FISHES OF TORONTO

A GUIDE TO THEIR REMARKABLE WORLD
• City of Toronto Biodiversity Series •

Imagine a Toronto with flourishing natural habitats and an
urban environment made safe for a great diversity of wildlife
species. Envision a city whose residents treasure their daily encounters
with the remarkable and inspiring world of nature, and the variety of
plants and animals who share this world. Take pride in a Toronto that
aspires to be a world leader in the development of urban initiatives
that  will be critical to the preservation of our flora and fauna.

Cover photo: Jon Clayton
Trout in the Humber River – A migrating Brown Trout attempts to jump a weir near
the Old Mill Bridge, just north of Bloor Street. Between late September and early
November migrating trouts and salmons can be seen at any of the weirs in the
Humber River upstream of Bloor Street. These weirs are barriers to fish migration
and were modified (notched) to enable at least the larger jumping fishes to
migrate upstream to their spawning grounds. The removal of these migration
barriers is a significant component of efforts associated with the restoration of the
previously extirpated (locally extinct) native Atlantic Salmon.
City of Toronto © 2012
ISBN 978-1-895739-63-3

Northern Pike

illustration: Charles Weiss

“Indeed, in its need for variety and acceptance of randomness, a flourishing
natural ecosystem is more like a city than like a plantation. Perhaps it will be
the city that reawakens our understanding and appreciation of nature, in all
its teeming, unpredictable complexity.” – Jane Jacobs

Atlantic Salmon

illustration: Charles Weiss

1

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Welcome from Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson . .
Need for Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Yesterday’s Habitats of Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brief History of Lake Ontario Fishes and Fish Habitat .
Today’s Habitats of Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Aquatic Ecosystems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fish Anatomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fishes of Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Toronto’s (un)Official Fish: Atlantic Salmon . . . .

Coldwater Fishes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Coolwater Fishes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Warmwater Fishes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Endangered Species: American Eel . . . . . . . . . .

Intentionally Introduced Species . . . . . . . . . . .
Checklist of Coldwater Fishes of Toronto . . . . . . . . . .
Checklist of Coolwater Fishes of Toronto . . . . . . . . . .
Checklist of Warmwater Fishes of Toronto . . . . . . . . .
Spawning Calendar – Toronto and Southern Ontario . . .
Exceptional Sport Fishing Locations in Toronto . . . . .
Threats to Fishes of Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Invasive Species . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Urbanization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fish-Friendly Policies in Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan . . . . .

The Wet Weather Flow Master Plan . . . . . . . . . .

Stream Restoration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Fish Migration Barrier Removal . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Waterfront and Wetlands Restoration . . . . . . . . .
How You Can Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fishing Regulations in the Toronto Area . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Select Fishes and Fishing Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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2

Welcome!
To encourage the celebration of all life on earth, the United Nations
declared 2010 to be the Year of Biodiversity. We congratulate the
City of Toronto for honouring this special year with this Biodiversity
Series celebrating the flora and fauna of our city. Each booklet within
the series – written by dedicated volunteers, both amateurs and
professionals – offers Torontonians a comprehensive look at a major
group of flora and fauna within our city.
We hope that this Biodiversity Series will achieve its main goal: to
cultivate a sense of stewardship in Toronto area residents. If each of
us becomes aware of the rich variety of life forms, their beauty and
their critical roles within the varied ecosystems of Toronto, we will
surely be inspired to protect this natural heritage. After all, our own
health and ultimately our very survival is linked to the species and
natural spaces that share the planet with us. Without plants, there
would be no oxygen; without the life of the soil, there would be no
plants; without unpolluted fresh water, we would die.
While there are many organizations actively engaged in protecting
our city’s flora and fauna, the support of ordinary citizens is critical to
the conservation of our natural habitats. We hope you’ll take a walk
in one of our parks and open spaces, lower your blood pressure, look
around you, and enjoy the
diversity of trees, animals,
fishes, birds, flowers, and even
fungi that flourish among us.

With best wishes,
Margaret Atwood and
Graeme Gibson
January 2011

Need for Action
Two centuries of pollution and poor environmental stewardship have
dramatically changed Lake Ontario and its tributaries (streams). Many
urban watercourses have been buried in pipes or their forested riparian
zones (vegetated banks and floodplain) have been decimated. Water
pollution and traditional development methods continue to be serious
threats to habitat and the fishes in our waters. The new Toronto Green
Standard, encompassing many of the City’s environmentally friendly
initiatives, is one step in the right direction toward improving both
the water quality and the natural ecology of our watersheds (area of
land where surface water from rain or melting snow flows towards a
stream, lake, or other waterbody). But we must all do our part to reduce
pollution, be it from our vehicles, industry, or our homes. It’s not too
late, and it is the sincere hope of the City of Toronto and its partners that
this informative booklet will help residents and visitors appreciate the
wonders living in our waters and do everything they can to protect the
fishes of Toronto for current and future generations to enjoy.

City of Toronto Biodiversity Series
Fishes of Toronto is part of the Biodiversity Series developed by the City
of Toronto in honour of the Year of Biodiversity 2010. A number of the
non-human residents of Toronto will be profiled in the Series. It is hoped
that despite severe biodiversity loss due to massive urbanization, pollution,
invasive species, habitat loss and climate change, the Biodiversity Series
will help to re-connect people with the natural world, and raise awareness
of the seriousness that biodiversity loss represents and how it affects them
directly. The Series will inform residents and visitors of opportunities to
appreciate the variety of species inhabiting Toronto and how to help reduce
biodiversity loss by making informed individual decisions.

Introduction
Two hundred years ago Toronto’s streams were clear and cold and full of
Brook Trout. Lake Ontario was pristine and teeming with Lake Trout and
Atlantic Salmon. The Toronto Islands were a large sandy spit protecting a
huge wetland where Muskellunge, Northern Pike, and Walleye thrived.
And the now rare Lake Sturgeon and American Eel were common.

Although severely stressed, fish habitat still remains in Toronto, and efforts
are being made to improve and restore some of the lost habitat. Of the
original native species, 67 have survived. When the introduced and
invasive species are added, Toronto’s watercourses and adjacent Lake
Ontario contain a total of 82 established fish species.

After the arrival of Europeans, a host of changes resulted in the destruction
or deterioration of fish habitat. A total of 15 exotic fish species were either
intentionally introduced for food and recreation, or invaded through
navigational canals or the ballasts of ocean-going ships. Today,
populations of most native fishes have declined dramatically
and 10 species have disappeared entirely.

Unlike terrestrial plants and wildlife, fishes tend to be forgotten because they
are not easily observed. Yet a rich diversity of fishes in our waters is an
indicator of good water quality, which is so essential to our existence. This
book highlights that diversity and provides information on how and where to
angle or observe our fishes. We tell you what is being done to help them
thrive, and how you can help conserve and protect our fishes and the
waters in which they live.

Paul Kane (1810-1871), Fishing by Torch Light, circa 1848-1856
Native American Menominees spearfishing at night on Lake Michigan’s
Fox River in Wisconsin during the late 1840s. Light given off by the iron
frame torches (light-jacks) attracted the fish. Painted in Toronto.
Royal Ontario Museum Collection 912.1.10 ROM2005_5138_1

4

Yesterday’s Habitats of Toronto
Historically, the Toronto waterfront was a rich mosaic of aquatic
and terrestrial habitats, including bluffs and beaches, cobble reefs,
estuaries and bays with productive marshes, wooded shorelines, and
meadows. Rivers and creeks supplied clear, cool water and provided
habitats for river-spawning fishes such as Atlantic Salmon. Nutrientrich estuaries supported wetlands teeming with wildlife. Narrow
sandy peninsulas (spits) provided protection from winds and wave
action. Sheltered stretches of shoreline were lined with lush stands
of wetland vegetation. Much of nearshore Lake Ontario was covered
with sand, gravel, and stone.
European settlement of the Toronto watersheds in the late 1700s and
early 1800s resulted in profound changes to physical conditions in
the rivers and creeks, which in turn affected waterfront habitats, as
well as fishes and other wildlife.
These changes began with extensive clearing of the dense forest cover
that originally blanketed the uplands. As the forests were removed,
and the land altered by grading, water and sediment runoff to the
creeks and rivers increased, resulting in excessive flooding and bank
erosion downstream. Productive fish habitat in estuaries and wetlands
at the mouths of streams were choked by sediments. Numerous
sawmills and gristmills were built along the banks of the streams.
The mills discharged wastewater directly into the watercourses,
resulting in water pollution and burying of fish spawning grounds.
The millponds increased water temperatures, trapped sediments and
altered flow patterns. The mill dams also created barriers to fishes
moving upstream. The Atlantic Salmon that were once plentiful in
this area declined rapidly, with the last recorded catch in Toronto
Harbour occurring in 1874.

Plan of York, Toronto Harbour in 1818, Ashbridge’s Marsh on right
credit: Surveyed and drawn by Lieutenant George Phillpotts, Royal Engineer

From 1850-1910 stonehooking (the removal of gravel and rocks from
the lake bottom for use in construction) was a major force in changing
physical conditions and shoreline processes. During this time period,
one million cubic metres of aggregate were removed from Toronto
Harbour alone – enough to cover the entire waterfront from Etobicoke
Creek to the Rouge River with a layer one metre thick and extending
25 metres offshore. Stonehooking destroyed large amounts of valuable

“All men are equal before fish.”
– Herbert Hoover

Map showing Toronto’s shoreline, 1913

Fishing in the Don River, circa 1908

aquatic habitat, and the shoreline was exposed to accelerated erosion
from waves and currents.

the mouth of the Don River). During the industrial period from
1900-1960, extensive lakefilling transformed the lakefront. The huge
Ashbridge’s Marsh, approximately 8 km2, one of the largest wetlands
in Eastern Canada, was drained and filled between 1912 and 1920 to
create the Port Industrial District (the land currently around Cherry
and Commissioners Streets). Other lakefilling sites included most of
the central waterfront south of Front Street, portions of the Toronto
Islands including the airport, the Leslie Street Spit, Ontario Place,
and Sunnyside and Woodbine Beaches.

credit: Ontario Department of Lands Forests & Mines - Bureau of Mines

Other early shoreline alterations included weed removal, filling in
of wetlands and small streams, hardening (using concrete, metal,
and boulders) of the shoreline, and channelization of watercourses.
A map of Toronto Harbour in 1818 (see previous page) shows early
shoreline modifications in the form of docks, jetties and filling of
small creeks. By 1913, further alterations included navigable channels
such as the Western and Eastern Gaps and the Keating Channel (at

© City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1244, item 8159

5

6

Brief History of Lake Ontario Fishes and Fish Habitat
1600s Prominent aboriginal fisheries for Atlantic
Salmon (e.g., Credit River, Mississauga)
1615 Étienne Brûlé becomes the first European to visit
the land that eventually became Toronto while
on a mission to build alliances with native
peoples
1656 Jesuits capture Atlantic Salmon, catfish, and
eels on the Oswego River (near Oswego, New
York)
1670 Large numbers of Atlantic Salmon observed
spawning in the Humber River
1700s Beaver trapping was widespread. The trapping
of beaver (and loss of their dams) was the first
major ecological change of trout and salmon
habitats by humans
1749 Lake Ontario described as “very transparent; at
18 feet, the bottom can be seen as if one saw it
through polished glass”
1750 Fort Toronto (Fort Rouillé) was built by the
French near the mouth of the Humber River
1792 Observer reports “Lake Ontario and all rivers
that fall into it, abound with excellent salmon
and many different kinds of sea fish which
come up the St. Lawrence”
1793 English ships enter Toronto Bay (Toronto
Harbour) and begin the British era of settlement
and control
1793 Atlantic Salmon noted in the Don River
1793 Large flocks of passenger pigeons were still
prominent around Castle Frank (Don River)
1793 Sawmill on the Humber River
1795 Grist and sawmills on the Don River
1796 Red trout (likely Brook Trout) were caught
through holes in the ice on the Don River
1796 Bears, wolves, deer, and bald eagles are
observed around York (Toronto)
1798 York (Toronto) newspaper, announcing a farm
sale, extolled the property “above all, it affords
an excellent salmon fishery, large enough to
support a number of families…”

1800s The quantity of Lake Whitefish and other
species taken in nets was described as
“immense.” Whitefish were used as fertilizer,
and small Lake Whitefish, Cisco, and Lake
Sturgeon were “destroyed as nuisances”.

