How Smallmouth Bass Came to Ontario

Ontario has Smallmouth Bass lakes from the far reaches of the north and all the way to the southernmost portions of the province.

In this article, we’re going to get very specific. As you can tell from the title, we are talking about Smallmouth Bass in Canada as well as the history surrounding it. Oh, by the way, it’s a fish that some love, and some hate!

As far as distribution throughout Canada, there are some provinces that don’t have the luxury of such a beastly little scrapper, there are, however, quite a few provinces that do.

Ontario, for instance, has Smallie lakes from the far reaches of the north and all the way to the southernmost portions of the province.


British Columbia has an abundance of Smallmouth both on the island as well as on the mainland.

Saskatchewan has a small population of Smallies in specific waters.

Manitoba, although known best for its big Walleye, Pike, and Lake Trout, has lots of lakes and rivers full of Smallmouth Bass.

Quebec is another Canadian Smallmouth hotspot. There's no shortage of these feisty critters from the mighty St. Lawrence River and well into the north.


Smallmouth Bass was first introduced to Nova Scotia in 1942.

Finally, the province of New Brunswick has what may just be the fastest-growing population of Smallies in the nation!

So, the question is, how did they get here?

Angelo Viola holds up a long, chunky BC Smallie caught on Lake Osoyoos

Smallmouth Bass Introduction To Canada

We used to think that Smallmouth Bass was introduced to Canada by being transplanted all the way from South Africa. We have no idea as to how we came about that thought (obviously someone told us a fish story or two) but after looking into it, that apparently is wrong.

In doing some in-depth research we actually found the origin of Smallmouth Bass was, in fact, North America.  And looking deeper we discovered the first Canadian distribution of adult Smallmouth Bass took place in 1873, restricted to Ontario in the Great Lakes and down through the St Lawrence River system.

By 1884, in response to public demand and right up to the late 1900s, Smallmouth Bass were being stocked throughout Ontario and other parts of Canada as a cost-effective method of providing food for local fishermen while ensuring recreation for tourists.

This was done via the railroad system.

Way back in the day trains carried more than people as passengers

Small Lake, Railroad Smallies

For the first segment of the Fish’n Canada television episode that corresponds with this article, Ang hit a classic northern Ontario body of water which ironically, luckily or maybe even by good planning, was located directly adjacent to the CN railroad tracks. He wanted to fish there to show the audience how easy it would have been for these trains to make an almost inaccessible spot, a dropoff or “stocking” stop while en route to their final destination.

In some cases, Smallmouth Bass have been unfortunately considered an “invasive species” due to their prolific annual spawning and the ability to take over a lake. Its nasty, tenacious attitude and voracious appetite certainly don’t help its cause.

Once introduced to a lake, they can, and most times do, become the dominant predator.

Alternate modes of transportation were used “back in the day” to shuttle fish from the hatchery to the lake

As you fast forward to this day and age, when you find a strongly populated Smallmouth lake, and you’re a Smallmouth nut, you feel like you’re in heaven.

This is an example of how easy it would have been for a train to “stop & drop” a bunch of milk containers full of Smallmouth Bass into a lake. The tracks are literally right beside the lake.

That is thanks to good fish management as well as very strong, select Smallmouth Bass hatcheries throughout the nation.

As far as Ontario is concerned, this scrappy game fish has become prolific and is now one of the strongest of all fisheries in the province.

Here’s a typical northern Ontario Smallmouth Bass… so many lakes and so many fish!

Bigger Water = Bigger More Bass & Some Bonus Walleye

Pete and Ang joined up for the second half of this TV episode to hit a much larger lake. It was an outing where our guys wanted to try out some different tactics, trying to get a feel for the fish.

“One of our normal go-to’s for Smallies,” says Ang “is drop shotting small plastics. It’s probably the deadliest technique that I know. When all else fails… the drop shot prevails”.

As for going different, Pete started out with a Megastrike Shad imitation while Ang went “really different” and tied on a ¾ ounce bright-coloured bucktail jig with a 4-5” Yamamoto swimbait trailer.

“On a scale of 1-10 as to a natural-looking presentation,” says Pete “mine was about an 8, while Ang’s was about a negative 3!!!”

