seas, as well as in both deep and shallow water.

Salmon may sometimes pursue a lure for an extended period before crushing it, and in clear rivers, you can see the whole process unfold.

Spey Fishing

Spey fishing for Ontario salmon, often known as swinging flies in front of salmon, may be very rewarding and profitable.

Salmon are abrasive, and they will hit a well-presented fly given near to them.

Certain salmon may chase the fly across the river before eating it, providing an exciting experience for spey fishermen.

Float Fishing

Float fishing is the most common technique of getting salmon in Ontario, and when done correctly with the right lines, rods and reels, and baits, it is the most productive means of capturing these salmon.

Float fishing is often done with spinning reels or centrepin reels, and when done properly with the right leader setup, it may significantly enhance salmon catch.

Centerpin Fishing

Salmon fishermen in Ontario, like steelhead anglers, use Centerpin reels and rods. Fishing using a centrepin is commonly referred to as float fishing.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing for salmon in Ontario involves a spinning reel and rod, in addition to lures, bait, and floats.

Once they join the river, their primary purpose is to migrate upstream and reproduce, making it tough to get them to eat your bait.

On the other side, salmon-like lures with bright or dazzling colors and a lot of movement.

While spin fishing, some like to throw lures such as Kwikfish, Flatfish, spinners, or minnow-like lures such as Rapalas.

I often use the same baits for salmon and steelhead, with a few exceptions.

When Mepps, Vibrax, or Panther Martin spinners are cast across and slightly downstream, reeling swiftly enough to keep the blades spinning and the lures two to three feet above the bottom.

If players do not get a strike on the first throw, they try a faster recovery or a more erratic stop-and-go retrieve to elicit a strike.

If the first effort is unsuccessful, they toss three to five feet down the river and attempt again.

This approach works on the vast majority of lures. Changing colors and lures may often mean the difference between a salmon attack and a miss.

Prepare yourself for the usually severe attacks.

Bottom Bouncing

Bottom bouncing is another method that may be successful if the angler is skilled at spotting strikes.

This technique requires time and effort to perfect, but once mastered, it has the potential to produce a huge quantity of fish.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, bottom bouncing was popular but was quickly supplanted by float fishing.

While many fishermen have switched to float fishing for salmon because it is a more effective strategy for catching salmon in larger rivers and pools, there are times when the salmon are in shallow water, rapid water, or pocket water, and bottom bouncing is the most effective method in these situations.

With the appropriate understanding and timing of the runs, doubleheader days and days with 50 to 100 hookups are possible.

What Is The Best Equipment To Use For Salmon Fishing?

What Is The Best Equipment To Use For Salmon Fishing?

While the river is loaded with salmon, fishing for Ontario salmon without the correct gear may be challenging.

It is not unusual to see many rods broken and countless fish lost due to people fishing with unsuitable gear.

Additionally, it is rather easy to discover those who are unable to catch fish due to improper gear, setup, and baits.


When it comes to the finest gear for great lake river salmon, it makes little difference whether you’re fishing with a substandard line or the improper line size.

Rod, reel, and the line must all function in unison and be specifically designed for great lakes salmon fishing.

A 10-pound mono or copolymer line is the ideal all-around fishing line for great lake salmon.

Braided line is also effective for great lake salmon, and its tiny diameter allows for usage up to a weight of 20 or 30 pounds.

If you want to float fish for most of your time, the smaller diameter 10lb line will unwind more easily from the reel and will not droop the line when held up high.

Visit my website Float Fishing For Salmon to discover how to float fish for salmon.

When the line is quite light at just ten pounds, the long poles you should use while float fishing will assist in maintaining the line.

Additionally, you may always stroll the banks of the bulk of Ontario’s rivers and the Great Lakes in search of a massive running salmon.

Occasionally, a ten-pound line is 10 pounds. The majority of manufacturers overestimate the strength of their lines, and many 10-pound lines break closer to 15lb to 20lb.

Therefore, even if you’re afraid to use a weak line like 10 pounds on 30-pound fish, your 10-pound line is stronger than you think.

With braided lines, this may be an exception.

If you like to cast lures rather than float fish, a 14lb or 16lb monofilament fishing line is appropriate.

If you’re just going to toss salmon lures, we suggest 20 to 30-pound braided lines with a short 12 to 14-pound, 2 to the 4-foot mono leader.


The fluorocarbon leader is great for salmon fishing because of its increased knot strength, transparency, and abrasion resistance.

They are all useful when targeting huge fish near rocks. Fluorocarbon leads are often used under afloat and for lure casting.

There are a few good brands that I have tested and validated with the assistance of other experienced river guides and fishermen.


Hooks are an integral part of the salmon fishing equipment. Salmon are massive, strong fish that are prone to shatter or bend improperly placed hooks.

I only use strong, high-quality hooks that have a firm grip on the fish.

Additionally, the correct size must be used. A hook that is too small may not hook the fish correctly, will not grip enough flesh, and will pull away.

An overly big hook may be spotted and avoided by the fish.


