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Fish Species Information

On this page you will find a bit of information about the fish species that live in the Rideau System, charts and formulas for calculating fish weight based on the size of the fish (for catch and release) and a chart of preferred water temperature.

The Rideau provides many excellent fishing opportunities. Although reknown for its prolific and high quality bass fishing, the Rideau will also provide fishing enjoyment for those going after other species including Lake Trout, Black Crappie, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, and Walleye. If you have young kids with you, get a hook, bobber and bucket of worms (available from all bait stores in the region) and be prepared for an endless catch of Sunfish.

If you are an avid fisherman and want to learn the secrets of Rideau fishing then your first visit to our region should be to one of the high quality Rideau fishing lodges. Staying at one of these lodges will not only give you the "in" on Rideau fishing, it will also be a comfortable and pleasant way to spend a week or two enjoying the region.


Both largemouth and smallmouth bass occur on the Rideau, although largemouth predominate. Bass are members of the sunfish family. At the turn of the century, the Rideau lakes, particularly the southern lakes (Sand, Opinicon, Indian, Clear, and Newboro), were reknown as the best bass fishing spots in North America with catches of over 100 per day not uncommon. It still provides excellent opportunities for bass fishing, with many visitors coming to the region just to fish for the bass.

Largemouth Bass prefer warmer waters than do smallmouth. When fishing for Largemouth think "weedy cover". These are areas where baitfish abound and they attract largemouth bass. Bays with weeds and sunken logs, and a water depth of 5 to 15 feet make ideal largemouth bass habitat. During summer fishing season the best spot will be a point with a soft sandy bottom, containing reeds and weeds, adjacent to a soft bottom bay. The fish will have moved out of the bay after spawning, and will now spend most of the summer in and around the point.

Largemouth inhabit the whole of the Rideau from Kingston to Ottawa. Although the south central lakes (noted above) are the most reknown for Largemouth they can be caught anywhere along the Rideau.

PLEASE NOTE that Largemouth bass are homebodies. Tracking studies on the Rideau have shown that if moved from the area they were caught in, they can take months or even years to return. Their natural inclination is to stick close to their home breeding area. If you are doing catch and release, ALWAYS do it in the spot you caught the bass - NEVER transport them away from that spot.

When fishing for Smallmouth Bass think "structure and crayfish". Crayfish like habitat with small (fist sized) broken rocks. Find an area like this adjacent to larger rocks (which provides cover for the bass) and you will be in smallmouth heaven. In rivers smallmouth tend to be concentrated near current breaking structures (rocks, islands, bends).

Smallmouth can be found throughout the Rideau, although not in the same numbers as Largemouth. Fishing structure (points, shoals, islands) in lakes such as Big Rideau and Upper Rideau will reward the angler with a smallmouth on the line.

PLEASE NOTE that if doing catch and release the biggest cause of bass mortality is the use of a regular hook with live bait (i.e. worm), the common way kids fish for bass. This can gut hook the bass which will kill it. DO NOT use regulars hooks, switch to circle hooks. These are available everywhere.


The Walleye (also known as doré and sometimes erroneously called the Yellow Pickerel, which is actually a pike) is a member of the perch family. Their main food source are minnows and perch and they prefer the cooler waters that smallmouth like. Earlier in the season some will tend to stay in deep water, close to their source of baitfish, near emerging weed beds. Others will stay in deep water off mudflats where emerging insects form the main food source. As summer progresses, the walleye tend to school together and will follow the food source. This will include areas such as sunken islands and mid-lake humps. Similar to many species, fishing picks up in the fall, when food sources start to become scarcer and the fish become a bit more aggressive in their search for food.

Walleye can be found at various spots along the Rideau, including Upper Rideau Lake and in the Rideau River at places like the dam at Burritt's Rapids and the dam at Black Rapids.

Lake Trout

Lake Trout (a member of the char family), prefer clear cold water. They can be found in the deeper lakes of the Rideau. Trout feed on various types of baitfish (Alewife, Ciscoe, Smelt, Chubb, Sculpin). In spring, Lake Trout can be found close to shore but as the weather warms up, the trout will move deeper, staying in their preferred temperature range. They prefer to stay near drop-offs, ledges, and side slopes rather than the flat bottom areas of the lake. So look for such structures at a depth that their temperature range indicates. In summer this can be anywhere from 60 to 100 feet deep in the lake.