1864 Suggestion that certain salmon streams in Ontario
should be set apart specifically and solely for
natural propagation purposes, with the Moira
(near Belleville) and Credit Rivers being
recommended

1807 First fishing regulation for the preservation of
salmons, forbids the use of commercial fishing
equipment in or at the mouth of any river in the
Home (Toronto, York, Peel, Halton) and
Newcastle (Durham and Northumberland)
districts. A provision states “nothing in this Act
shall be constructed to prevent persons at any
time from taking salmon with a spear or hook
and line”.

1866 Conservationist and fish culture pioneer Samuel
Wilmot created the first Canadian hatchery for
Atlantic Salmon on Wilmot Creek, near
Newcastle.

1810 1807 regulation was revoked; new regulations
imposed a closed season from October 25 to
January 1, along with fishing within 100 yards
of a dam and netting at river mouths in the
Home District

1870 Oakville (16 Mile) Creek, Highland Creek, Rouge
River, Duffins Creek, Bowmanville Creek set aside
for natural and artificial propagation of salmons

1810 Salmons… “swarmed the rivers so thickly that
they were thrown out with a shovel and even
with the hand”.
1815 Stone hooking started along Lake Ontario
shoreline/nearshore environments.
1824 At least 13 mills existed on the Humber River
and its tributaries.
1825 Erie Canal construction begins connecting Lake
Ontario to the Hudson River.
1835 Record of Sea Lamprey in Duffins Creek (near
Ajax)

1870s Common Carp introduced into USA side of Lake
Ontario
1870 Seth Green, the “Father of Fish Culture in North
America”, introduces American Shad fry

1873 Alewife reported in abundance
1874 Rainbow Trout introduced to New York State side
of the Lake
1874 68,000 juvenile Chinook Salmon released into
Wilmot Creek (taken from the Sacramento River,
California)
1875 Wilmot states that “shoals of herring do not, as
formerly, come so near the shore because the
gravel, which composed the bottom almost to the
shore, has gradually become covered with sand”
1878 Brief increase in Atlantic Salmon population until
their ultimate crash in the 1890s

1846 Evidence to suggest that salmon stocks were
considerably less abundant than formerly

1880s Resident Brook Trout were gone from lower
portions of Lake Ontario tributaries and scarce in
the upper portions by 1890

1846 60 mills on the Humber River and its tributaries

1880s Northern Pike populations increased

1850s 87 mills on the Credit River

1880 Common Carp introduced into Ontario

1851 Record of Sea Lamprey parasitizing Atlantic
Salmon

1880 75-80% of forests in southern Ontario cleared for
farming and urban uses

1860s Lake Trout begin to decline.

1881 Samuel Wilmot notes broad environmental change
on land through removal of trees, cultivation of
land, runoff from farms, construction of dams, and
the addition of industrial and human sewage.
Wilmot gives up trying to rehabilitate Lake
Ontario’s Atlantic Salmon, lamenting that “I cannot
disguise from myself that the time is gone by

1860s Cultivation of the land reached its peak in the
Lake watershed.
1860 90 mills on the Humber River and its tributaries
1864 50 mills on the Don River and its tributaries

7

1884 Passenger pigeons functionally extinct
1890s Freshwater mussels harvested for button industry
1890 Lake Trout considered essentially gone from Lake
Ontario
1890 Alewife considered the most abundant fish in the
lake
1898 Atlantic Salmon extirpated from Lake Ontario
1900s Beaver populations were scarce
1900s Bronte Creek (Halton Region near Burlington/
Oakville) watershed reduced to 4% forest cover
through deforestation from roughly 100% cover a
century before
1900s Credit River watershed reduced to 3-5% forest
cover through deforestation
1916 Chinook stocking reinstated; 100,000 Chinook
Salmon from the Fraser River (British Columbia)
were stocked

1940s Contamination from dioxins and similar
chemicals were high enough to eliminate
all natural reproduction in Lake Trout.
1944 Atlantic Salmon stocked into Duffins Creek until
1947
1947 Confirmed spawning of Rainbow Trout in
Duffin’s Creek
1948 White Perch found to have invaded.
1969 Coho Salmon introduced.
1971 Large increase in the numbers of Chinook
Salmon stocked
1972 USEPA Clean Waters Act passed
1972 Canada/USA Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement
1987 Toronto & Region designated as one of
43 Areas of Concern (AOC) in the Great Lakes
by the International Joint Commission, initiating
the first stage of the area’s Remedial Action
Plan (RAP)

1918 Ontario Department of Game and Fisheries
introduces policy designed to establish wildreproducing, self-sustaining populations of
Rainbow Trout in the Great Lakes

1988 Zebra Mussel invaded

1919 Numerous reports of returning adult Chinook
Salmon, and reports of successful wild spawning
in the Credit River and Twelve Mile Creek (Bronte
Creek)

1998 Round Goby invaded

1922 Rainbow Trout stocked into Bronte Creek and the
Humber River
1929 Ontario introduces Brown Trout into tributaries of
Lake Ontario
1931 Rainbow Smelt first reported in Lake Ontario
1933 Chinook Salmon stocking considered a failure;
lack of self-sustaining permanent populations
1940 Beaver populations begin to recover
1940s Reforestation projects begin in southern Ontario
(e.g., Ganaraska Forest)

Ice Fishing at the Toronto Islands, circa 1910

© City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1244, item 0445

1882 Chinook Salmon stocking abandoned

1940s Abundant Rainbow Trout populations
established in Canadian tributaries of Lake
Ontario

Fishing at High Park’s
Grenadier Pond, circa 1939

1990s Large numbers of wild juvenile Chinook
and Coho Salmon discovered on north shore
tributaries
2003 City of Toronto adopted the Wet Weather Flow
Master Plan (WWFMP) to improve the quality
of the City’s surface waters
2005 August 19, a massive 100-year storm hits the
Toronto area, dropping over 150 mm
of rain in under 2 hours, causing severe
damage to many urban streams
2006 Full-scale Atlantic Salmon restoration
begins in Lake Ontario streams
2011 Atlantic Salmon restoration on the Humber
River begins with the stocking of 100,000 fry

© City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1244, item 0629

forever for the growth of salmon and speckled
trout (Brook Trout) in the frontier streams of
Ontario”

8

Today’s Habitats of Toronto
Within the City of Toronto there are six watersheds (from west to
east: Etobicoke Creek, Mimico Creek, Humber River, Don River,
Highland Creek, Rouge River) totaling over 320 km of streams,
and including the Toronto Islands, there is approximately 150 km
of Lake Ontario shoreline. These surface waters currently provide
habitat for fishes and have all been subject to varying degrees of
urbanization with subsequent negative impacts to fish habitat.

The Highland Creek watershed (entirely contained within the City) is
the most developed watershed in Toronto with over 85% urbanization.
The other watercourses have lower percentages of urbanization because
their watersheds also include the rural areas north of Toronto. The
extent of development has left little in terms of riparian vegetation along
many segments of Toronto’s rivers and creeks. This has an adverse
effect on fish habitat by limiting cover, reducing shade and causing
warming, and increasing erosion. Large sections of the streams have
been channelized which results in these reaches being essentially void of
aquatic life. There are also numerous in-stream barriers which restrict
both jumping and non-jumping fish movement and migration to
upstream habitat.
Through the development of watershed-based Fisheries Management
Plans, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), in conjunction with
its partner agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public,
protect and enhance aquatic habitat in each of the watersheds
throughout Toronto. The fisheries management plans for the Don and
Humber Rivers identified in-stream barriers as one of the limitations to
the health of the aquatic community. Many barrier removal projects
have been completed, and migrating salmonids, such as Chinook
Salmon and Rainbow Trout, are now found as far as 20-30 km
upstream of Lake Ontario.

Fishing Highland Creek

photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

Even though there is little in Toronto that has not been impacted by
urbanization, there are still many locations where there are thriving
fish populations (see Exceptional Sport Fishing Locations in Toronto,
pages 44-46). The City’s watercourses still offer productive habitat for
fishes and other aquatic life. Many of the fishes found in the Lake use
these habitats for various stages of their life cycles. The Rouge River,

“The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.”
– Patrick F. McManus

being the least urbanized watershed in Toronto, has a fish community
that includes even sensitive species such as Redside Dace, Brook Trout,
American Brook Lamprey, Mottled Sculpin, and Rainbow Darter. Also
lightly developed, the Toronto Islands provide a refuge of relatively
undisturbed fish habitat and support fishes such as the rare American
Eel. Within the Islands, there are areas that have been restored or
constructed to provide excellent aquatic habitat. Many other areas of
the Lake Ontario waterfront have also been restored/improved and now
provide excellent fish habitat. Examples include Colonel Samuel Smith
Park, Humber Bay Park, sites within the Inner Harbour, Tommy
Thompson Park, and numerous points along the Eastern Beaches and
Scarborough Bluffs.
The good news is that there continues to be numerous ongoing and
planned initiatives to help the fish community of Toronto thrive. The
future looks great for the fishes of Toronto.
Aquatic vegetation planting and shoreline restoration at Tommy Thompson Park
photo: TRCA

Claire Crowly holding a Chinook Salmon caught in the
Keating Channel at the mouth of the Don River during
TRCA monitoring
photo: TRCA

Toronto Islands – exceptional fish habitat and recreational opportunities
photo: TRCA

9

10

Aquatic Ecosystems
Aquatic ecosystems are complex systems
made up of many interacting components
(fishes, plants, insects, zooplankton, nutrients,
rocks, soil). Although water is central to
aquatic ecosystems, the water’s edge does not
strictly define the boundaries of an aquatic
ecosystem. Activities taking place in the
watershed, such as construction and land-use,
influence ecosystem health.
The aquatic ecosystems in the Toronto area
can be broadly characterized into several
types, including: ponds and small lakes, rivers
and creeks, wetlands, and Lake Ontario (both
nearshore and offshore). The physical and
chemical properties of these aquatic features
determine what kind of habitat is available,
and in turn, the type and abundance of
organisms that live there.

