Top 5 Opening Day Trout Rivers in Ontario

by Pete Bowman

Top 5 Trout Rivers

With trout fishing season just around the corner (at the time of this writing), avid anglers are getting their gear readied up for the first major opener of the year. This is the perfect time to introduce new anglers to some of the world’s best Trout Rivers (Great Lakes) that Ontario has to offer.

Remember, these are classed as “rivers” and not creeks or streams, they’re in a whole other category.


Steelhead fishing success is like all other fishing, an angler needs to be prepared to the best of their abilities.

Spawn or roe under a float or drifted with some weight is the #1 (or at least most popular) Steelhead bait, hands down “but” other presentations like flies, beads, small pink plastic worms, spoons, spinners etc. all have their place.

The latest trend with avid Steelheaders is the use of a centrepin reel. These indeed help with a natural looking presentation however they are not 100% necessary. You don’t NEED a Bass boat to catch Bass, it just helps the cause.

Long and limber rods are more important than the type of reel you are using. A 10 foot + Steelhead rod will allow you to use lines down to a mere 3- or 4-pound test (5, 6 or 7 is a good starting point for those less experienced).

Sharp good quality hooks on whatever presentation you’re using and it’s off to the river.

So, get the vehicle filled with gas, pack a lunch, grab the waders and the fishing gear and head out to one of the following Trout rivers nearest to you (remember your fishing license and not to wet a line before midnight on the opening eve).



We featured the Ganaraska in our top shore-access web article and for good reason. It’s a Steelhead attracting machine. We also featured it in a past Fish’n Canada episode.

It flows through the Ganaraska Forest and ends up emptying into Lake Ontario through the town of Port Hope.

The “Ganny” arguably has the highest number of migrating spring Steelhead/Rainbow trout run in the province (depending on the year). There’s quite a variance in numbers in the last 25 years ranging from less than 4,000 to over 18,000 fish. That averages approximately 11,000 Steelhead per year for that time span. Not bad, considering those are the fish that get over the fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam.


There is lots of public water along the Ganaraska however there are lots of anglers there as well. Best to get there extremely early and then take a break once the crowds set in.

Here’s what a Spring Fishway Study looks like.

Here’s the regulations.


The “Notty” as it is referred to by locals is a phenomenal trout river in a gorgeous part of the province. It’s a very long river with many tributaries making it one of the best rivers in the province for numbers of fish entering every spring (often rivaling the Ganaraska numbers). It flows from the Orangeville Reservoir and empties into Georgian Bay.

Records show the first ever Ontario Steelhead was recorded from this river.

Another fantastic nearby Trout river is the Bighead, however since it’s close in proximity to the Nottawasaga, we chose the latter of the two.

The Ontario record Steelhead weighing 29.12 lbs. was caught by Russell Kenwell on May 13, 1975 and guess where it was taken; from the mouth of the Nottawasaga River.

Here’s some good Notty info from a dedicated group for you to look at

Here’s the regulations.


The Credit River is another one of the great Trout rivers in southern Ontario. It flows from its headwaters above the Niagara Escarpment near Orangeville and Caledon East and empties into Lake Ontario at Port Credit, Mississauga.

Its headwaters start above the Niagara Escarpment near Orangeville and Caledon East to empty into Lake Ontario at Port Credit, Mississauga. It is a huge river when talking “total” length (over 1,500 kilometres or 930 miles, tributaries included)

This is an extremely popular fishing destination due to its easy accessibility from Toronto.

Check out this page from the Credit River Anglers Association (CRAA) a group dedicated to the preservation of the Credit River watershed and the animals and fish which live there.

Along with a great Steelhead run, the Credit is phenomenal for Salmon as well as a multitude of other species.

Here’s the regulations.


The Saugeen River starts in the Osprey Wetland Conservation Lands and ultimately flows into Lake Huron. It encompasses a huge watershed and is one of the longest rivers in southern Ontario. There is a total of 21 dams along this popular fishing river. The most “popular” Steelhead area of the river is what’s referred to as the “Lower Main” below Denny’s Dam.

Locals call this river the “Geen”.

Because of the sheer size of the river as well as all the obstructing dams, the Ontario Steelheaders and the Lake Huron Fishing Club in cooperation with the Ontario MNRF, have carried out successful stocking programs. Many yearling Steelhead are brought into upper Saugeen River and have attributed to an extremely successful spawn.

The Saugeen could well be the #1 TLC rated river in the province due to the dedicated work done by passionate anglers.

Here’s the regulations.


The Nipigon? For Steelhead? You bet!

This is the Sleeper of the group. The Nipigon is known for its world class Brook Trout fishing however, there’s a lot more to this amazing river than just Brookies.

Starting at Lake Nipigon, the river flows south and exits into Nipigon Bay in Lake Superior. There are 3 hydroelectric dams located throughout the rivers length which are the Cameron Falls Dam, Alexander Dam, and the Pine Portage Dam (where Pete shot a spectacular Brook Trout episode).

All fish species of the Nipigon seem to grow big, from Brook Trout, to Chinook Salmon, to Lake Trout, to Northern Pike and of course to Steelhead/Rainbow Trout.

Most fishing takes place at Alexander Dam, located up the Pine Portage Road, but Rainbow Trout fishing is also excellent from the river mouth all the way to the town of Nipigon and beyond. This is not only a great river to fish from shore, but it is excellent if you have a boat (getting you to those harder to reach areas).

While on a trip to Bowman Island Lodge for a Brook Trout adventure, Angelo and Pete made a series of stops along the lower stretch of the Nipigon and hit a few feeder creek-mouths that were chocked full of spunky Steelhead. The Nipigon is a heck of a good Trout River!

Here’s the regulations.


Well there you have it, another Top 5 suggestion from the Fish’n Canada crew. We hope you get the chance to hit up some of these great Trout Rivers this year! As we’ve said in previous Top 5 articles, these are just a small number of suggestions that we have put forward. There are so many more top-notch rivers in this Steelhead rich province.

Do some studying and we’re sure you’ll be able to come up with another astounding Top 5 of your own.

Best of luck Steelheading this season!

For more Ontario fishing destinations, go to:

Leave a Reply