Whitby Harbour Pikefest – Episode 473

This Fish’n Canada episode is about going fishing with an open mind and being ready for the unexpected.


It’s early fall, a time when fish species are about to make some life changes—and sometimes drastically. Lake and Speckled Trout, as well as Chinook Salmon, commence their spawning rituals; Largemouth and Smallmouth start their end of season migrations; big muskie seem to appear out of nowhere and throw on the feedbag. It’s a great time to be on the water.

On this show, Pete was fishing close to home in the Whitby Harbour, one of the many Lake Ontario harbours along the Greater Toronto Area. There’s a bit of incoming water there which should draw in some fish activity.

“I’m here with the assumption that the species list consists of Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth, and Pike,” says Pete. “And since it’s late in the season, there’s the possibility of Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon.

“Although I could have trolled the entire area covering it in no time at all,” continues Pete, “I chose to cast it. That way I could hit little areas that would be impossible to access via trolling.”

Pete’s lure choices would be spoons, spinners and minnow-baits as his base presentations, as these are great choices for a variety of fish. As for gear, he ran a long 9’ Carrot Stix spinning rod as his main rig in case he hooked into a beast. He also chose a relatively light fluorocarbon leader since he was after numbers of fish and not a specific species like Pike. It was a chance he was willing to take.


Pete’s first fish encounter of the day was a smashing strike between the docks. But the fish didn’t hook up. He looked over his hooks to see if they were sharp and indeed they were. That was it for his lure check—but it wasn’t enough. On his very next cast, his spoon simply fell off during the retrieve. Upon Pete’s next inspection, he found his cross-locking snap opened up by that previous fish’s jaws. Amateur hour!


When fishing in harbours or creek and river mouths where Salmon, Pike, and Bass reside, always try to go to the heavy side of your gear rather than light. Even though the water will probably be clear, it’s worth spooking a couple fish in a day knowing that the insurance of heavy equipment will ultimately pay off with more hooked fish. These areas are notorious for having wood and steel and skegs and so on—perfect areas for a big fish to wrap your line.

“I’d recommend starting with twenty to thirty-pound braid as a minimum,” Pete says. “And use only heavy duty cross-lock snap/swivel combos if you’re chucking spinners and spoons.

“That said, if you are not getting any strikes and you’re pretty sure it’s to due to your heavy line and terminal tackle, then, and only then, should you consider going lighter. That ends up usually being a fluorocarbon leader.”


The beauty of harbour areas like the one Pete is in today is the number of game-fish species that reside here year-round. A trip to a place like this Whitby location is ultimately not about just Salmon or just Pike or just Bass; it’s about setting the hook on anything that is hungry or just feeling aggressive. And that’s the true definition of fishing.


Pete worked his way to the back of the harbour, essentially looking for cleaner water. What he found stunned him. Salmon after Salmon jumping out of the water, but none would bite his spoons (he tried many), spinners or minnow-baits. After what seemed like hundreds of casts, finally, a fish took a whack at the spoon. Of course, there was still no hookup, and the fish escaped.

“Wow, this is nuts,” says Pete. “I’m getting my butt handed to me in my newfound Salmon asylum. It’s crazy. I’ve got no problem with that, though. My Pikers will keep me sane.”

And back to the Pike he went.


There’s a number of harbour or creek areas along the GTA corridor that have a significant population of various fish species. Although Pete was fishing here in the fall, here’s a little lowdown of what to expect throughout the season.

  • Starting to the west, Frenchman’s Bay in Pickering has a great population of Pike, Largemouth Bass and Carp, along with some Salmon in the fall. It also has the odd Trout in spring and fall. We’d say it’s the cold water Pike fishing here that’s the #1 game in this town. Look for weeds near the deepest water. There’s limited shore access and a boat launch in Pickering Village at the marina.
  • The Whitby Harbour, which Pete was fishing on this shoot, obviously has a late Salmon run, as well as Northern Pike, Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Carp. There are also some Brown and Rainbow Trout in spring and fall. Fishing for big Salmon in three to six feet of this soft, silty weed-infested still water is pretty mind-blowing. This harbour has limited shore access and a very good boat launch.
  • Oshawa Harbour gets a nice run of Chinook Salmon, as well as some big Brown Trout come late August and deep into the fall. The Oshawa Creek is the big draw here. It has a nice run of Rainbow Trout in the spring, and during the summer there’s Carp, plus Large- and Smallmouth Bass. There’s a nice resident population of Pike here as well. The Oshawa Harbour has shore access along the west pier but, as of writing of this piece, the harbour boat launch is closed.
  • Bowmanville Creek is last on this eastward moving list. The Harbour and mouth area have a very large fall Salmon run, as well as some Brown and Rainbow Trout. The spring has a really good Rainbow run and, during the warmer months, there are Carp, Largemouth and some Smallmouth. Although we’ve never caught a Pike there, be assured: If they are in the previous harbours, they’re probably in Bowmanville as well! During the fall there is good shore access, as well as a great boat launch nearby.

Remember, these are just four of the many harbours and tributaries that dot the Great Lakes, all of which have fantastic potential for multi-species angling. Please respect the other boaters, marinas and general users of these areas.


Pete’s day ended with a great catch of Pike, including a hefty 16-18 pounder—a true trophy fish for southern Ontario.

He did not end up catching any Chinook even though he knew, with all the mayhem around him, the area was full of Salmon.

Guess that means another trip next fall!



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