Ponds and Small Lakes

Rivers and Creeks

These aquatic ecosystems tend to be shallower
and warmer than larger systems. Due to their
relatively small volume, ponds and lakes can be
influenced quickly and dramatically by adjacent
land use, and runoff events from the surrounding
watershed. Ponds and small lakes generally host
a relatively simple fish community, which may include minnows, sunfishes (Bluegill, Pumpkinseed,
Largemouth Bass), and Northern Pike. Unless the
pond or small lake is connected to another waterbody, fishes living in small ponds and lakes are
permanent residents. Ponds and small lakes are
often warm in the summer and covered by ice in
the winter, further influencing which species will
live there. In the Toronto area, Grenadier Pond in
High Park is an example of this type of
ecosystem.

These ecosystems are characterized by moving
water. They tend to be cooler and shallower, compared to other aquatic ecosystems in the Toronto
area. Many fish species spend their entire lives in
streams; but other fishes migrate in and out of
streams during specific periods in their lives, for
example, during spawning. In the Toronto area,
White Sucker, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and
Chinook Salmon are conspicuous stream-dwellers
for at least part of the year. The streams are often
ice-free and accessible to fishes all year; however,
seasonally fluctuating water levels and man-made
barriers can limit fish movement. Within Toronto,
there are many smaller streams (creeks and
brooks) and three large watercourses: the
Humber, Don, and Rouge rivers.

Walleye

illustrations: Charles Weiss

Pond in High Park

photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

Highland Creek at Kingston Road
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

“Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Wetlands

Lake Ontario

Wetlands are shallow, productive, warmwater areas often located around
the margins of streams and lakes. They are usually defined by an abundance of cattails, water lilies, and submerged aquatic vegetation.
Wetlands are dynamic, growing and receding seasonally. They play an important role in controlling and regulating water runoff (thereby reducing
erosion), filtering and cleansing water, as well as providing important habitat for plants and animals. Many fish species, including minnows, sunfishes,
and juvenile sport fishes live in and around wetlands, and use them as
feeding and nursery areas. Because of their location, wetlands are frequently areas prized for development. Careful planning and management
must be done to prevent degradation of these sensitive areas. The City of
Toronto has six “Provincially Significant Wetlands”, including the Lower
Humber River Wetland Complex, the East Don Valley Wetland Complex
and the Rouge River Marshes Wetland Complex.

Lake Ontario is the 14th largest lake in the world, and is part of the
Laurentian Great Lakes, which collectively contain one-fifth of the world’s
fresh water. Although Lake Ontario has a small surface area, relative to the
other Great Lakes, an average depth of 86 m (283 ft) is second only to
Lake Superior. Toronto is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario’s
Western Basin. Salmonids such as Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Lake
Trout and Rainbow Trout are found in this part of the lake. These species
contribute to a prized offshore sport fishery in the Toronto area, as well as
along the northern shore of Lake Ontario. The nearshore areas of Lake
Ontario adjacent to Toronto are much shallower and warmer, providing
habitat for species such as sunfishes, Northern Pike, Brown Bullhead, and
Channel Catfish. Nearshore habitats are popular angling destinations, with
Ashbridge’s Bay, Toronto Islands, and Bluffer’s Park offering people the
chance to catch fishes relatively close to shore.

Rouge River marshes just upstream of the river’s mouth at Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario at Bluffer’s Beach Park – Toronto staff collecting samples for the
Beaches’ Water Quality Monitoring Program

photo: TRCA

photo: Toronto Water

11

12

Fish Anatomy

dorsal fin (spiny rayed)

External

lateral line
dorsal fin (soft rayed)

All fishes have fins used for manoeuvring, stabilizing,
propulsion, and braking. Fins vary greatly in structure, size,
and number of rays between species. Some fishes such as
trouts and salmons have a small fleshy adipose fin on the
back behind the main dorsal fin.
The mouth of a fish varies from tiny to very large and can
be oriented downward, straight ahead, or upward. Some
fishes have one or more fleshy whiskers (barbels) around
their mouth, which are covered in taste sensors. Teeth
may be found not only on the jaws, but on the roof of the
mouth, the tongue, or in the throat. The skin of a fish is
usually covered with scales varying greatly in size among
species and can be smooth (cycloid) as in trouts, rough
(ctenoid) as in sunfishes, or bony (ganoid) as in gars. Fishes
such as catfishes and lampreys have no scales.
Fishes breathe by extracting dissolved oxygen from water
using gills (similar to how our lungs extract oxygen from
the air). These gills are located on bony arches, and usually
have bony projections called gill rakers. In some fishes, the
gill rakers act to filter out and trap prey and food particles.
Buoyancy is usually controlled using a gas-filled sac called
a swimbladder, where gases can be added or removed from
the blood with changes in depth.
Along the side of a fish, there is usually a lateral line, a
narrow tube full of sensors, that detect changes in water
pressure resulting from other organisms moving through
the water. This is useful for schooling, prey detection, and
predator avoidance.

operculum (gill cover)
eye

caudal fin (tail)

nares (nostrils)

mouth
caudal peduncle
pectoral fin
anal fin
pelvic fin

Pumpkinseed

illustrations: Charles Weiss

Internal

swimbladder
kidney
spine

brain
olfactory
bulb

gill rakers
gills
heart

liver

gall bladder
stomach

testis

urinary bladder

spleen
intestine

anus

muscle tissue

13

Fishes of Toronto
Toronto’s (un)Official Fish: Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
Toronto’s best known fish in 1800 is today the most forgotten.
Considered the greatest freshwater population of the species in the
world when European settlers arrived in Ontario, Lake Ontario’s
Atlantic Salmon population had disappeared by 1898, when the last
confirmed native salmon was caught off the Scarborough shoreline.
The original population was present in such a high abundance that it
was a primary food source for both Aboriginals and settlers before the
establishment of farms; property values were enhanced by the presence
of Atlantic Salmon, and towns were named after salmon.

Unfortunately, their reliance on rivers as part of their reproductive cycle
was central to their extirpation (local extinction) from Lake Ontario as
European settlement progressed through the 19th century. As southern
Ontario changed from forest to towns and farmlands, significant
changes occurred that were detrimental to Atlantic Salmon. As trees
were cut down, stream temperatures and erosion increased, eliminating
the cold water and rocky river bottoms needed for spawning and
nursery habitat. Pollutants and other materials were also dumped
indiscriminately into the streams.

Atlantic Salmon arrived in Lake Ontario 12,000 years ago from the
Atlantic Ocean as the last ice age came to an end and the ice sheets that
once covered Ontario slowly moved northward. The Atlantic Salmon,
like most other salmonid species, lays its eggs in cold, freshwater
streams, where the eggs hatch and the juvenile fishes migrate out to the
saltwater of the ocean. However, because they already live part of their
lives in fresh water, these types of fishes can adapt to living entirely
in fresh water, using the lake as if it were an ocean. Although some
individuals may have migrated through the St. Lawrence River to the
Atlantic Ocean, historical evidence suggests the Lake Ontario Atlantic
Salmon adapted to living its entire life in fresh water.

The Atlantic Salmon was also unable to access any remaining good
habitat as the need for water power resulted in mill dams being built on
almost all tributaries running into Lake Ontario. Toronto’s Humber
River for example, still had over 110 barriers to fish passage on it in the
1990s. The Atlantic Salmon is a fantastic jumper, its scientific name
Salmo salar translates as the “leaping salmon,” but taller dams and the
repeated need to jump meant they could not reach spawning areas.

~
“The Atlantic Salmon was one of the first Canadian fishes in the Great Lakes
region to disappear as a result of man’s careless use of natural resources. It was
to be the first of many. In Lake Ontario the erection of mill dams on streams
denied it access to spawning grounds. It was also the first to suffer from DDT
sprays (in New Brunswick), hydro-electric dam construction, domestic pollution,
and a thousand and one other indignities thrust upon the environment by man.”
– Scott and Crossman, Freshwater Fishes of Canada, 1973.

Atlantic Salmon

photo: Montreal Biodome

14

“If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets.” – Frank Herbert

The final factor behind the loss of Atlantic Salmon from Lake Ontario
was the sustenance fishery, which caught Atlantic Salmon during their
spawning runs. Historic records tell of hundreds and thousands of fish
being taken in a single night, caught using nets and spears.
Lake Ontario water quality and habitat improvements over the
past 30 to 40 years have been so successful that Atlantic Salmon
restoration was considered feasible by 2006. That year, a partnership
was formed between the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
corporate sponsors, and Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
to initiate a full restoration program for Atlantic Salmon. Working
in five-year phases, best-bet streams will be targeted as new home
streams with the goal of returning a self-sustaining population to Lake
Ontario. Restoration efforts are focused on four program areas: Fish
Production and Stocking; Habitat and Water Quality Enhancement/
Protection; Research and Assessment; and Education and Outreach.

students helped raise fish in their schools, and the adult Atlantic
Salmon is returning to Ontario’s streams and spawning. Recently,
stocking of the Humber River of large numbers of young Atlantic
Salmon started, adding it to the list of rivers targeted for restoration of
this signature species.
Atlantic Salmon – quick biological facts
• spawn in cool and clear water streams, October through November
• females deposit 500 to 1600 eggs/kg of body weight
• reach sexual maturity at 2-4 kg and can grow to over 10 kg
• build redds – shallow nesting depressions “excavated” in clean gravel
where eggs are laid and then covered back over after fertilization
• do NOT die after spawning and may live for more than 10 years
• imprint on the stream where hatched and return as adults to spawn
after spending 1-3 yrs in the Lake; may return to spawn numerous times
• can jump over 3 m and reach swimming speeds of up to 30 km/h
• only distantly related to Pacific salmons; closely related to Brown Trout

Through early 2011, over 3.5 million Atlantic Salmon have been
released, more than 110 habitat projects completed, thousands of

photo: MNR

photo: MNR

photo: OFAH

photo: MNR

Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program – Each fall, adult Atlantic Salmon, housed in a provincial hatchery, produce millions of eggs that
are raised into juvenile fish and released into the wild to restore this species to Lake Ontario.
From left to right: eggs, alevin (sac fry), parr (spring fingerling), parr (yearling).

