Top 5 Canadian Bass Lakes

To run parallel to Angelo’s recent and very technical bass piece, I thought I’d tackle the question of where to find bass by providing a list of some of my favourite bass lakes to fish throughout Canada. I do realize that his article focused primarily on Largemouth Bass, but I had to include some Smallmouth waters as well. These aren’t my only favourites, they are merely some of the favourites that I highly recommend.

When I can catch a mixed bag of Canadian Smallmouth and Largemouth during the early fall, my Bass fishing season seems so complete

I’ve also included an extra in the mix as an honourable mention. It’s a lake that I’ve fished for only a day—but it was a great day!

Starting west and moving east:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. has amazing bass lakes throughout much of the province. There are both Largemouth and Smallmouth. To be honest, of the entire country, British Columbia has the absolute best climate to grow BIG BASS.

Vancouver Island alone has over 20 bass lakes to boast about. And although it may be the best concentration of waterbodies for bass, my B.C. pick isn’t from there. The Canadian desert area of the Okanagan Valley is my area of choice, and Osoyoos Lake is the beast that harbours the beasts (both Largemouth and Smallmouth).

Osoyoos is approximately 18 kilometres (11 miles) long, has 46 kilometres (29 miles) of shoreline, and 5,729 acres of water. It is situated mostly in B.C., but a portion sits in Washington State.

Since this area is designated as a desert, the water temperatures in the heat of the summer can reach 26-33 Celsius. Great for Largemouth, not so much for Smallmouth. But remember, that’s surface temps. Smallmouth Bass are as instinctive a creature as anything alive. They will find deeper, cooler water. To add to the sweltering surface temps, Osoyoos has zero shade protection along its shorelines. It truly is a unique-looking body of water.

Ang with British Columbia Bass
Angelo with a great British Columbia bass, back in 2007.

Nothing Short of Fantastic

We had the honour of fishing here back in 2007 and it was nothing short of fantastic. Ang did a piece on the oxbows at the north end of the lake (unique on its own), and then another in the main part of the lake. On that main lake portion, the Smallmouth back then were giants. I cannot imagine what they’re like today!

Ang and his little homemade bass boat (a 14’ Princecraft Fisherman) puttered along with a little electric Motorguide and proceeded to beat up big smallie after big smallie.

The icing on the cake during this trip was when Ang walked to the bank of the lake back at the boat launch, saw what he thought was a giant Largemouth, cast out and brought in one of his biggest Canadian bass ever! It had those bugged-out eyes and we all swore it was a six-pounder!

Angelo Viola with a British Columbia bass.
Ang proudly displays his “bank-beast” that he caught while sneaking along the shoreline of Osoyoos Lake. Check out those buggy eyes!

SASKATCHEWAN

As we have now said many times: Yes, there are bass in Saskatchewan. In the southern portion of the province, just outside of the town of Estevan, is a man-made body of water that is picture-perfect for bass habitat. It’s called Boundary Dam Reservoir. The reason I feel it’s perfect is the constant, warm water temperatures.

The reservoir was created to aid in cooling the generators that run the local power plant. The water is pumped in from the reservoir through the pump house. It’s then piped through a cooling system in, over and around the hard-working and extremely hot generators and ultimately discharged (at a much warmer temperature than when it was sucked in) back where it came from. It’s an age-old cooling system that still works today. It also keeps a body of water warmer than normal for the area. This warm discharged water creates a phenomenal year-round environment for Largemouth Bass.

Flatland Largies

Boundary Dam Reservoir has an excellent population of Largemouth. I visited the area back in 2012 with my special guest Keith Beasley from Canada In The Rough. Here, we shot two fish-filled, fantastic Largemouth Bass episodes. One at the north end, the other at the south. Both were quite different in surroundings and, as well, in the techniques used to catch the fish.

Keith Beasley and Pete Bowman with a Saskatchewan Bass.
Canada In The Rough’s Keith Beasley smashed this beauty on the jig while I was smashing a sandwich into my yap. Ya snooze, ya lose, Bowman. Well done, Beasley!