“That crazy-coloured deal he had going,” continues Pete “looked like a fishing lure dressed in a Halloween costume… BUT… it caught fish. I gotta’ hand it to him”.

As this day progressed, the boys boated some gorgeous Smallies on their different stuff and even cracked the code to a couple of Walleye, one of which was a beauty!

Pete smacked this big Walleye on a Swimbait that he dragged just above the bottom with only enough speed to allow the tail to barely wiggle.

As you can see, Smallmouth and Walleye have adapted well together. In fact, there are so many combinations of Smallie / Walleye lakes in Ontario, that I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to count!

Masters Of Illusion

Another point made during this episode was, there’s no hiding the fact that with Smallmouth Bass fishing comes lost fish. Our guys lost numerous Smallies on pretty much every presentation they tried. No matter how “finesse” you try and bring in a Smallie, they always seem to have the upper hand. They pull extra hard and jump extra high!

Smallmouth Bass are the ultimate “masters of escape”... you will NEVER boat them all!

Well, there you have a bit about the history of the Smallmouth Bass in Canada as well as in Ontario. Hopefully, you learned something here (we sure did) and it gives you a bit more insight into one of Canada’s most popular game fish species.

In our opinion, we truly are blessed!

Fish’n Canada TV Extra: Rod Falling Overboard

So, I’ll bet that you the viewing audience believe that Pete and I are the consummate professional television anglers. The type where rarely a mistake is made, right?


In fact, they’ve had more mishaps than most.

In this episode, they showed just one of many screw-ups they have had to deal with.

Ang “accidentally” knocked about an $800 hundred dollar rod and reel combo into the drink… and then it was on!

Pete scours the lake bottom in search of Ang’s “kicked overboard” spinning rig. Notice the Garmin remote in Pete’s right hand. He’s inching the trolling motor ever so slightly in order to allow Ang to drop down a big jig and attempt to catch the outfit.

 After the panic tamed down (they even totally forgot to instantly drop in a waypoint), our fishing experts went to work.

Our take out of this… as you can plainly see, we ARE consummate professionals!

Episode Gettin’ There Sponsored by Ram Trucks

To get to some of Ontario’s best Smallmouth Bass and Walleye fishing, we highly recommend Sunset Country Outfitters on Campfire Island on Rainy Lake, in the northwest portion of the province.

To get there we drive north on Hwy 400 to Hwy 69 and then head northwest on Hwy 17.

We stay on 17 at the Hwy 11/17 split and then turn onto Hwy 102 at Thunder Bay.

We then head west on Hwy 11 all the way to Sorting Gap Marina in the town of Fort Frances. There’s also an alternative launching or pick-up point called 5 Mile Boat Launch.

Once at either launching area, you can be picked up by a camp boat, or launch your own rig and take a short boat ride to Sunset Country Outfitters on beautiful Rainy Lake.

Episode Hotspot Sponsored by Garmin


Hotspot Rainy Lake: N 48 38.768,  W 093 15.331

This episode's Hotspot is a medium-sized hump or shoal, on beautiful Rainy Lake. The Waypoint on your screen will get you there

Rainy Lake is a fantastic multispecies lake; however, the Smallmouth Bass population here is second to none… and the fish seem to be getting bigger and bigger.

This Hotspot is among a series of humps. Although Smallies can and will use the smaller adjacent humps, this waypoint is on the largest of the complex. It pretty much always has Smallmouth on it.

Dragging Shad bodied plastics, bucktail jigs, tube jigs or of course drop shotting will produce here.

Use our waypoint to get started, be patient, use your electronics, and move around to find out exactly where the fish are located.

  • Baits: Shad Bodies, Bucktail Jigs, Tubes, Dropshot
  • Presentation: Casting, Dragging, Vertical
  • Depth: 12 - 20+ Feet

Check out the rest of our website for more Hotspots.

About Fish'n Canada

As one of the original pioneers of Canadian adventure television, the Fish'n Canada Show has been broadcasting their pursuit of the ultimate adventure for over 30 years. Hosts Angelo Viola and Pete Bowman educate and entertain audiences with their passion and enthusiasm for fishing. Both are inductees in the Canadian Anglers Hall of Fame. Check out their episodes and video on the Fish'n Canada YouTube Channel and like them on Facebook!

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