A Beginners Guide to Fishing in Ontario: 7 Things You Need to Know

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If you’re ready to cast your line in Ontario’s beautiful lakes and rivers then you’re at the right place. This beginners guide has all the information you need to get started fishing in Ontario.

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Ontario is a fisherman’s paradise, with over 250,000 lakes and rivers to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, there’s something for everyone here. From choosing the right gear to finding the best fishing spots, this guide has everything you need to plan a fishing trip in Ontario.


Outdoors Card and Fishing Licences

Before you grab your rod and head out to a local lake you must have both an Outdoors Card and a fishing licence. They’re easy to obtain and the information below should help you get started.

An Outdoors Card is a plastic, wallet-sized identification card issued by the ministry that allows you to fish.

A valid Outdoors Card is required for:

  • Ontario residents
  • Canadian residents
  • non-residents

You’re required to carry this card with you at all times when you’re fishing.

#Ontario Outdoors Card

How to Buy an Outdoors Card

The Outdoors Card is valid for three calendar years and the renewal period starts the first Tuesday of December every year.

You can buy or renew your Outdoors Card:


To buy, renew or replace an Outdoors Card, you need to provide your:

  • legal first, middle and last name
  • date of birth
  • mailing and/or residential address
  • height and eye colour
  • parental consent (for resident hunters 12 to 15 years old)

Next you need a fishing license and here’s how you obtain it. It depends on whether you’re an Ontario resident, Canadian resident or a non-resident of Canada – different rules apply.

How to  buy a fishing licence.

Know the Fishing Regulations for Fishing in Ontario

Of course there’s rules and regulations for fishing in Ontario and it’s relatively easy to follow them.

There’s an annual guide available to the rules and regulations for recreational fishing in Ontario. It contains information about recreational fishing licences, open seasons and catch limits, as well as up-to-date fishing regulations for each fishing zone. The guide for 2023 can be found here.

With 20 different zones and dates allowed for fishing don’t take a chance – verify your location for fishing in Ontario before you head out. The map below should help you learn more about your area.

#fisheries Ontario

Learn to Fish Guide and Gear

Unless you’re experienced at fishing there’s always questions regarding gear, fishing rods, reel, and line. What tackle is needed, how to cast, and learning how to identify the fish you catch can become overwhelming.  Don’t let it.  Here’s a link to all the questions you probably have and the answers you need.

Here’s a list of basic tackle

  • Hooks

This is what catches the fish! Hooks usually have barbs, which can be bent down to help release fish faster. Note: You aren’t allowed to use barbed hooks in some waterbodies. You can find waterbody specific rules in the Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary and Fish ON-Line.

  • Floats (or bobbers)

These have two functions: they suspend your bait in the water at a specific depth and also help show you when you have a bite.

  • Weights (or sinkers)

Sinkers help weigh your bait down, getting closer to the fish! They are traditionally made of lead, but there are also non-toxic options made of steel or tungsten.

Stay safe when Fishing in Ontario

The most important aspect of fishing in Ontario is staying safe.  You want to have a fun and exciting day catching a fish for dinner but before you cast that rod make sure you follow a few safety practices.

  • wear a life jacket, sunscreen, and sunglasses
  • tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll return
  • keep an eye on the weather forecast
  • keep a first aid kit handy
  • if heading out in a boat, make sure you or your driver has a boating licence

Ice Fishing in Ontario

Why quit fishing just because winter has arrived? There’s no need to give up fishing because ice fishing is always an option.

Safety is probably the first concern – making sure the ice thickness is adequate and having proper safety equipment. It’s recommended that you not fish alone or at the very least make sure someone knows where you are.

Equipment is simple. You’ll need an auger or spud bar to make a hole in the ice, and a line with a hook and minnow or lure. The easiest fishing rods to use are tip ups or you can try a jigging rod available at most angling retailers. Simple – right?

Conclusion - Fishing in Ontario

Ontario is definitely home to some of the best fishing spots in the world. Some popular locations include Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe, and the French River. 

Research the type of fish you want to catch and the best time of year to catch them at your favourite fishing location. Don’t forget you can also check with local fishing guides, bait shops and talk to the locals. Fishing in Ontario is an experience you don’t want to miss.

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