The north end is weedy and quite typical of Largemouth water. We found that Jig & Pigs were the #1 answer to our “What do you think these flatland largies will hit?” question.

As for the deeper south end, dropshotting five-inch soft stick baits was the deal.

Boundary Dam Reservoir is a great place for Saskatchewanians to get out and try their hands at catching this unique, acrobatic and extremely popular gamefish species.

ONTARIO

Although Ontario boasts several world-class bass lakes, I’m going to choose one that’s somewhat centrally located and one that certainly can’t be argued as to its output of big fish. With Erie being on the west side of the province, Lake Ontario’s eastern basin obviously being to the east, Lake of the Woods being well to the north, I think that Lake Simcoe should fit the bill for this piece.

Simcoe is a massive body of water. It has an area of 744 km², an average depth of 15 metres (49 feett) and a maximum depth of 41 metres (135 feet). That equals LARGE! Although it may not look all that big on a map, as soon as you tuck the bow of your boat out of the protected boat launch and into the main lake, you’ll soon notice that you can’t even see the other side!

Phenomenal Simcoe Smallies

Speaking of large, there are Largemouth Bass in Simcoe—and some great ones for sure. But honestly, they pale in comparison to the Smallmouth. Simcoe smallies are a phenomenon. Check out any bass tournament weigh-in on Simcoe. If someone comes in with 22 pounds of smallies, they would be lucky to break the top twenty on some days. That’s over a four-pound average for five fish!

In the late fall, they’re even bigger!

I will warn you, however. Lake Simcoe gets angry in a hurry. I’ve seen a perfectly calm morning turn into an ocean-like afternoon that had me barking curse words on every third wave! Be careful out there and pick your days with wind in mind.

Pete Bowman with a Lake Simcoe Bass
I remember this Simcoe giant well. The damned digital scales said 5.99! I’m serious, not .0 or .00 or .000… but point-nine-nine. Are you frigging kidding me? BTW, I’ll take these any day.

That said, on the right day and in the right area, 10-20 Smallmouth from 3-5 pounds is as realistic as it gets. If your personal best is a 5.75 and you’re looking to better it, Simcoe is the spot!

If you want to witness a great day of smallie fishing on Simcoe with that 5.99 (pictured above) which, by the way, I caught on a suspending jerkbait, go here.

CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE EXCEPTIONAL CANADIAN BASS LAKES.

26 Responses

  1. Hey! What y’all all talkin’, homey? You sayin’ the “Top 5 Canadian Bass Lakes” hangin’ parallel to Angelo’s recent and very smokin’ bass piece is the only thing goin’ down north of the 49th. parallel ? Well, how ’bout I lays one on ya, kinda perpendicular like?

    Ya’ll forgot about the most “Top Secret Canadian Bass Lake” in these parts. Yup, I talkin’ the prestigious and prolific BASS LAKE itself up on Manitoulin Island in Ontario Canada. Yeah that’s the name, BASS LAKE! You ain’t seen nothin’ until you sample the bonanza of this watery oasis.

    There’s more to Bass Lake than bass. The lake boasts a surprising variety of species, as well as a unique mix of terrain and tradition.

    Located just west of the village of Sheguiandah, Bass Lake indeed has bass, both large mouth and small mouth. But it also has Pike, Pickerel, Perch, Blue Gill, and most remarkably: Muskellunge. It is, in fact, Manitoulin’s only inland lake to support the coveted game fish, famous for its feistiness and size.

    The north shore of the lake is checkered with farms, some still operated by the same families who settled here well over a century ago. Broad green fields roll lazily back from the shoreline towards a limestone bluff, and tractors, in the summer months, chug slowly across them, cutting the first hay of the summer.

    The south shore, by contrast, is densely wooded, mostly uninhabited, and punctuated, in two places, by striking outcroppings of white quartzite. These peaks, along with a similar outcropping in the village of Sheguiandah, where an ancient quarry was discovered in the 1950’s, represent the only examples of this stark granitic landscape to be found on Manitoulin Island.