Lures have the potential to be great salmon bait. You want to use ones that salmon like eating, as well as ones that will not break or bend on a huge fish.

Lures of inferior quality are unsuccessful against huge salmon. Salmon are drawn to brightly colored, erratic-moving lures.


If your net is too big to hang from the back of your jacket or fishing vest, you will need to carry it by hand, which will require leaving it onshore while you wade out into the water.

The problem is that after you’ve snagged that giant 25 or 35-pound salmon and it decides to go a half-mile downstream, your net isn’t with you; it’s on the bank several hundred yards upstream.

Even if you were able to return to the bank while fighting the fish, you would have to carry it in one hand while fighting the fish in the other, which may be a problem at times.

Alternatively, you may get a far smaller and lighter net that you can wear on your back and bring with you everywhere you go.

The downside of these nets is that they are substantially smaller and often incapable of containing and drawing a complete salmon from the water.


Final Thoughts

It is possible to have a nice salmon fishing experience in Ontario if you know where to go, what to use, and how to fish for them effectively.

Hopefully, this knowledge has been useful to you in your pursuit of some more monster fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Legal To Fish For Salmon?

Snagging salmon is illegal. Snagging is a phrase that refers to snagging the salmon somewhere else other than the mouth.

Unfortunately, some fishermen like to wait in shallow sections and rapids between 12 and 20 inches deep for the salmon to come up before taking their 7-foot pole with 30-pound strength and large treble hooks and repeatedly swinging that hook at the salmon until they capture it.

If these individuals took the time to learn how to properly fish for salmon, they would almost certainly catch 10 times the number of salmon lawfully.

Snagging is illegal in Ontario! Please do not be a salmon snagging idiot; there are many more effective and legal ways to capture salmon.

Can You Eat River Salmon?

Salmon may be edible if caught within a day or two after entering a river.

They say that after the salmon enter the river, their bodies undergo changes that cause the flesh to become softer and less substantial, and that it is thus not advisable to ingest them if they get excessively dark and beat up.

If they have spent a lengthy amount of time in the river, most anglers notice that they do not taste as good and the meat does not have the same texture as if they were caught in a lake.

When Is The Best Time For Salmon Fishing In Ontario?

Anglers are lured to the aggressive, acrobatic, and plentiful salmon, but when is the optimum time to fish for salmon in Ontario and the neighboring great lakes?

On the majority of rivers, the salmon season concludes on September 30th, when the trout season closes; however, some rivers have longer seasons and year-round fishing.

If you want to fish for Ontario salmon after September 30th, it is essential to review the Ontario Fishing Regulations.

I propose fishing during the week or taking a riverboat-guided tour in less-pressured water to avoid the throng and enjoy the greatest salmon fishing in September.

Weekends are sometimes the most congested and inconvenient times of year to fish many major rivers.

What Do Salmon Eat-In Rivers?

Although it was traditionally thought that salmon ceased eating once they entered rivers, new research on salmon confirms what I have been claiming for years: that certain salmon ingest food throughout the spawning process.

Even when they are not hungry, salmon will hit a fly, lure, or bait out of habit, instinct, or animosity, and on some days, fishermen catch a big number of salmon.

When Do Salmon Spawn In Ontario?

Several days after entering the river, some salmon will begin spawning.

They will start their spawning ritual if they have traveled far enough up the river to reach suitable spawning habitat and found a mate.

They often spawn in a range of habitats and with a range of partners.

Once the salmon reach shallow water much farther upstream and begin spawning, they normally will not eat or hit your bait, and it is recommended that you avoid fishing for salmon on spawning beds.

Salmon also use a great deal of energy spawning, rendering them unsuitable to fight. Allowing them to breed and produce salmon for years to come is desirable.

What Happens To Salmon After They Spawn?

After spawning, all Pacific Ocean salmon, including Chinook, Coho, and pink salmon, die.

Atlantic salmon are indigenous to the Atlantic Ocean and are capable of spawning several times over a several-year span.

Chinook and Coho salmon die after spawning as a natural part of their life cycle and to benefit their young.

The decomposing flesh of the dying fish contributes nutrients to the river and may be ingested, giving important nutrients to newly hatched young salmon.

Salmon flesh is also eaten by aquatic insects, which are eaten by young salmon.

Since adult salmon perish and do not return to the ocean, the number of baitfish accessible to young salmon in the ocean or great lakes increases.

Adult salmon mortality contributes to their young progeny’s survival and a healthy life cycle.

What Are The Best Baits For Ontario Salmon?

Once you’ve determined what salmon will eat upon entering the river, you’ll need to discover the most effective methods and baits.

The plastic worm, spawn bag, trout bead, and fly are the four most effective salmon baits in Ontario rivers.

These baits are available in a range of sizes and colors and should always be fished properly and with the right presentation.

Men often use the right baits yet catch no fish.

The fundamental fact, that I’ve learned from coaching over 3000 fishermen, is that people make mistakes with their leader setup, or they use the wrong gear, or they don’t grasp how to properly show their bait to tempt the salmon to eat it, or they do all of the above.

Leave a Reply