In today’s post, Outdoor Canada Associate Editor Scott Gardner shares his love and experience with kayak fishing. All photographs below are copyright Scott Gardner.
On a clear summer afternoon, I paddled around a point on Six Mile Lake, guided my boat through a jumble of rocks, and slid into a long, shallow bay. At no more than 18 inches deep and covered in lily pads, it was perfect habitat for largemouth bass.
Even better, the propeller-killing rock barrier made it unlikely that any serious fishing boat would ever try this place. As my kayak floated silently to the edge of the brush, I cast my lure deep into the lily field. I tossed it across the surface twice and, with an impressive splash, it was ambushed by a largemouth bass the size of a football.
Scott’s Football-Sized Bass
That largemouth was my biggest bass of the 2016 season, and one of the biggest of all time! And that afternoon shows exactly why there’s nothing better than a kayak when it comes to fishing in Ontario’s parks.
As associate editor of canada outdoors magazine, I have had the opportunity to fish in remote locations across Canada. But when I have a few days off, one of my favorite adventures is still kayak fishing in one of my favorite parks in Ontario.
In fact, last summer I went on about 10 camping trips and day trips to five different parks. This is why:
1. Kayaks are fantastic fishing machines.
If your only kayak experience is an old clunker at summer camp, you may have questions about kayak fishing. But modern kayaks, particularly sit-on-top designs, which resemble a surfboard with a molded seat and cockpit, are very stable and safe. They are also economical.
Kayaks are also easy to transport and store, which is essential for an outdoor enthusiast like me who lives in an apartment in downtown Toronto.
I know canoes share some of these attributes, but at the risk of sounding un-Canadian, kayaks simply outperform canoes when it comes to fishing. With their shorter length and low freeboard, yaks are more maneuverable and much easier to control in the wind or by paddling solo.
And if you’re a little handy, it’s easy to outfit kayaks with accessories like rod holders, tackle compartments, and even sonar/GPS units.
Kayak Fishing in Bon Echo Provincial Park
Obviously, kayaks lack the speed and range of motorboats, but you can compensate for that by launching them anywhere since you don’t need a boat ramp. Kayaks can also reach areas that other boats can’t, like the bay I mentioned earlier.
A few words about safety…
Like any small boat, a kayak offers some risk. But if sensible precautions are taken, that risk becomes negligible. Even if you know how to swim like a salmon, you should always wear a PFD. And kayaks must carry the safety equipment required by federal boating regulations, including a manual bailer or bilge pump, a waterline, and an audible signaling device, such as a whistle.
I also highly recommend that kayak anglers use a paddle leash, a lightweight cord that secures the paddle to the boat. Recreational kayakers rarely lose gear overboard, but when you’re distracted fighting and reeling in a fish, it’s easier than you think. And you really don’t want to find yourself on the lake without a paddle.
2. It’s an easy way to experience better fishing.
Since I started kayaking seven years ago, I’ve fished a dozen or more Ontario parks, and in each of them, the fishing was 10 times better from a boat than from shore. This is simply because the underwater features that attract fish (like submerged weed beds and deep drop-offs) are rarely found in the same places where we live, camp or play.
Kayaking in Bonnechere Provincial Park
In some of my favorite parks, like Restoule Provincial Park, Bon Echo Provincial Park, and Algonquin Provincial Park’s Canisbay Lake, you can certainly catch some fish from the beach or the pier. But in many places, just paddling for five or ten minutes will give you much better fishing.
Getting on the water also offers opportunities for sightseeing and wildlife viewing. And for all the reasons above, kayaks are a great way to get started in boating. I put 100% beginners in a kayak and had them paddling comfortably and catching fish in 20 minutes. However, kayaks are also so versatile that they meet the demanding requirements of hardcore anglers like me.
3. Ontario’s park system offers plenty of kayak-friendly fishing activities.
Largemouth Bass Caught in Arrowhead Provincial Park
The typical recreational or fishing kayak is well suited for fishing on smaller and medium sized lakes and slower rivers, or for exploring nooks and crannies in larger bodies of water. And that’s exactly the type of atmosphere found in most parks.
In literally In every park I’ve visited, I’ve caught fish within walking distance of my campsite and have never had to venture into waters that were challenging. And that includes Lake Trout, Brook Trout, Walleye and Northern Pike in Southeast, Near North and Algonquin region parks, plus Smallmouth Bass and Largemouth Bass almost everywhere.
Finally, if you’re not a fan of paddling motorboats, park waters with motor restrictions are heaven for kayak fishing. For one thing, motor-restricted bodies of water like Silent Lake Provincial Park are really quiet and really immerse you in the natural world. And not having to share the water with powerboats, skiers and jet skis increases your comfort and safety.
But here’s the real reason why kayak anglers should look for those special spots: Those lakes tend to have very good fishing. This is because restricting motor boats keeps many hardcore anglers away, resulting in much less fishing pressure and excellent fishing.
Just do me a favor and don’t tell anyone, okay?
Are you planning your next kayak fishing trip? Use our park locator to discover the perfect location.