    Most of the south shore is owned by Sheguiandah First Nation, members of whom continue to utilize the land in the same manner as their ancestors. “There is still some medicine that we get from there,” notes Noman Aguonie, “and we have a sugar bush that has been used for generations.” In the spring, First Nation families boil sap in a cast iron pot suspended over a fire. The sugar bush is also noteworthy for harboring a monster maple that was deemed the largest on Manitoulin in the early 1990’s when the late Grant Garrett and the Manitoulin Nature Club held a biggest tree contest.

    If there was a biggest fish contest, Bass Lake would probably figure as well: Mike Sprack of Manitowaning once caught a 36-pound muskie here, and about 25 years ago, Kirby Burnett reeled in a 28-pounder while fishing with his cousin Amy Burnett. Mr. Burnett’s behemoth stretched four feet in length, a third the length of the 12-foot rowboat he was fishing from. To land it, Mr. Burnett says he “hit it over the head with the paddle.”

    The Burnett family goes back five generations on Bass Lake. Kirby’s uncle Blake Burnett still farms the property that was settled by his great-grandparents in 1875. The farmer doesn’t fish much himself, being generally busy with his beef cattle operation. Yes, Bass Lake itself might look tame and peaceful, but the surrounding hills remain fairly wild. Mr. Burnett has seen many bears and once, several years ago now, a pair of moose. For anyone who travels Northern Ontario, a moose is not an unusual sight, of course, but it’s highly unusual for Manitoulin. “Those were the first ones I ever saw anywhere on the Island,” Mr. Burnett notes.

    Muskie are unusual for the Island too, but they thrive here in Bass Lake. Mr. Sprack has spent many pleasurable evenings on Bass Lake. Many, many evenings. “Through the latter part of the ‘70s and all of the ‘80s, I would spend four to five nights a week at Bass Lake,” he says. “It’s a beautiful little lake and puts out a lot of muskie for its size. It’s deceptive, looking at it.” Just a mile and a quarter long, Bass Lake doesn’t look like it would support many muskie, but it reaches depths of 40-feet-plus, according to Mr. Sprack, and “it’s a basin lake, with no shoals. Basically, you can run around it all day and not hit any rocks.

    Muskie have frequented the lake for decades. Cliff Lewis, an old-timer with whom Mr. Sprack spoke at one time, “told me that they’d been here in this lake for as long as he could remember, and he fished in the 1930s. Mr. Sprack concedes that fingerlings were stocked in the 1970s, but he describes it as a “reintroduction, a way to strengthen the gene pool. I find it hard to believe that they would have stocked muskie prior to the 1930s.”

    His assumption is that the muskie “migrated up the creek (Bass Lake Creek, which runs from the lake to Sheguiandah Bay) before it was damned.” Now, in summer months anyway, the creek is not much more than a trickle, but conveying muskie up from the big water wasn’t its only function in the old days. It once powered three mills, a grist mill, a sawmill and a woolen mill.

    “The grist mill was at the headwaters of the creek, where it leaves Bass Lake,” a local historian says, “It was torn down (in 1958) when they were working on Highway 6. The late Alec Murray, who lived just west of the creek outlet on Bass Lake, and whose family operated Manitoulin Gardens, a fresh produce and flower business, for many years, said it’s a real shame that the mill was torn down. “It was three storeys, with a log frame. It could’ve been a real tourist attraction.

    Tourists should still be attracted to Bass Lake, though, Anglers, especially, will enjoy testing its waters, for muskie, of course, but also for bass or perch or pickerel, or for pike, the muskie’s cousin. Just make sure you know the difference. Mr. Sprack notes that muskie and pike are often confused, and since there is a minimum size requirement for muskie, 32 inches, this can be a problem because a person might land a smaller fish they believe is a pike, when it’s really a muskie.