Adult Atlantic Salmon
photo: John Kendell

15
Typical Atlantic Salmon Spawning and Life Cycle Facts
• the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon is a permanent freshwater
resident, spending its adult life in the Lake, instead of
migrating to the ocean
• adults turn dark bronze and migrate up the streams in the
fall to spawn
• spawning females lay approximately 2000 to 8000 Eggs
(5 to 7 mm in diameter)
• eggs hatch late winter/early spring, about 3 months after
fertilization
• newly hatched Alevin (1 to 3 cm) remain buried in the
gravel nest (redd) and feed off their yolk-sacs for 1 to 3
months
• emerge from their redd as free swimming Fry (3 to 8 cm)
and begin foraging for food
• enter the Parr stage (6 to 20 cm) at about 3 to 6 months
and develop large dark vertical parr marks on the sides of
their body
• remain in the stream until 1 to 3 years of age, feeding
on aquatic invertebrates (insects and their larvae) and
terrestrial insects that fall into the stream or live on the
surface
• when ready to swim downstream to Lake Ontario, they
change from dark to bright silver and lose their parr
markings, becoming Smolts (14 to 25 cm)
• grow and mature in the Lake for 1 to 3 more years (40 to
100 cm) until ready to spawn
• Adults feed on invertebrates (insects, crayfishes), Cisco, Alewife,
Rainbow Smelt, shiners, and sometimes sculpins and Round Goby
• usually return to their native streams, migrating to the headwaters to
spawn at about 3 to 5 years old
• individuals that spawn after only one year in the Lake are called Grilse
• of the eggs laid, only about 20% (400-1600) hatch, typically only 5%
(100-400) reach Lake Ontario as Smolts, and on average only 0.25%
(5-20) actually reach spawning age
• while migrating they typically forage very little until after spawning
• unlike Pacific salmons, most Atlantic Salmon do NOT die after spawning
and return to the Lake

illustration: Judy Pennanen, Atlantic Salmon Federation

• returning adults resume feeding and change back to a silver colour
• a small percentage of Atlantic Salmon survive several spawning runs
• wild Atlantic Salmon can live up to 20 years, but have a typical
maximum age of 9 to 11 years
• the adult Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon is typically 3 to 10 kg
• record catches in Europe have been over 35 kg and 150+ cm; but in
Lake Ontario the historic population record is just over 20 kg
• the largest recorded Atlantic Salmon caught from the newly restored
(post 1980) Lake Ontario population is 11 kg

16

Coldwater
Fishes
Coldwater fishes are
generally found where
the water temperature
does not exceed 19°C.
This includes cold
spring-fed streams and
the deep waters of lakes
where the temperature
stays cold in the
summertime. Many of
them are small-scaled,
smooth-skinned, and
streamlined fishes that
swim continuously. Many
migrate great distances
from their feeding
grounds in lakes to the
headwaters of coldwater
streams where they
spawn in the fall, winter,
or early spring in water
that is usually below
10°C. Coldwater fishes
include all of the trouts,
salmons, and whitefishes
along with their smaller
prey species such as the
Alewife, Rainbow Smelt,
sculpins, sticklebacks,
and Trout-perch. Also
included are lampreys,
such as the Sea Lamprey,
which is a devastating
predator of coldwater
fishes. Most of the
large coldwater fishes
are valuable game and
commercial fishes.

Burbot

Alewife

American Brook Lamprey

Sea Lamprey

Lake Chub

Slimy Sculpin

Rainbow Smelt

Threespine Stickleback

Trout-perch

“One fish. Two fish. Red fish. Blue fish. Black fish. Blue fish. Old fish. New fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say!
What a lot of fish there are.” – Dr. Seuss

Brook Trout

Brown Trout

Chinook Salmon

Coho Salmon

Lake Trout

Rainbow Trout

Cisco

Lake Whitefish

Round Whitefish

17

“Scattered Alewife and Chinook Salmon”
illustration: Charles Weiss

19

Featured Coldwater Fish:
Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdii)
The Mottled Sculpin is a small fish (maximum size is about 15 cm)
with large eyes located near the top of its head. It has relatively large
fins, and lacks scales. The Mottled Sculpin is widespread in eastern
Canada from Labrador to Manitoba with isolated populations in
southern parts of British Columbia and Alberta. It inhabits cold,
clear water in both streams and lakes and is often found over gravel
riffles (turbulent shallow water) and along rocky shores. This bottom
dwelling fish eats mainly aquatic insect larvae and, to a lesser extent,
small fishes and crustaceans. Contrary to fishing folklore, the Mottled
Sculpin is not considered to be a significant predator of trout eggs,
but in fact is a common food source of many predatory fish species,
including Lake Trout, Brook Trout, and Northern Pike. They are
occasionally used as bait by anglers, but are not a preferred bait species.
The Mottled Sculpin’s average life span is 4 to 6 years, and sexual

maturity is reached once they are approximately two years old. The
females produce anywhere from a couple dozen to a few hundred
eggs. The males select and protect the nest for up to 2 months, until
the fry disperse about 2 weeks after hatching. Their nests could
have many hundreds of fertilized eggs as the larger males may mate
with ten or more females each year. The invasive Round Goby is a
competitive threat to Mottled Sculpin populations where they coexist. The goby bears a superficial resemblance to sculpins; however,
the Round Goby possesses a distinctive fused pelvic fin (looks like
a suction cup) and has scales. Throughout its range the Mottled
Sculpin is not typically a threatened or endangered species, but they
are known to be very sensitive to certain pollutants, such as heavy
metals. As such, they are considered by many to be an indicator
species for water quality conditions in streams.
Mottled Sculpin

photo: Bruce Gebhardt

20

Coolwater
Fishes
Coolwater fishes are
generally found where
the water temperature
is between 19°C and
25°C. Compared to coldwater fishes, they occur
in the warmer parts of
cold spring-fed streams
and in the shallower
parts of lakes. Many of
our coolwater fishes are
small-bodied minnows
and darters, but a few
grow larger, including,
Northern Pike, Yellow
Perch, and Walleye. Most
coolwater fishes are nonmigratory, moving only
short distances to their
spawning grounds. They
spawn in the spring or
early summer, usually
in water that is above
10°C but may be as high
as 25°C. A few undertake longer migrations
to spawning grounds,
including the Lake
Sturgeon and American
Eel. The most widespread
and abundant fishes
in Toronto’s streams,
Blacknose Dace, Longnose
Dace, Creek Chub, and
White Sucker, are all species tolerant to the poor
water quality typical of
urban watercourses.

Blacknose Dace

Blacknose Shiner

Brassy Minnow

Common Shiner

Creek Chub

Emerald Shiner

Golden Shiner

Hornyhead Chub

Longnose Dace

Northern Redbelly Dace

Redside Dace

Spottail Shiner

21

Round Goby

Central Mudminnow

Iowa Darter

Johnny Darter

Logperch

Rainbow Darter

Walleye

Yellow Perch

Brook Stickleback

White Sucker

Rock Bass

Smallmouth Bass

“Sundown on the Lake”
Walleye feeding on Yellow Perch

illustration: Charles Weiss

23

Featured Coolwater Fish:
Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
The Lake Sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in Ontario, capable of
reaching lengths of almost 3 m (9 ft) and weighing over 100 kg (220
lbs). It is a unique member of Lake Ontario’s fish community for a
variety of reasons: its skeleton is made of cartilage (like a shark) and
not bone, it has large bony shields or “scutes” rather than scales, and
it uses a combination of sensory pores and barbels to locate its food,
which it sucks up from muddy stream and lake beds using a vacuumlike mouth. Females are larger at maturity and live longer than males.
Large females have been reported to live for more than 150 years,
compared to a maximum age of approximately 50-60 years for males.
Sturgeon do not become sexually mature until 8-14 years of age, and
spawn at intervals of 4-8 years after that. Its life history traits (slow
growth rates, late maturity and low reproductive rates) has made the
Lake Sturgeon especially vulnerable to exploitation.
Although originally considered worthless by European settlers,
sturgeon were fished intensively from 1860-1900 for their eggs
(caviar) and their flesh, which was considered a delicacy when
prepared by smoking. Historical documents suggest that sturgeon
spawned in the Don River prior to their population declining in
the 1840s. Subsequent habitat degradation from damming rivers,
dredging, and water pollution further reduced numbers and they have

Lake Sturgeon

illustration: Charles Weiss

been at a low abundance in the Lake Ontario system for over a century.
In an effort to slow the population’s rate of decline, recreational and
commercial fisheries for Lake Sturgeon was closed in Lake Ontario
and its watershed in 1984. Warming waters due to climate change and
poisoning from eating contaminated Zebra Mussel and Quagga Mussel
may further impact the future of these remarkable fish.
Sturgeon populations still exist in Lake Ontario and there are signs of
small increases in the populations
in the lower Niagara River and
upper St. Lawrence River. Lake
Sturgeon are currently listed as
“Threatened” under the Ontario
Endangered Species Act.
Lake Sturgeon

photos: Gregory Lashbrook

Northern Pike caught in May of 2010 by Mike Puusa, an avid angler who enjoys
the excellent fishing that can be found around the Toronto Islands.
photo: Mike Correa

25

Featured Coolwater Fish:
Northern Pike (Esox lucius)
While many of Toronto’s fish species are found elsewhere in eastern
Canada and North America, few are found throughout both Canada
and the rest of the northern hemisphere. The Northern Pike,
however, is very widespread. It ranges from Alaska to Missouri,
Europe to Siberia and is one of the most well known freshwater
species in the world.
A long, narrow fish with a ferocious-looking grin, the Northern Pike
is a coolwater predator and a popular sport fish. They spawn in April
and May, and require vegetated areas in bays, marshes, and streams in
which to scatter their eggs. They often spawn in water less than
20 cm deep, and the young fish need similar habitat, which leaves
them vulnerable to changes in water level. Older juvenile and adult

Northern Pike

photo: Nature’s Images Inc.

pike live in generally similar, but somewhat deeper, habitat – slowmoving rivers or weedy areas of lakes. Young pike grow quickly. Once
they are 50 mm or longer, they feed mainly on other fishes, frogs, and
crayfishes. Larger Northern Pike will occasionally eat ducks and mice!
Female Northern Pike in Toronto reach maturity between 2 and 4
years of age, with males maturing earlier. While they can live for more
than 20 years, a more typical lifespan is 10-12 years. The largest
recorded Northern Pike caught in Ontario weighed just over 19 kg
(42 lbs).
For exceptional fishing locations in Toronto, see pages 44-46.

26

Warmwater
Fishes
Warmwater fishes are
generally found where
the maximum water
temperature often
exceeds 25°C. They
are found in the more
downstream and slower
sections of streams and
in the shallowest waters of lakes. They are
often more deep-bodied,
rough-scaled, and less
stream-lined fishes that
move slowly or sit still
in the water when they
are not pouncing on
their prey. They include
a range of both small
and large fishes, the
catfishes, the sunfishes,
and the temperate
basses. They spawn in
late spring or summer,
usually in water that
is warmer than 15°C
and often above 20°C.
Popular warmwater sport
fish species include the
Largemouth Bass (page
28), sunfishes, and the
non-native Common
Carp (page 34).

