Angling Beyond Lake Nipissing

3 incredible lakes and waterways to fish in Northeastern Ontario.

Anglers wishing to sample the productive waters of Northeastern Ontario would be well advised to visit Lake Nipissing. This huge and diverse inland lake is the most popular fishing destination in the region for good reason—it has plenty of accommodations, it’s accessible, and it provides a stable and nurturing home to Ontario’s most popular game fish. But a glance beyond Lake Nipissing reveals a staggering amount of angling opportunity in some of the most beautiful waters in the world.

Situated along the North Channel of giant Lake Huron, and loaded with inland lakes and rivers, anglers wishing to expand their angling horizons in Northeastern Ontario have a lot to choose from. 

But first, let’s give the region’s best-known angling destination its due. Read on to discover three excellent spots to fish in The Seven. 

A man and a woman smiling while sitting in a motorboat, looking into the distance. They are both wearing sunglasses and the late afternoon sun shines over the blue waters and forested shores of McGregor Bay behind them.
Islay Smedley and Andreas Mucino cruising through the narrow inlets of McGregor Bay on their way to the fishing spot. // Photo credit James Smedley

1. Lake Nipissing

From the sand beaches of North Bay to the sprawling West Arm and the countless islands of South Bay, the 65-kilometre-long and 25-kilometre-wide Lake Nipissing is a popular fishery. Nutrient-rich, tea-stained waters wash over pencil reeds, bulrushes and lily pads; sand drop-offs and shoals of broken rock are joined by patches of thick cabbage weed and, with an average depth of less than 20 feet, Nipissing provides a vast and hospitable habitat for walleye, bass, northern pike and muskellunge. This is one of the largest inland lakes in Ontario and is surrounded by full-service communities with marinas, launch ramps and ample accommodations, and it’s less than four hours away from the US Border. Nipissing’s productive fishing and great scenery only get better after this broad and shallow lake is channelled into Lake Huron through the sculpted rock of the French River.

2. The French Connection

The French River is a 110-kilometre-long series of island-studded lakes connected by rapids and falls that flow through cracks and fissures in the Canadian Shield on its way from Lake Nipissing to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. It consists of the Main Channel and the North Channel, east of Highway 69, and the Lower French River and French River Delta, west of the highway. This equals a lot of water providing a diverse range of aquatic habitats.

What makes this area so strikingly scenic also contributes to making it such a great area for fish and for anglers. Hundreds of kilometres of narrow passages connect a series of long lakes rimmed by a low-slung shoreline of smooth sloping rocks, capped with shapely coniferous. A variety of sport fish live in these waters and on any given summer day anglers find walleye clustered over mid-lake shoals, northern pike waiting in ambush along weed lines and drop-offs, smallmouth bass gathered over rock piles, and largemouth bass enjoying the shade of thick vegetation. The moving water associated with rapids and falls are magnets for every species that swims the French, including a healthy population of muskellunge.

There are approximately 20 lodges and resorts spread throughout the French River serving anglers and pleasure boaters. With the wide range of accommodations come full-service marinas with boat launch facilities for easy access to this popular cottage area. There are also stretches that remain undeveloped, where anglers watch moose and deer along the shorelines as they fish.

3. McGregor Bay

A man and a woman talking and laughing in a boat on a sunny, breezy day. The man is reeling a fishing rod as he sits on the edge of the boat. The water of McGregor Bay is in the background. A man and a woman standing smiling on a rocky shore. Another man stands next to a motorboat a few yards away on the water of MacGregor Bay. A forested shore is on the hroizon.
Brian Still, Andreas Mucino and Islay Smedley fishing the sheltered and beautiful waters of McGregor Bay. // Enjoying a shore stop in one of the Bay's protected coves.
—Photo credits James Smedley

The French River spills into Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, another vast stretch of sculpted rock shoreline complemented by great fishing. At the bay’s northwestern extreme sits an often-overlooked angling destination. It’s delineated by the shapely shorelines of Manitoulin Island to the south and the pearl-coloured quartz peaks of the La Cloche Mountains to the north. A favourite painting destination for members of the iconic Canadian landscape artists known as the Group of Seven, the scenery is unique and dramatic. In the shadow of this rolling angular landscape is the labyrinth of islands, bays and narrows of McGregor Bay.

Although part of giant Lake Huron, anglers can always find sheltered waters within the embrace of McGregor Bay. Weeds, rock piles and neck downs hold reliable populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass and the scenic waters are well known to muskellunge anglers. Brian Still of Stillwater Fishing says the clear cold waters of some of the larger bays are home to native lake trout and fly fishermen and spin casters catch rainbow trout and steelhead up to 20 pounds. The waters off Manitoulin Island are not as protected but through summer and fall larger boats equipped with down riggers troll for Chinook salmon and lake trout all around the island. Manitoulin also has several surprisingly large inland lakes with excellent fishing for lake trout, walleye, bass and perch. 

Tip: Stay in a geodome at the nearby Among the Trees Glamping and fish the waters around Manitoulin till your heart’s content.

A truck pulling a motorboat backs toward the pier at Timberlane Lodge. There are wooden cabins up the drive from the pier, surrounded by green grass and forest.
 Launching the boat into Lake Manitou at Timberlane Lodge. // Photo credit James Smedley

Anglers can’t go wrong visiting Lake Nipissing but this popular angling destination is only one of many productive and wildly beautiful places to fish in Northeastern Ontario. This is confirmed by going beyond Nipissing with a trip to the French River, McGregor Bay or Manitoulin Island.

Francine Dubreuil smiling as she holds up a big smallmouth bass from Manitou Lake on Manitoulin Island. She is standing in a boat on the water at sunset.
Francine Dubreuil with a big smallmouth from Lake Manitou on Manitoulin Island. There are several surprisingly large inland lakes on Manitoulin Island. // Photo credit James Smedley
About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.


Visit James at

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