Sunrise while urban carp fishing on Rideau

Top Five Urban Carp Fishing Spots in Ontario

When I first became obsessed with carp fishing seven years ago (with a particular interest in urban carp fishing), it was mainly due to their enormity and endurance. However, I feel there is something to be said about the sport’s accessibility. 

Being a university student, money seldom stayed in my pockets for long. At the time, I was an avid angler—albeit not an overly skilled one—and had been for over fifteen years. I was a multi-species angler looking to expand my horizons whenever an opportunity presented itself. 

Well, seven years ago, while wandering the shore of Peterborough’s Little Lake, I met a gentleman named John Bernier. John was nicknamed “The Macaroni Man” because he used Kraft Dinner cheese powder and noodles in his carp bait concoctions. He was an approachable individual, and I credit him with introducing me to the incredibly addicting sport of carp fishing. 

Right out of the gate, I fished what is considered by many in Ontario as a carp Mecca, Peterborough’s Little Lake. This urban carp fishing was my introduction to the sport, and it really solidified the notion that one could enjoy angling without the luxury of a boat—and sometimes right in the middle of the city. 

Making Fishing Inclusive

Since those early days, I have always had an appreciation for urban/inner-city fishing. As an educator, an angler and an avid conservationist, I feel that there is value in making angling as inclusive as possible. By doing this, we stand a better chance at having more eyes on the front lines to report injustice while providing a meaningful connection to nature, producing conservationists and environmental stewards with a sense of responsibility to look after our ecosystems. 

So, how can we do this? Well, one solution I have posed is to showcase fishing not at an expensive fly-in lodge, but rather right in the heart of the city. This is something the Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors and the MNRF’s Learn to Fish program have done very well.

Last year, I aligned myself with the Urban Carp Collective, a worldwide community of anglers who showcase the potential for urban waters—with an emphasis, of course, on urban carp fishing. Many of the members have videos of them riding their bikes to little park lakes in their surrounding area and landing some remarkable fish. It just goes to show that without the luxury of a boat, or even a car, one can experience world-class fishing. Until 2017, I enjoyed this amazing sport without a vehicle of my own, relying on the ole heel-toe express—and you can, too.

In no particular order, here are my Top Five Urban Carp Fishing Destinations in Ontario:

Top Five Urban Carp Fishing Spots | 1. The Toronto Islands | Toronto, Ontario

Fish’n Canada co-host Pete Bowman holds up one of his first ever “targeted” carp. This fish was taken from the shores of Center Island in Toronto. At the time, carp expert Len Perdic felt this fish was close to a Canadian record.

Toronto is, without question, one of the greatest hotspots for urban carp fishing in Ontario. The number of swims that one could fish along the Toronto and GTA waterfront is endless, but we will focus on one particularly attractive hotspot, The Toronto Islands

Located a short ferry ride from the heart of Toronto’s harbourfront, this is a truly stunning urban park. The archipelago is loaded with features for the whole family, including theatres, beaches, bicycle and kayak rentals, a small zoo and even amusement rides! Made up of fifteen interconnected islands joined by bridges and pathways, The Toronto Islands Park has many small lagoons, ponds and channels, which are hotspots for big carp. 

It isn’t uncommon for fish in excess of thirty pounds to be spotted and captured here. But water access is plenty, so pack light and be willing to move around. Too often, carp anglers (myself included) put all of our eggs in one basket, hunker down in a swim all day, and are unwilling to move to another location that could present more bite opportunities. 

With the numerous features the islands have to offer, I recommend a smaller, lighter “stalking” set up (eight- to nine-foot rods), baiting up a few promising swims, and running a rig and bait you are confident in. Then, wait to see where the fish feel most comfortable feeding. Just remember, you are at the mercy of the ferry schedules, so plan your trip accordingly!

Top Five Urban Carp Fishing Spots | 2. Rideau River and Canal | Ottawa, Ontario

Did you know that near Ottawa there lies a small village called Carp? And a river runs through it called the Carp River? Can you take a wild guess as to why these names were chosen? If you guessed that it was from the abundance of carp found in the Ottawa River and its many tributaries, then yes, you are spot on! 

Our nation’s capital, rich in heritage, culture and gorgeous architecture, hosts some stunning backdrops for urban carp fishing. The Rideau Canal is a popular place for ice skating and Beaver Tails during the winter months, but have you ever thought about wetting a line for some carp there during the warmer months? Perhaps these photos will put the thought in your head!

Stunning Waterways

Ottawa’s Rideau River and Canal are stunning waterways with several green spaces and parks backing onto them. The hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle is mere meters from where you sit with your traps set. Because there are so many attractions and institutions like Carleton University found on the canal and riverfront, public transportation is abundant. So navigating and exploring potential swims is much easier for those without access to their own vehicle. 

As with approaching any new water, be sure to introduce bait into a few prospecting swims to determine where the fish are most confident feeding. With a system like the Rideau, there is a great deal of water for these fish to navigate. It’s common for carp to require a few days of consistent offerings before they finally view a location as one worth hanging around in. 

Continue to Page 2 for the last three of Will’s Top Five Urban Carp Fishing Spots in Ontario. 

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