Bowfin

Freshwater Drum

Longnose Gar

Bluntnose Minnow

Central Stoneroller

Common Carp

Fathead Minnow

Goldfish

Rosyface Shiner

Sand Shiner

Spotfin Shiner

Brook Silverside

27

Brown Bullhead

Channel Catfish

Stonecat

Tadpole Madtom

Northern Hog Sucker

Shorthead Redhorse

Black Crappie

Bluegill

Green Sunfish

Pumpkinseed

White Bass

White Perch

28

Featured Warmwater Fish:
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Largemouth Bass and its cousin the Smallmouth Bass both live in
Toronto waters and are similar in appearance. The Largemouth Bass is
usually green to olive in colour and has a series of broken up black
blotches along the side forming a horizontal line (in Smallmouth Bass
these markings form several vertical lines). The Largemouth Bass also
has a deep notch between the spiny (front) and soft (rear) rayed
portions of the dorsal fin. However, the mouth is the main feature
distinguishing it from the Smallmouth Bass. The upper jaw of adult
Largemouth Bass extends backwards past the eye; in Smallmouth Bass
the upper jaw does not extend backwards beyond the eye.
Spawning takes place when water temperatures reach between 16°C
and 23°C, which occurs in May in most Toronto waters, but can be as
late as the end of June in Lake Ontario due to cool water upwellings
from the main lake basin. It prefers sheltered shorelines or bays with
sand and gravel bottoms and aquatic vegetation. Like other members
of the sunfish family, the male Largemouth Bass is a single parent.
The male will coax a ready female over a nest where she will deposit
her eggs for the male to fertilize. She then leaves to recuperate in
deeper water, leaving the male to guard their young on his own for
several weeks. In and around Toronto, this fascinating ritual typically
takes place during the closed fishing season and anglers cannot target
bass (even for catch and release) until the season opens, when most
bass have finished spawning.
The Largemouth Bass is adaptable and can thrive in a variety of
aquatic conditions. The ideal Largemouth Bass habitat provides
protection and is found in shallow water (30 cm to 4 m deep).
Extensive nearshore Largemouth habitat exists in Toronto including

lily pads along with other aquatic plants, man-made structures (docks,
pilings), logs, stumps and downed trees or a combination of any of
these features.
The Largemouth Bass is regarded as a premier gamefish, not necessarily
for its taste (many anglers prefer to live release those they catch), but
for its strong fighting skills and willingness to hit artificial lures. Some
of the more effective baits that work well in and around Toronto
include plastic worms, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures.
Due to an excellent forage base of baitfishes, frogs, and crayfishes,
Largemouth Bass from nearshore areas of Lake Ontario, and even
within some city ponds, can reach over 2.5 kg (5-6 lbs) in size. In
Toronto, there are many opportunities for the shore and boat angler
to fish for this battling predator. For exceptional fishing locations in
Toronto, see pages 44-46.
Juvenile Largemouth Bass
photo: Erling Holm

29

Featured Warmwater Fish:
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Sunfishes are popular warmwater species
throughout Toronto’s urban fisheries. There
are two types of sunfishes that are most
likely to be caught by anglers in waters
ranging from ponds and reservoirs to
slow moving rivers and even nearshore
areas of Lake Ontario. In many
cases, these waters primarily contain
Pumpkinseed, but in recent years it
appears that the Bluegill is becoming
more plentiful.
Like most sunfishes, the Bluegill is a relatively
short and deep-bodied fish. Bluegill average 12-18
cm (5-7 in.) around Toronto, but Bluegill in the range
of 20-25 cm are not uncommon. In most cases, the Bluegill is
light to dark olive, but larger, older fish may have a purplish tinge.
Cheeks and gill covers are often bluish, and the “ear flap” located
just behind the eye is entirely black, without a pale edge or red spot.
Pumpkinseed can closely resemble Bluegill, but the easiest way to
distinguish the Pumpkinseed is by looking for its bright orange
spot at the tip of the ear flap. Secondly, the soft (back) portion of
the dorsal fin on the Bluegill has a dark blotch; the Pumpkinseed’s
soft dorsal fin has many smaller brown spots. During pre-spawn
conditions in the spring or early summer, the breeding male Bluegill
is marked by bright blue and orange colours. Females and younger
Bluegill are less colourful and are often marked by dark vertical bars
on their olive backs (see page 27).

Like all sunfishes, the Bluegill is a nest builder
– the male builds a nest in shallow waters,
often within a colony of many nests. A
single female can deposit more than
50,000 eggs. The male then guards the
eggs and fry against predators.
The Bluegill’s mouth lacks sharp teeth
and is quite small; its food sources
include bite-sized aquatic insects and
other small invertebrates. Young Bluegill
will stay in heavy weeds to avoid predators.
Bluegill
photo: Erling Holm
An interesting characteristic of Bluegill,
especially larger ones, is that they can often be
seen in large schools feeding heavily on tiny drifting
zooplankton a few feet below the surface away from the security
of deep weed growth.
The Bluegill is a fun and exciting fish to catch and are especially
suited to the variety of shore fishing opportunities Toronto has to
offer. They are prolific breeders and their populations are stable or
even increasing throughout the city. Bluegill can be caught with a
variety of live and artificial baits ranging from earthworms hooked
below a float to small plastic or biodegradable grubs on a small jig
head. Casting thin, 2.5 - 5 cm hard lures (crankbait) on light line can
be especially effective when Bluegill are active. Fly fishers can have a
lot of fun fishing for cruising Bluegill using nymph patterns, a variety
of floating flies and especially poppers. The Bluegill is also quite tasty!
For exceptional fishing locations in Toronto, see pages 44-46.

30

Endangered Species:
American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)
Many people are unaware that Ontario has a native eel that lives in
Lake Ontario and its tributaries. Other Ontario fishes which may be
confused with eels, such as lampreys and Burbot, bear only a superficial
resemblance to the American Eel, and are not closely related. American
Eel have a complex life cycle. All American Eel are part of a single
breeding population that spawns in only one place in the world – the
Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean (a large shoreless “sea” off the
east coast of the United States surrounding Bermuda). From there,
young eels drift with ocean currents and then migrate inland into
streams and lakes. This journey may take many years
to complete, with some eels travelling as far as 6,000 km.
After reaching these freshwater bodies, they feed
and mature for 10 to 25 years before
migrating back to the Sargasso
Sea to spawn.

American Eel

photo: Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources

The home range of the eel includes the entire eastern seaboard of North
America and its freshwater tributaries which spans the jurisdictions of
19 states, six provinces, and two federal governments. As a result, the
historical management of American Eel has not been well coordinated,
and the population has declined due to impacts from harvesting, water
quality, and in-stream barriers (dams) during the course of their long
migration.

The formerly abundant American Eel has a long
history as a food and commercial product for
residents of the upper St. Lawrence River and
Lake Ontario. Eels were a highly valued fish
resource for Aboriginal people, particularly the
St. Lawrence Iroquois, who depended upon them
as winter and travelling food.

31

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the American Eel was one of the
top three species, in commercial value, to the Lake Ontario fishery.
Over recent decades, the number of young American Eel entering the
upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario has declined dramatically.
For example, the average number of eels migrating up the St. Lawrence
River near Cornwall decreased from over one million per year in
the 1980s to roughly 12,000 per year since 2000. The American Eel
appears to be in decline throughout its global range, but the decline
has been most severe in the St. Lawrence River system.
The American Eel is classified as “Endangered” under the Ontario
Endangered Species Act, and efforts are being made to help restore
eel abundance in Ontario. The commercial and sport fisheries for this
species were closed in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Ontario Power

Generation has developed an “Action Plan” for the restoration of
eels in Lake Ontario. This plan includes the stocking of juvenile eels
(captured in the Canadian Maritime Provinces) into Lake Ontario. In
addition, a pilot project has been developed to capture large eels above
the hydro dams and transport them to below these migration barriers.
It has been estimated that up to 40% of the eels that leave Lake
Ontario are killed as they pass through hydro turbines during their
migration towards the spawning grounds.
An eel ladder was installed in 1974 at the R.H. Saunders Hydroelectric
Dam near Cornwall, Ontario, to help young eels climb over the dam
as they migrate into Ontario from the Sargasso Sea. By counting the
number of eels that pass through the ladder, biologists are able to
monitor changes in the size of local eel populations over time.
The American Eel has a snake-like body and a dorsal fin that extends
from half-way down the length of its back to the underside of its body. At
maturity, the American Eel ranges from 75 - 100 cm in length and weighs
1 - 3 kg. The American Eel is a fish species that is often confused with the
parasitic Sea Lamprey.
American Eel

photo: Nature’s Images

American Eel Lifecycle

illustration: Rob Slapkauskas

32

Intentionally Introduced Species
Many people are aware of exotic species such as Zebra Mussel and Round Goby
(see pages 47 and 50) that have found their way into the Great Lakes via ballast
tanks of ships making trans-Atlantic voyages and other indirect pathways. Many
are not aware that several fish species have been intentionally introduced to Lake
Ontario by government agencies. Some of the species that were introduced have
been in Lake Ontario for so long that many people think of them as native. Not
every introduced species is mentioned here, but the following include those that
continue to play a significant role in the Lake Ontario ecosystem and bring socioeconomic benefits through recreational angling.

Bob Izumi and his daughter, Kristin, proudly display a Rainbow Trout
caught in Lake Ontario just offshore of Toronto while filming an
episode of Bob Izumi’s Real Fishing Show
photo: Izumi Outdoors

Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout
The Rainbow Trout (native to western North America) is also known as
“steelhead” in its migratory form. They were first introduced to Lake Ontario by
the province in 1922 and became established by the early 1950s. Unlike most
salmonids, Rainbow Trout migrate up streams to spawn primarily in the spring,
although fall runs are known to occur as well. These migrations support an
important fishery popular with avid “steelheaders”.
The Brown Trout, native to Europe, was introduced into Lake Ontario in 1883
by the United States and later by Ontario. While some are similar to Rainbow
Trout, living in streams as young fish and in Lake Ontario as adults, others remain
permanent residents in their home stream. The Brown Trout’s spawning run
occurs in October and November. While they do not have the same dedicated
angler-following as Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout play an important role in Lake
Ontario’s open-water and in-stream sport fisheries.
Both Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout have become naturalized, but annual
stocking is still done in the Lake Ontario watershed to support these popular
fisheries. Approximately 400,000 Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout are stocked
annually in Lake Ontario.

Rainbow Trout in the Humber River
photo: Jon Clayton

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau

Pacific salmons
Several species of Pacific salmons have been sporadically stocked in
Lake Ontario since the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the late
1960s and early 1970s that fishery managers began focusing their
stocking efforts primarily on Coho Salmon and Chinook Salmon.
These two salmons are native to the Pacific coast of North America
and its rivers. They were introduced into Lake Ontario following
their successful introduction into Lake Michigan. The governments
of New York State and Ontario introduced these fishes for two
reasons: to help control populations of non-native Alewife and
Rainbow Smelt and to create an exceptional recreational fishery.

