A man in a ballcap holds up two freshly caught fish

Summer Fishing in the Kawarthas

The summer fishing season in the Kawarthas is truly an exciting time for any angler. I am so fortunate to have grown up here literally surrounded by hundreds accessible water bodies and incredible fishing. Every imaginable season is now open and accessible by land or by boat for just about anyone. All of the resorts are in full swing, the Trent-Severn Waterway is open for locking and the sky is the limit when it comes to fishing. Get out there!

What do you want to catch? Muskie? Pike? Walleye? Largemouth Bass? Smallmouth bass? Panfish? Gar? Carp? The list goes on and on. You don’t have a boat? No problem! The resorts within the region offer boat rental packages and if that’s not in the budget, we have a plethora of shore locations that you can pull up to and catch the fish of a lifetime. Not to mention plenty of bait and tackle shops that are happy to fill your tackle box with productive baits for the area.

The summer season begins for me with the opening of muskie here in Zone 17 on the second Saturday in June. Our region offers a very healthy and productive population of muskies that are present in every waterbody interconnected by the Trent-Severn Waterway. Muskies are often referred to as the “Fish of 1000 Casts”. I am here to tell you that label is absolutely not true here in the Kawarthas. Not only do we have a high muskie population, but we have some very big fish. If you are looking to catch your first 50-inch monster, your chances are quite good!

My days of muskie fishing started quite young. My teenage years were spent walking the bank of the Otonabee River and Rice Lake with a small muskie buck tail tied on. To this day, I can still tell you some of the greatest locations to catch these fish from shore in the area. My days now are spent on the water itself from the luxury of my boat fishing an insurmountable number of lakes both connected via the Severn or land locked. Some of my absolute favourite lakes to target muskie in the region include Balsam Lake, The Tri lakes (Buckhorn, Pigeon and Chemong) as well as Cameron Lake and the Otonabee River.

The Lakes within the region that I target muskie are relatively shallow. Most with a max depth of approximately 30 feet (or around 10m). The forage base is typically sucker or walleye. In my experience the fish are either “in” or “out” when opener arrives. Meaning they are either in shallow or they are relating to deeper water. The bigger fish generally stay deeper than the younger specimens but most seem to be shallow for the first few weeks of the season (June through mid-July). I always start my search in 6-foot deep water (2m) or less with smaller inline bucktail Spinners, or 1 to 2oz. tandem spinnerbaits so that I can cover water quickly to determine the mood and location of the fish.

Muskies are notorious followers. They are known to follow your offering for quite some time before deciding to strike, if they strike at all. If I see a fish following my bait I will typically increase the speed of my retrieve and power into a figure-8 maneuver at boat side in hopes that the fish will engage and ultimately bite my offering. As the water temperatures increase through the end of June and into July, the muskie relate more to deeper water structure/cover. I will target the weed line edges adjacent to the deepest sections of the given waterbody. Muskies are edge ambush predators so they will sit in waiting along these weed edges used by walleyes, suckers and panfish as cover and navigational routes. During this time, I will increase the size of my bucktail to 10 inches (20cm) or more to match the growing size of the seasons forage base. I will also start to use large swimbaits and Jigs now that the fish are more actively feeding. Muskies are opportunistic feeders.

Don’t be afraid to use big baits! It is not uncommon to see a bait of 13 inches (33cm) or more on the end of my line from mid-summer until the season closes in December (Ontario Fishing Zone 17). Be sure to practice safe handling of these fish at all times, especially during the warm water period as they are very susceptible to post release mortality if precautions are not taken. Be sure to have pliers, hook cutters and a net capable of holding a large fish. When you do catch that fish of a lifetime keep it in the net in the water while you remove the hooks and have your camera ready before you lift it for a photo. Be sure to support the fish’s body when you do remove from the water. Vertical lifts are very hard on the fish and often do damage even though the fish may seemingly release well. And most importantly, get the fish back in the water and on its way as quickly as possible.

While muskie fishing is definitely at the top of my list of favourites, the phenomenal bass fishing in the region cannot be overlooked. Whether you are a seasoned tournament angler or new to the sport both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be targeted from both shore and boat just about anywhere, and are present in almost every lake in the region. Bass season in the region opens shortly after muskie, on the second last Saturday of the month of June.