Lake Trout are on the decline on the Rideau due to overfishing and development, some lakes that used to host them, such as Dog Lake, no longer have them. They can still be found in Big Rideau Lake. Lake Trout take a long time to grow and mature so please strictly adhere to catch limits or if possible only fish catch and release, leaving the fish in the water for the enjoyment of others.

Muskellunge and Northern Pike

The Muskellunge (or more properly the Maskinonge) and the Northern Pike are members of the same species, the pike family. They look very similar, an easy way to tell them apart is to count the sensory pores on the underside of the jaw (small holes that outline the jaw bone). Northern Pike have 9 to 11 of these pores while Muskie have 12 to 20. Another, though less accurate distinguishing feature is that the skin of a Northern Pike generally has light markings on a dark background while the skin of a muskie has dark markings on a light background.

At one end of the fishing spectrum are those that consider pike a nuisance fish and don't want to have one of these vicious predators (sometimes called a "slough shark" or "snakefish"). At the other end are the tried and true Muskie fisherman who wouldn't fish for any other species ("I'm not going to catch one of them little bass on my line"). These fish are at the top of the freshwater food chain. The only predator of a mature pike or muskie is man.

Northern Pike can be found throughout the whole of the Rideau system from Kingston to Ottawa. Their diet consists mostly of baitfish such as perch, shiners, ciscoes and herring. They aren't too picky and are willing to eat most anything that moves through the water. In the spring and fall, pike tend to hang out near weedy bays and shoals. They prefer cooler water (see chart) and as summer approaches they will move into deeper, cooler water adjacent to their spring and fall forage areas. If the water gets too warm pike will stop feeding.

Muskies tend to hang out in the same types of places that Walleyes do. In fact large Muskie will often stay near a school of Walleye, feeding on both the baitfish the Walleye eat and the Walleye themselves. Thus in summer you will find them generally suspended over deeper water near a slow taper shoal that Walleye prefer.

Pike are found throughout the Rideau with good pike fishing to be had in the Rideau River north of Smiths Falls (between Edmunds and Clowes locks) and near Chaffeys Lock. Muskie can be found in both the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers and in the Rideau River near Black Rapids and between Nicholsons Lock and Burritts Rapids. Muskie are sensitive to fishing pressure so please take a camera along and practice catch and release fishing.

Fish Weight

When being a true angler and practising catch and release fishing, the one problem is estimating fish weight. The use of a hook scale will damage the fish so unless you bring along a tray scale (ie. kitchen scale) you will have to estimate the weight based on the size of the fish. The following formulas will give a reasonably close approximation of the weight of the fish. If you don't want to do the calculations, then print out the fish weight table page and bring it along with you the next time you go fishing.

Fish Weight Formulas
Species Formula
Bass ((length x length) x girth) / 1200
or (length x length x length) / 1600
Walleye (length x length x length) / 2700
N. Pike (length x length x length) / 3500
Trout ((girth x girth) x length) / 800

Fish Temperature

Since fish are cold blooded, the temperature of the water affects their activity (feeding) level. Too low a temperature and the fish will slow down, some going into semi-hibernation. Too high a temperature and the fish will be stressed and eventually die. Fish will seek their preferred temperature. A knowledge of fish preferred habitat and preferred temperature range will lead to the best fishing spots.

Fish Temperature Activity Table
Species Lower
Prime Most Active Upper
  F (C) F (C) F-F (C-C) F (C)
Bass - Largemouth 50 (10) 73 (23) 62-75 (17-24) 85 (29)
Bass - Smallmouth 58 (14) 68 (20) 58-73 (14-23) 73 (23)
Crappie 60 (16) 71 (22) 65-72 (18-22) 75 (24)
Muskellunge 55 (13) 63 (17) 55-72 (13-22) 72 (22)
Northern Pike 55 (13) 66 (19) 55-74 (13-23) 74 (23)
Perch 58 (14) 68 (20) 58-73 (14-23) 75 (24)
Trout - Lake 42 (6) 55 (13) 50-57 (10-14) 60 (16)
Walleye 50 (10) 67 (19) 55-74 (13-23) 76 (24)

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©1996- Ken W. Watson