Chinook Salmon migrating up the Humber River
photo: Jon Clayton

The historic loss of both native Atlantic Salmon and Lake Trout left
Lake Ontario without any open-water top predators, a key part of the
ecosystem. The introduced salmons filled this important niche.
Today, the Chinook Salmon fishery in Lake Ontario (both American
and Canadian waters) generates hundreds of millions of dollars for
local economies. Salmons and trouts account for approximately
three quarters of the recreational fishery in the Canadian waters of
Lake Ontario. This fishery also engaged people in caring for the
Lake Ontario environment, leading to strong public support for
pollution and phosphorous controls, the Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement, and local stream restoration efforts.
The Chinook Salmon is the largest of the Pacific salmons, with
individuals in Lake Ontario reaching lengths over one metre, and
weighing more than 20 kg. The Ontario record Chinook Salmon
was 21.04 kg (46.38 lbs) caught in 2000. As of 2011, Ontario
has an annual stocking target of 540,000 Chinook Salmon spring
fingerlings, and local clubs still stock small numbers of Coho Salmon
fall fingerlings. Some natural reproduction does occur, and an OntarioNew York study is underway to determine the extent that natural
reproduction contributes to the Lake Ontario population. Pacific
salmons are famous for their long spawning migration from the
ocean into freshwater tributaries. For the populations living in Lake
Ontario, the lake serves as their ocean, and they migrate a much shorter
distance up several streams in the fall to spawn. However, local fisheries
management plans limit the amount of river habitat Pacific salmons
have access to for reproduction. This habitat is reserved for native
species and the two other introduced salmonids: Rainbow Trout and
Brown Trout.

33

34

“If today were a fish I’d throw it back.” – Bertrand Russell

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax)

The Common Carp was one of the first introduced fishes in the
Toronto area. Introduced to Lake Ontario in the 1870s, they were
originally brought to North America from Europe as early as 1830.
The Common Carp was raised in ponds to offer fishing opportunities
and control weed growth. Carp uproot and consume large amounts of
underwater vegetation – resulting in turbid (muddy) water. Its feeding
habits, combined with a spawning ritual that stirs up bottom sediments,
suffocates the eggs of native fishes such as Largemouth Bass. As a result,
carp have disrupted the nearshore aquatic ecosystems of much of the
Toronto waterfront and inland waters. Carp are a popular food fish
in some cultures, and many anglers enjoy fishing for this large fish.
Around Toronto it is not uncommon to catch carp that are up to 18
kg (40 lbs). As bottom feeders, Common Carp require different fishing
techniques, tackle, and bait.
Common Carp

photo: TRCA

The Rainbow Smelt was originally from the Atlantic coast and eastern
waters of North America, and was first noted in Lake Ontario in
1931. Rainbow Smelt most likely came from New York’s inland
waters, where they were intentionally introduced in 1917.
A small (up to 27 cm), silvery fish, they live in schools in the ocean or
lakes as adults, and spawn in streams or along the shore of lakes in the
spring (March-May). When spawning, they can be legally fished for
with nets (see the regulations for details) and are a valued food fish.
They are voracious predators of larval fishes, but a prey fish for most
trout and salmon species.
Rainbow Smelt

photo: Kazutoshi Hiyeda

Checklist of Coldwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

35
Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Cods
Burbot
(38.0 cm, 95.3 cm, 20 yrs)

N

Most cods are marine, but the Burbot is one of a few that occur entirely in fresh water. It can be identified by a single barbel or whisker
at the tip of its lower jaw. Once abundant in Lake Ontario, it declined in 1970 and remained uncommon until 1985 when numbers
increased. After 1998, population numbers declined abruptly again, and the future of this species in Lake Ontario is uncertain.

Herrings
Alewife
(15.0 cm, 30.9 cm, 9 yrs)

I

The Alewife is common in Lake Ontario at the thermocline (depth where temperature drops quickly). The Alewife makes up the majority of
the diet of trouts and salmons in the lake and is also a popular food of fish eating birds such as gulls and terns. See page 48.

Lampreys
American Brook Lamprey N
(18.7 cm, 23 cm, 5 yrs)

Like the Sea Lamprey, this jawless fish spends most of its life as a blind toothless larva (ammocoete) buried in the sediment of streams
where it feeds on microscopic organisms. The non-parasitic adult does not feed on other fishes, dying shortly after spawning.

Sea Lamprey
(43.9 cm, 58.3 cm, 12 yrs)

As adults, the jawless Sea Lamprey uses its tooth-filled, suction cup-like mouth, and sharp, file-like tongue to rasp through prey fishes’ skin
to feed on blood and body fluids. If prolonged, these attacks usually kill the fish. First documented in Lake Ontario in the 1830s, its origins
continue to be a subject of debate. One theory is that it invaded via canals and waterways connecting the Hudson River to Lake Ontario,
but recent genetic evidence supports another theory that it is native to the lake. Welland Canal modification in 1919 unfortunately
allowed the Sea Lamprey to bypass Niagara Falls and spread to all the other Great Lakes with catastrophic effects. Lake Trout populations
collapsed, resulting in severe damage to the fisheries. During the late 1950s, intensive control efforts using barriers, traps, and lampricides
were initiated. In Lake Ontario, Sea Lamprey control has had a positive impact, allowing for the rehabilitation of both native Lake Trout
and Atlantic Salmon populations, and also benefiting the introduced/stocked salmons and trouts prized by the recreational fishery.

N, I

Minnows
Lake Chub
N
(10.0 cm, 20.7 cm, 10+ yrs)

The Lake Chub spends its adult life in Lake Ontario except in early spring when schools migrate up streams to spawn. The Lake Chub is
the most widely distributed minnow in Canada ranging from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territories.

Sculpins
Mottled Sculpin
(7.5 cm, 13.3 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The Mottled Sculpin is more common and widespread in Toronto than the closely related Slimy Sculpin. It tolerates slightly higher
temperatures and occurs at shallower depths in Lake Ontario than the Slimy Sculpin. See page 19.

Slimy Sculpin
(7.5 cm, 11.5 cm, 7 yrs)

N

The Slimy Sculpin is found in cold streams and in deep waters of Lake Ontario. Slimy Sculpins and Mottled Sculpins are very similar to
each other and difficult to distinguish. They occasionally hybridize with each other in Lake Ontario.

Smelts
Rainbow Smelt
(19.0 cm, 27.3 cm, 6 yrs)

I

The Rainbow Smelt constitutes about 20% of the diet of species such as Chinook Salmon. As a result, population numbers have been
greatly reduced from the 1970s. See page 34.

Sticklebacks
Ninespine Stickleback
(6.5 cm, 8.9 cm, 5 yrs)

N, XP The Ninespine Stickleback typically has nine dorsal spines. Males turn black during breeding season and, like other sticklebacks,
construct tubular nests. It has not been seen in the Toronto area since 1929 and may no longer be here.

Threespine Stickleback
(5.0 cm, 7.5 cm, 4 yrs)

N

Threespine Stickleback occur in large schools in Lake Ontario. In the spring, they migrate inshore to mate. The brightly coloured male
builds a barrel-shaped nest of sticks and plant material held together by kidney secretions. One or more females are lured into the nest
with a zig-zag courtship dance. The male then chases them away and guards the eggs and fry until they are ready to leave the nest.

Trout-perches
Trout-perch
(9.0 cm, 15.0 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The Trout-perch gets its name from having features characteristic of both trout (adipose fin) and perch (fin spines and ctenoid scales). It
occurs in Lake Ontario in deep water during the day and moves into shallow water at night to feed.

36

Checklist of Coldwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Trouts and Salmons
Atlantic Salmon
(46.0 cm, 88.9 cm, 13 yrs)

N, I, XP Mounts of Atlantic Salmon taken from Samuel Wilmot’s hatchery in the late 1800s are stored at the Royal Ontario Museum. DNA from
these mounts is being analysed in order to select the best stock to use for reintroduction to Lake Ontario. See page 13.

Brook Trout
(28.0 cm, 80.0 cm, 7 yrs)

N

The Brook Trout can be recognized by pale yellow spots on the body, pale wavy lines on the back, and lower fins with white leading
edges followed by a black stripe. This prized sport fish prefers coldwater streams where temperatures usually do not exceed 17°C.

Brown Trout
(41.0 cm, 96.5 cm, 38 yrs)

I

The Brown Trout, introduced from Europe, tolerates warmer temperatures than the Brook Trout. Individuals in streams are brown with
prominent dark and orange spots, whereas individuals from Lake Ontario are silvery. See page 32.

Chinook Salmon
(88.0 cm, 119.4 cm, 9 yrs)

I

Chinook Salmon, the largest of the salmons, has been stocked in Lake Ontario since the 1960s, primarily to reduce the large Alewife
population. Recent studies suggest a large portion of Lake Ontario Chinook Salmon are from naturalized populations. See page 33.

Coho Salmon
(48.0 cm, 107.0 cm, 5 yrs)

I

Similar to the Chinook Salmon, it has paler gums and its black spots are restricted to the upper lobe of the tail fin. Sexually mature adults
have a light pink or rose belly. The Conook is a hybrid with Chinook which grows much larger and is occasionally caught in Lake Ontario.

Lake Trout
N
(44.5 cm, 130.9 cm, 50 yrs)

Lake Trout restoration efforts began in earnest during the 1970s. Today there is some natural reproduction; however, the population in
Lake Ontario is currently sustained by stocking hatchery reared fish.

Rainbow Trout
(53.0 cm, 99.9 cm, 11 yrs)

The Rainbow Trout gets its name from its pinkish lateral stripe. It is more closely related to Pacific salmons than to other trouts. Rainbow
Trout populations are maintained in Lake Ontario by a combination of stocking and natural reproduction. See page 32.

I

Whitefishes
Cisco
(25.0 cm, 59.7 cm, 11 yrs)

N

Bloater
(23.0 cm, 39.5 cm, 10 yrs)

N, XP The smallest of the deepwater ciscoes, gets its name from becoming bloated when pulled up from deep water. Ciscoes are whitefishes
with terminal mouths (point forward), unlike Lake and Round Whitefishes which have subterminal mouths (point downward).

Kiyi
(25.0 cm, 32.5 cm, 10 yrs)

N, XP Like all ciscoes in the Great Lakes, the demise of the Kiyi in Lake Ontario is generally linked to overfishing, population /reproductive
failure (due in part to historically poor water quality), and predation of larval ciscoes by the non-native Rainbow Smelt and Alewife.
Eventually the flourishing Alewife populations also competed with the Kiyi for both food sources and breeding territories. During the
1920s, Kiyi made up more than half of all ciscoes caught in gill nets, but by 1942 it had almost disappeared. The Kiyi was last seen
in Lake Ontario in 1964. Although the Kiyi is still extant in Lake Superior, the populations in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Ontario have
been extirpated (become locally extinct).