Smallmouth bass are in favor of rock structure as a general rule and spend a great deal of their time in and around these areas. Post-spawn smallmouth remain close to shallow rocky areas of the lake until the water temperatures start to increase. Rocky islands and points as well as shoals are great areas to start your search. I will generally start fishing each area up shallow and gradually move to deeper water until I make contact with fish. Top water poppers are great early in the season! There is nothing better than a big blow up from an angry smallmouth. I will also tend to lean towards jerk baits this time of year–both soft and hard plastic. As we make our way mid to late July, and the water temperature reaches the high 70s°F or low 80s°F, the fish will transition to deeper water structure. During this period I look for main lake humps. Smallmouth are a schooling fish by nature. So once you catch one there are likely several in the area so keep casting!

Early season largemouth bass can be found in a few key areas on most of the lakes in the region. I will look for relatively shallow back bays that they have used during the spawn. These areas will generally play host to the majority of the post-spawn fish for several weeks into the season. I really like spinner baits, buzz baits and top water frogs during the early season. I like to start things off close to shore in search of aggressive roaming fish. As the sun gets higher in the sky the fish will hold tighter to available cover to escape the rays. That is when I will slow things down with a jig or a topwater frog dragged over matted weed or lily pads. Similar to their smallmouth cousins, as the water temperatures increase the majority of the fish will spend more and more of their time on the outside of the bays they have spawned in. High concentrations of fish can be found along the weed lines in front of their early season haunts. They may still roam shallow at dawn and dusk but for the most part the bigger fish will remain on the weed lines for the dog days of summer. This is where a Jig and chunk trailer really shine. Short pitches into pockets along the weed end will produce a lot of fish. One of my favorite bodies of water to target bass is Rice Lake. This particular body of water contains both species in great numbers and trophy size. Smallmouth bass reaching 6lbs are not unheard of and largemouth bass in the 7lb class do exist as well!

The region offers a very healthy population of walleyes as I have mentioned in previous publications. Keep in mind that we do have a slot limit in place throughout the region to ensure the population is maintained. The limit is 13.8 inches to 19.7 inches (35cm to 50cm). Fish within this range can be kept.

During the summer months when the fish have moved off their post spawn haunts and more so to the main lake, I will focus my efforts offshore on deep edges and extended underwater points. This is a great time for live bait like leeches or minnows tipped on a jig head and slowly dragged or trolled using a live bait rig. This technique will allow you to cover a large area quickly and efficiently with a better chance of encountering the fish. Relative proximity to the bottom is important as that is where the fish will relate. Another key factor is the presence of healthy green weeds. Green weeds are a good indication of higher oxygen content which will attract the forage the walleyes will be feeding on. They will still come shallow at dusk and during the night to feed as well which is a great time to catch them from the bank if you don’t have the luxury of a boat. Casting and dragging using the same tackle suggestions mentioned above will produce fish for you from the shore as well.

Northern pike are just another species to add to the list of possibilities during the summer months in the Kawarthas Northumberland region. A small percentage of pike will relate to shallow water in the summer, but they will seek the shade and comfort that weed and pad beds provide, these are generally the smaller fish in the given waterbody. Much like muskies, pike are an ambush edge predator. When the water warms into the high 70s °F they will set up on the edges of weed lines and tight into weed beds adjacent to deep water where they will lay in waiting for their next meal to swim by. My tackle recommendations are very similar to what I would be using for Muskies this time of year. I will work bucktails and spinnerbaits along these fish-holding structures and work my bait quickly and thoroughly. The larger fish will seek deeper water during the hot summer months. I generally start my search deep, towards the center of the basins adjacent to the bays the fish would have spawned in a month or two prior, and make my way shallow until I start to connect with fish. Some of my favourite lakes to target Pike during the summer months are Balsam Lake and Chandos Lake. Both put out big fish every season. And Balsam is one of the few areas in the region to contain the elusive pike/muskie hybrid, the tiger muskie!

I have really only scratched the surface of the angling opportunities in the area during the summer months here in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region. There are simply too many to list in one publication. Below is a very short list of some of the other fantastic opportunities.


Carp: These fish are found in many shallow, weedy, muddy areas of Lake Ontario and inland waters throughout the region. Most anglers targeting Carp use worms, corn, or dough balls set on or just above bottom on sinker or float rigs. Fly fisherman will also find great sport fishing for these spooky yet powerful fish. The Kawarthas Northumberland carp fishery is definitely underutilized. New provincial records are out there for the taking!

Catfish: Some of the best baits for channel catfish are minnows, worms, cut-fish, and strong-smelling meats such as liver, fished on the bottom.

Freshwater Drum: these fish are often caught using conventional Walleye or smallmouth bass tactics. They feed on the bottom and will pick up a jig and minnow or leach as well as a tube jig! They are commonly referred to as “Barn Doors” given they wide body.

If I can help you answer any questions about any of the species above mentioned or below please feel free to comment or send an email directly at chrishuskilson@gmail.com

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