Open All Year - Four Seasons of Bass in Ontario

Northern Ontario is home to all year round bass in some areas.

I wonder how many bass anglers across North America realize you don’t have to wait until late Saturday in June to legally fish for largemouth or smallmouth bass in certain regions in Northern Ontario. Yes, longer seasons for bass in Ontario. You don’t have to venture across any borders to legally fish for bass before the traditional late June opener across Southern Ontario.


Some of these same Ontario regions have "open all year" welcome signs on the doors of the lodge operators, while other regions offer earlier seasons for "catch and release only." Either way, it’s an opportunity to fish for your favourite game fish when everyone else is cleaning the cobwebs off their rods from the long winter sleep. Most of the bass anglers I know practice responsible catch and release with all the bass they catch anyway, so these open all year or early May catch and release seasons are a huge draw for anglers in the know.

So why Northern Ontario?

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see why words alone cannot describe the feeling of being in Northern Ontario. Beauty, serenity, quiet, and peaceful are adjectives that capture the sensations of this pristine wilderness.

So now you know. The secret is out!

Here are three Northern Ontario regions that offer longer bass seasons for you.

sunset country


The sheer numbers of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs that have bass in Sunset Country are staggering. 

Lake of the Woods, Rainy lake, Shoal Lake, and literally thousands more have varied open seasons for early bass, while some areas in this region are open all year from January 1 onward that have certain slot size regulations and creel limits for bass less than 35 cm from January 1 to June 30. The pristine wilderness of this region makes those early-season trips that much more special.

Here is an example of the bass fishing in Sunset Country:

Algoma Country

algoma country smallmouth

Located a mere six hours northwest of the GTA in downtown Toronto, the early season bass fishing in this region can be off-the-charts great, depending again on how late winter holds her grip and ice conditions on lakes and reservoirs. This region of Ontario has some tricky regulations, so my advice would be to contact any lodge operator you plan to visit and check what the regulations are before you go. In some areas of Algoma Country, the early bass season is open on one side of the trans-Canada highway and still closed on the other side. You need to check the regulations carefully, but the rewards can be well worth the effort.

Check out this Algoma bass action for yourself-

Northeastern Ontario

northeastern smallmouth

Again, another region where the seasons vary depending on where you plan to fish for bass is Northeastern Ontario. I have made several trips to the Elk Lake and Gogama area for some excellent early-season bass action, and believe me when I tell you, this Northern region of Ontario has some of the biggest bass I have caught in my life.

The region is also driver-friendly for those living in the GTA and border states who accept a little travel time in return for some of the best fishing of the year. This truly is the time of trophies, with catch and release the only option for some of the lodge operators—and rightfully so, as they know protecting the resource is the only way to ensure trophy bass fishing for generations to come. A small price to pay for catching the bass of a lifetime.

Some Northeastern Ontario smallmouth smashing:

Check the Regulations

Make sure the lakes or area you are planning to visit in Northern Ontario has either an open all-year or early catch-and-release season before making that first cast.

Read the Ontario Fishing Regulations

I have made several trips to different Northern Ontario regions during the earlier open bass season with varied results depending upon weather conditions, and if the North country has experienced a longer than anticipated winter, that literally pushes everything back a little longer, even the early season bass fishing. If it's ice out, you can fish for bass in some locations.


You’d be surprised how fast those largemouth and smallmouth bass decide to start eating, regardless if the water temperatures are still hovering in the low 40s or mid-50s; most of these same lakes have limitless numbers of back bays and channels with dark bottoms that warm up faster than main lake locations, and these same locations are where you’re going to find the early-season bass before any thoughts of spawning enter their minds. These same bass have been somewhat dormant all winter long and once they feel the slightly warmer water, their DNA simply triggers them to chow down before the spawning season begins.

This can result in some of the finest bass fishing of the year, comparable to the late fall season when they go back on the chew hard in anticipation of the upcoming winter.

Ontario bass are not Florida bass or deep south U.S. bass; these Northern strain bass were created in the north and follow certain patterns year in, year out, regardless of what the calendar says.

My only request is that anglers practice responsible catch and release of all bigger bass caught during these open all-year and catch and release seasons.  

  • No live-well stocking.
  • No holding fish out of water for long durations to take pictures on your phone.
  • Have your phone ready if you want to take some stills of these early-season footballs and release them once unhooked.

Generations to come will experience this same opportunity as you with responsible fish management and respect. Stop waiting for the last Saturday in June to start legally fishing for bass in Ontario. You don’t have to cross borders or fish the Great Lakes Oceans to experience early-season bass action, it’s here waiting for you in Northern Ontario.


Here are some of the lodge operators Extreme Angler has visited this past season who specialize in early-season bass fishing in Northern Ontario.

Sunset Country

Algoma Country

Northeastern Ontario

About Karl Kalonka

It's possible Karl's love for fishing began as early as the age of five. His parents took the kids on weekend trips across Ontario fishing for panfish, catfish, and bass. "I started with a bobber and worm from the time I was five years old," says Karl. These days, he has the enviable task of doing what he loves for a living, travelling across Ontario fishing, filming and producing two outdoor series, Extreme Angler and Crappie Angler TV.

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