Lake Whitefish
(38.0 cm, 74.9 cm, 50 yrs)

N

The population of Lake Whitefish crashed coincident with the collapse of its favoured food, Diporeia hoyi. This small shrimp-like
amphipod declined abruptly following the invasion of Zebra Mussel and Quagga Mussel into Lake Ontario.

Round Whitefish
(25.0 cm, 54.2 cm, 20 yrs)

N

The smaller Round Whitefish is less well known than the Lake Whitefish, but has been recently captured in Lake Ontario around the
Toronto area. In comparison to the better known Lake Whitefish, it is sleeker and more round in cross-section.

Shortnose Cisco
(25.0 cm, <36 cm, 8 yrs)

N, XP The Shortnose Cisco lived in lakes Ontario, Huron and Michigan. It disappeared from Lake Ontario in1964 and was last seen in Lake
Huron in 1985. Classified by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as Endangered, it may actually be Extinct.

Brown Trout

illustration: Charles Weiss

Sometimes also referred to as Lake Herring, the Cisco is the most common and widespread cisco species. It is generally found in
shallower waters than the deepwater ciscoes (Bloater, Kiyi, and Shortnose Cisco).

Lake Trout

illustration: Charles Weiss

Kiyi

illustration: Karen Klitz, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Checklist of Coolwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

37
Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Freshwater Eels
American Eel
N
(90.0 cm, 120.0 cm, 43 yrs)

The American Eel is occasionally caught in Toronto Harbour, but the population has drastically declined. Efforts in Ontario are helping to
restore populations, and more American Eels are showing up in our area. See page 30.

Gobies
Round Goby
(7.5 cm, 24.4 cm, 4 yrs)

I

Because of its abundance, the Round Goby has become one of the best known fishes in the Great Lakes. It threatens to reduce the
biodiversity of native bottom-dwelling fishes such as sculpins and darters in both Lake Ontario and Toronto streams. See page 50.

Herrings
Gizzard Shad
(25.0 cm, 50.4 cm, 14 yrs)

N, I

The Gizzard Shad is a large freshwater herring that can be found in Lake Ontario and the slow sections of rivers such as the Humber
and Rouge rivers. Like other herrings, it can be recognized by its saw-toothed belly. It’s not clear if this species is native or invasive.

Lampreys
Silver Lamprey
(25.5 cm, 30.6 cm, 8 yrs)

N, XP The Silver Lamprey was recorded in Toronto Harbour in 1858 but has not been seen since. This native parasitic lamprey is not as
destructive as the larger Sea Lamprey and has been negatively affected by Sea Lamprey control measures.

Minnows
Blacknose Dace
(8.0 cm, 10.0 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Blacknose Dace is one of Toronto’s four most common and tolerant species of fishes that occur in small to medium streams. The other
three are Creek Chub, Longnose Dace, and White Sucker. These four species can tolerate the degraded conditions in urban streams.

Blacknose Shiner
(6.5 cm, 9.5 cm, 8 yrs)

N

The Blacknose Shiner is found in clear, shallow lakes and quiet areas of streams with many aquatic plants. It has been declining from
many areas of southern Ontario.

Brassy Minnow
(6.5 cm, 9.6 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Brassy Minnow gets its name from its body colour. This uncommon species is frequently confused with the much hardier Fathead
Minnow, which is similar in appearance.

Common Shiner
(9.0 cm, 18.0 cm, 4 yrs)

N

A large shiner, this is our most common stream shiner and can be seen spawning in shallow streams in May over nests often built by the
Creek Chub. It is most common in streams, but can also be found in lakes.

Creek Chub
N
(10.0 cm, 29.4 cm, 10+ yrs)

The Creek Chub is one of the most abundant and widespread fishes in Toronto’s streams. The male, sometimes over 25 cm in length,
builds a nest of pebbles, which he moves one by one with his large mouth. Males battle for possession of a nest (a depression in the
gravel that is kept clear of silt), chasing each other away. Surprisingly, he will allow males and females of other species such as the
Common Shiner and the Redside Dace to spawn in his nest.

Emerald Shiner
(7.5 cm, 12.4 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The Emerald Shiner is most common in lakes, but during the spring will move into lower sections of streams where it spawns. It is often
at this time that tens of thousands are caught for use as bait. Because it is so abundant in Lake Ontario, it is often used as food by fisheating birds such as gulls and terns as well as larger predatory fishes.

Golden Shiner
(10.0 cm, 23.0 cm, 5 yrs)

N

The Golden Shiner is common in both the shallow waters of lakes and ponds, and in the pools of streams where there are usually plenty
of aquatic plants. Large adults become golden in colour.

Hornyhead Chub
(9.0 cm, 16.0 cm, 4 yrs)

N

Like many other minnows, the male Hornyhead Chub develops nuptial tubercles (sharp horns) on his head, which are used in battles with
other males during mating season.

Longnose Dace
(7.5 cm, 15.2 cm, 5 yrs)

N

The Longnose Dace is tolerant of high temperatures, low oxygen levels, and high turbidity, and therefore does well in urban watersheds.
It is found in the very fast-flowing water of streams, as well as the wave-swept shallows of Lake Ontario. Its inferior mouth (a mouth
located on the underside of the fish’s head) is reminicscent of a sucker.

Northern Pearl Dace
(9.0 cm, 16.0 cm, 10+ yrs)

N

The Northern Pearl Dace is very rare in Toronto streams, only found in Etobicoke Creek and the Don River, where it is has not been
recorded since 1966 despite numerous scientific surveys.

38

Checklist of Coolwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Minnows (cont’d)
Northern Redbelly Dace
(5.5 cm, 8.0 cm, 7 yrs)

N

The Northern Redbelly Dace is one of Toronto’s most colourful minnows. Some individuals have bright red or bright yellow bellies. They
are much more common up north where they are easily captured in minnow traps.

Redside Dace
(7.5 cm, 10.7 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The majority of the Canadian range of the Redside Dace is in the Greater Toronto Area. The introduction of predators such as Northern
Pike may also be threatening the Redside Dace in other parts of its range where urbanization is not a threat. See page 55.

River Chub
(10.0 cm, 23.9 cm, 5 yrs)

N

This uncommon chub is occasionally found in Etobicoke Creek and the Humber River. Like other chubs, the male is larger than the female
and builds a nest of pebbles that is used for spawning and rearing of young.

Spottail Shiner
(7.0 cm, 14.2 cm, 5 yrs)

N

A common and widespread shiner, the Spottail Shiner is characterized by a large black spot at the base of its tail fin. Like the Emerald
Shiner, it is more commonly found in lakes than streams.

Striped Shiner
(8.0 cm, 23.8 cm, 4 yrs)

I

The Striped Shiner was captured once in the Humber River where it was probably introduced by man. It is very similar in appearance to
the Common Shiner and once was considered the same species.

Mudminnows
Central Mudminnow
(7.5 cm, 14.0 cm, 9 yrs)

N

This small fish is not a minnow, but is closely related to the pikes. Like members of the pike family, it lurks in cover, waiting to ambush
prey. It is currently classified as a separate family, but recent studies indicate that it should be classified in the pike family.

Perches
Blackside Darter
(6.0 cm, 9.9 cm, 4 yrs)

N, I

Darters are small fishes that dart about on the bottom. The Blackside Darter is a recent arrival to Toronto streams, first discovered in the
Humber River in 1992. The adult is characterized by very large black blotches on the side.

Fantail Darter
(5.0 cm, 8.2 cm, 4 yrs)

N

This darter is named after its fan-shaped tail. The spawning male develops small white knobs on his dorsal fin. These knobs are thought to
mimic eggs and are used to trick the female into thinking that there are already eggs laid in his nest. When spawning, a female is more
likely to enter a nest that already has eggs in it.

Iowa Darter
(5.0 cm, 7.2 cm, 3 yrs)

N

This darter is uncommon in Toronto. The spawning male is brightly coloured, his body and fins having blue and red stripes and bars. In
the spring, the Iowa Darter migrates into shallow water preferring to spawn among underwater roots and vegetation.

Johnny Darter
(5.0 cm, 7.2 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The Johnny Darter is the most common and widespread darter in the Toronto area, found in a variety of stream and lake habitats. It is
charactrerized by X, W, and Y-shaped black markings on the body.

Least Darter
(2.5 cm, 4.2 cm, 2 yrs)

N, XP Once recorded in Grenadier Pond sometime between 1910-1930, this darter has not been seen since. As its name suggests, it is
Canada’s smallest vertebrate. Ontario and World record size being 4.2 cm in length.

Logperch
(9.0 cm, 18.0 cm, 3 yrs)

N

Toronto’s largest darter is the Logperch. This common darter has a long snout, which it uses to turn over pebbles as it searches for aquatic
invertebrate prey. It is distinguished by numerous narrow dark bars which are sometimes formed into a tear drop.

Rainbow Darter
(5.5 cm, 7.9 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Rainbow Darter is common in Toronto streams. Although juveniles and females are rather drab brown, the male is perhaps Canada’s
most colourful fish.

Sauger
(33.0 cm, 58.4 cm, 7 yrs)

N, XP The Sauger was last recorded in Toronto Harbour in 1913, but has not been seen since. The Sauger is similar to the Walleye, but differs
in having a spotted dorsal fin and in lacking a white tip on the lower lobe of the caudal fin.

Tessellated Darter
(5.5 cm, 8.1 cm, 4 yrs)

N

The Tessellated Darter is very similar to, and extremely difficult to separate from, the Johnny Darter. In Toronto, it is usually only found in
Lake Ontario and the lower sections of streams.

Walleye
(42.0 cm, 92.7 cm, 29 yrs)

N

Frequently referred to as pickerel; the official common name for this fish is Walleye. It has large eyes that are very sensitive to light. This
highly predatory species is making a comeback in the Toronto Harbour and Lakefront, an indication that the fish habitat has improved.

Yellow Perch
(18.0 cm, 38.4 cm, 11 yrs)

N

The Yellow Perch is a widespread common species that is a valuable commercial and sport fish. It is easily recognized by its six or seven
prominent dark bars on the body.

Checklist of Coolwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

39
Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Pikes
Northern Pike
N
(61.0 cm, 134.6 cm, 30 yrs)

Northern Pike has been scarce in the Toronto area for many years, but it is making a successful comeback primarily because the Lake
Ontario habitat has improved. See page 25.

Sticklebacks
Brook Stickleback
(5.0 cm, 8.7 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Brook Stickleback is a common species that becomes very abundant in habitats where few other fishes can survive. Like other sticklebacks, the male lures the female into a tubular nest. After the eggs are laid, he chases the female away and guards the eggs and fry.