    The Sudbury chapter of Muskie Canada has recently posted an identification sign at the Bass Lake public boat launch, located at the end of Russell Street, near the intersection of Highway 6 and the Townline Road. It gets a bit complicated, since pike and muskellunge can cross-breed, but Mr. Sprack stresses that the hybrid is still considered a muskie, and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference: pike have white spots, but neither muskie nor hybrid muskie do.

    If fishing isn’t your scene, there are other ways to experience Bass Lake, notably an excellent hiking trails: the “Lewis Twin Peaks Trail”, leaves from a pullover spot on the west side of Highway 6, just south of the bridge over Bass Lake Creek. Named for the access it provides to the two quartzite peaks that loom above the lake’s southeast shore (as opposed to the creepy, short-lived David Lynch TV series of the same name) this two-kilometre trail is well worth experiencing.

    Another, admittedly lazier, option is to simply drive along the Townline Road. Doing so, you’ll see the lake spreading out to the south, its surface shimmering in the sun, a fishing boat or two (or, more rarely, 10) relieved against the rippled water.

    There are interesting buildings to see too, such as the Quonset hut (now a residence) that used to be Sheguiandah hockey arena (and home of the Sheg Bears, a team that apparently won a few trophies in its day), and the old Howland municipal building, which used to be a schoolhouse. The late John Dunlop, who lived on the south side of nearby Pike Lake, used to drive a horse and cutter across the lake in winter to reach the school, and members of the Atkinson clan were known to skate across on occasion.

    While driving, or hiking, or fishing around Bass Lake, expect more than the obvious. Bass Creek, where it runs out of the lake that gives it its name and down to Sheguiandah Bay, was completely rehabilitated as a walleye/ pickerel spawning ground a few years ago by the Little Current Fish and Game Club and the Island wide environment organization, Manitoulin Streams. Rocks were placed “just so” in the water to slow down the current and to make the way easier for spawning fish to fight their way up stream. The creek was designed for pickerel but other spawning fishy species find the improvements useful too in their reproductive lives.

    Significant tourist attractions just downstream are the reproduction Batman’s Mill (on historic grist mill recreated and a real photo-op for visitors) and nearby Bass Creek is a raised viewing platform that provides a fish eye view up and down the stream with all of its underwater improvements within view. In the spring, you can also watch the spawning pickerel/ walleye making use of these man-made improvements as they rush to reproduce.

    So, what y’all talkin’ about Homey?! Bass Lake up on Manitoulin Island is certainly one of “The Top 5 Canadian Bass Lakes” —- make that 6 on Highway 6!

    1. Well Cal, yet another epic response that I have to thank you for. I have only fished the island once and I loved it. Great fishing, great atmosphere.

      Am I to assume that Bass Lake has a public launch (sounded like that in your post)? You talked a bunch about the long, lean fish but not much about the subject at hand, the ones with the mouth descriptions in their names.

      BTW y’all’ there ain’t no Pickerel that I’ve heard up there, but they-all’ have a good brood of Walleye!!!

      1. Well, it is not much of a public boat launch at the end of Russell Street, but it will get you in the water. Lots of Large Mouth and Small Mouth Bass in Bass Lake. Actually too many to mention or even count accurately. I have seen first hand people limiting out on all species in just an hour or so. The so called “Grand Slam”. As for Pickerel, they definitely there in abundance. Bass Lake receives very low fishing pressure, so the varieties of fish are very prolific.

  2. Some great fishing spots for bass and Canada has some of the best fishing ing the world in many species but I think bass is the big one when you I include small mouth and big mouth. Living in Alberta for the past 45 years I miss the bass fishing when I was in Ontario I fished with my grandfather a lotto and he unloved bass fishing so we fished sepimcoe summer and winter along with the rivers and for me it was the walleye fishing in the Ottawa river and red cedar lake system in the north , not much for bass fishing here in Alberta but the walleye and pike fishing is good another great show and I enjoyed it immensely thanks pete

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Top 5 Canadian Bass Lakes

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