Sturgeons
Lake Sturgeon
N
(117.0 cm, 223.5 cm, 154 yrs)

The Lake Sturgeon is very vulnerable to exploitation and its harvest in Lake Ontario declined abruptly around 1900. It was last seen in
Toronto in 1927. See page 23.

Suckers
Shorthead Redhorse
(41.0 cm, 61.5 cm, 20 yrs)

N

Redhorses are suckers often with red fins and a horse-like face. Toronto is home to the most common of six species known in Ontario. The
Shorthead Redhorse is named for its relatively small head.

Quillback
(31.5 cm, 62.0 cm, 11 yrs)

N

The Quillback is a type of carpsucker. Its body and fins are similar to a carp, but it has a ventral (downward) sucking mouth with thick
fleshy lips like a sucker. The front of the dorsal fin has an elongated fin ray similar to a quill. It is very rare in the Toronto area of Lake
Ontario.

White
(41.0
cm,Sucker
58.9 cm, 12 yrs)

N

The White Sucker is very abundant and widespread occurring in a variety habitats from pristine trout streams to degraded urban streams.
Large schools of this fish, which can grow to over 50 cm and 2 kgs, can be seen spawning in Toronto streams from April to early June.

Sunfishes
(20.0
cm,
29.2 cm, 10 yrs) N
Rock
Bass
(30.0
cm, 61.0Bass
cm, 26 yrs)
Smallmouth

N

The Rock Bass is often found over rocky bottoms. It is easily recognized by the numerous black spots on its body arranged in regular rows
and its six anal spines. Except for both the Black Crappie and White Crappie, all other Ontario sunfishes have only three anal spines.
True basses, such as White Bass, have two separate dorsal fins and a relatively shallow body. The Smallmouth Bass is actually a sunfish
that looks like a bass. In addition to its shallow body, it has a deeply notched dorsal fin that could be mistaken for two fins.

Topminnows
(7.0
cm, 9.9
cm, 3 yrs)
Banded
Killifish

White Sucker

N

illustration: Charles Weiss

Often confused with minnows, this little fish can be distinguished from them by its rounded (vs. forked) tail and the prominent bars on the
body. It can also be confused with the Central Mudminnow, but has a smaller mouth. It feeds primarily near the surface of the water on
invertebrates such as mosquito larvae.

Northern Pike

illustration: Charles Weiss

40

Checklist of Warmwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

Bowfins
Bowfin
(54.0 cm, 83.5 cm, 12 yrs)

N

The primitive Bowfin is a predatory fish that can be found in Grenadier Pond and in the waters around Toronto Islands. It can be
distinguished by a large bony (gular) plate on the underside of its head and by a very long dorsal fin, which runs from its mid-back all
the way to the base of the tail. The Bowfin has a short anal fin, unlike the non-native snakehead fishes with which it’s often confused.

Drums
Freshwater Drum
(48.0 cm, 88.9 cm, 10 yrs)

N

Like other drums and croakers, the Freshwater Drum is named after the loud drumming sound produced by the male by flexing muscles
against its swim bladder. He probably makes this sound to attract the female during the early summer spawning season. The Freshwater
Drum can be found in shallow waters of the Toronto Islands and Tommy Thompson Park.

Gars
Longnose Gar
N
(76.0 cm, 129.5 cm, 36 yrs)

The Longnose Gar can tolerate very warm water with low oxygen because of its ability to breathe air. The jaws of this predatory fish are
armed with sharp needle-like teeth, which it uses to catch small fishes. Once a fish is captured, the Longnose Gar swallows it head first.

Minnows
Bluntnose Minnow
(6.5 cm, 10.1 cm, 5 yrs)

N

The Bluntnose Minnow is a very common fish found in a wide variety of quiet or slow-moving waters. Part of its success may be due to
the great care that the male exerts in building a nest and caring for his offspring.

Central Stoneroller
(10.0 cm, 15.0 cm, 5 yrs)

I

The Central Stoneroller was first seen in the Rouge River in 1984, and its population probably resulted from a bait bucket introduction.
Sometimes called a “stream cow”, it does well in small to medium streams that have high nutrients and abundant algae attached to rocks.
The stoneroller scrapes off the algae with its cartilaginous lower lip.

Common Carp
(37.0 cm, 99.1 cm, 20 yrs)

I

In addition to the normally scaled Common Carp (see page 34), another variety, the Mirror Carp, is occasionally encountered. Mirror
Carp have several enlarged scales and patches of naked skin. Domesticated varieties resembling Goldfish are called Koi. See page 49.

Fathead Minnow
(5.0 cm, 10.0 cm, 6 yrs)

N

The Fathead Minnow is widespread throughout the City’s streams and ponds and in shallow inshore areas of Lake Ontario. It often does
well in poor quality water where there is little or no competition from other fishes.

Goldfish
(19.0 cm, 39.9 cm, 30 yrs)

I

Like the native Fathead Minnow, the introduced Goldfish often does well in poor quality water where there is little or no competition from
other fishes. Goldfish occasionally hybridize with Common Carp. See page 49.

Grass Carp
(<90 cm, 125 cm, 11 yrs)

I

Two individuals of this Asian carp, one from Grenadier Pond and the other from the mouth of the Don River, have been captured in
Toronto. Grass Carp have been introduced to some areas in the U.S. for weed control. To prevent reproduction in nature, before release,
the eggs are shocked with a rapid change in temperature or pressure to produce sterile fish with three sets of chromosomes.

Rosyface Shiner
(6.5 cm, 8.7 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Rosyface Shiner is found in streams such as Etobicoke Creek, Humber River, Don River, Highland Creek, and Rouge River. It appears
to have declined or been extirpated from many areas.

Sand Shiner
(6.5 cm, 8.5 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Sand Shiner is a small and poorly known shiner that was once more widespread in Toronto streams. Small populations still occur in
the Humber and Rouge rivers, but it has disappeared from Mimico Creek and Highland Creek.

Spotfin Shiner
(7.5 cm, 11.5 cm, 5 yrs)

N

The male Spotfin Shiner becomes bluish silver with white fin tips and courts the female by raising his dorsal fin and vibrating. Eggs are
laid in crevices where they are better protected from predation.

Mooneyes
Mooneye
(28.0 cm, 40.0 cm, 10 yrs)

N, XP The Mooneye was last seen in Toronto in 1913. It is more common in Lake Erie and migrates up the Grand River in early spring where it
is sought after by fly fisherman.

New World Silversides
Brook Silverside
(7.5 cm, 10.8 cm, 2 yrs)

N

The Brook Silverside is capable of leaping out of the water to catch flying insects near the water’s surface. It is a short-lived species,
dying shortly after spawning at typically only one year old.

Checklist of Warmwater Fishes of Toronto
Common Name

41
Fish Status: (N) Native (I) Introduced or Invasive (XP) Extirpated
Fish Statistics: (Average Ontario Length, Record Ontario Length, Maximum Age)

Status Comments

North American Catfishes
Black Bullhead
(15.5 cm, 26.0 cm, 10 yrs)

N

The Black Bullhead was documented in Toronto in 1927, but has not been recorded since. Black Bullhead and Brown Bullhead are
difficult to distinguish and it is possible that the fish was misidentified.

Brown Bullhead
(28.0 cm, 44.6 cm, 12 yrs)

N

The Brown Bullhead is Toronto’s most common catfish. The eight fleshy “whiskers” or barbels around the head of the bullhead are filled
with taste buds that allow it to taste its food before it eats it.

Channel Catfish
(44.5 cm, 88.9 cm, 16 yrs)

N

Canada’s largest catfish, this species is sometimes sought by anglers. It is the only catfish in Toronto with a forked tail. This tail and its
more streamlined body adapt it for life in swifter waters. Its species name, punctatus, refers to the scattered dark spots on the body.

Stonecat
(17.5 cm, 26.7 cm, 7 yrs)

N

The largest madtom in Canada. Madtoms are small catfishes that have their adipose fin fused to their tail fin. It is usually found under
stones in fast-flowing segments of streams throughout Toronto. Its fin spines can deliver a painful venomous sting if handled carelessly.

Tadpole Madtom
(7.0 cm, 11.7 cm, 3 yrs)

N

The Tadpole Madtom resembles a tadpole. Like most madtoms, its spines are venomous and, when it stabs, can cause pain similar to a
bee sting for up to two hours.

Pikes
Muskellunge
N, XP The Muskellunge began to decline in the Toronto Harbour and area in the 1840s from commercial and subsistence fishing. By 1854,
(96.5 cm, 147.3 cm, 30 yrs)
stocks had collapsed and have never recovered.
Suckers
Northern Hog Sucker
(19.0 cm, 37.0 cm, 11 yrs)

N

The Northern Hog Sucker is a small sucker with its eyes located high on, and behind the middle of, the head. The snout is long and
similar in appearance to a pig.

Sunfishes
Black Crappie
(21.5 cm, 43.2 cm, 15 yrs)

N

The Black Crappie is sometimes angled for because it can grow to over a kilogram in weight and its flesh is sweet-tasting. It congregates
in schools in the spring and begins spawning when the water temperature reaches 13°C. Like other sunfishes, the male scours out a
depression in the bottom, which is used for spawning.

Bluegill
(19.0 cm, 28.2 cm, 11 yrs)

N

A reproducing parental male matures at age 7 and builds/defends a nest against intruders. A sneaker male may mature at 1 year and
attempts to fertilize the eggs of a female already mating with a parental male. A satellite male can mature at 3 years and mimics the
colouration and movement of a female to gain access to the nest and fertilize the eggs laid in the nest of a parental male. See page 29.

Green Sunfish
(9.0 cm, 13.8 cm, 5 yrs)

I

The Green Sunfish is a recent arrival to Toronto. It was first discovered in the lower Humber River in 1993 and is slowly expanding its
range farther upstream and into other streams.

Largemouth Bass
(30.0 cm, 55.9 cm, 23 yrs)

N

The species name of the Largemouth Bass, a popular sport fish, is salmoides, which means trout-like. Like trouts and salmons, this fish has
a large mouth and a streamlined, moderately deep body. See page 28.

Pumpkinseed
(18.0 cm, 25.4 cm, 10 yrs)

N

The Pumpkinseed is Toronto’s most common sunfish and often the first fish caught by young anglers. It can be distinguished from the
Bluegill by having a red spot or bar on its ear flap.

Temperate Basses
White Bass
(28.0 cm, 48.5 cm, 9 yrs)

N

The White Bass is very similar in appearance to the White Perch. It has more prominent stripes on the body and more than 10 soft anal
rays (versus 10 or fewer in White Perch). It sometimes hybridizes with White Perch. Hybrids produced with the Striped Bass, called
Wipers, are cultured, and occasionally caught in Lake Ontario, probably from unauthorized releases.

White Perch
(15.5 cm, 29.0 cm, 7 yrs)

I

The White Perch first appeared in Lake Ontario around 1950, likely gaining access to the lake through the Oswego and Erie Canals that
connect the Hudson River with Lake Ontario. It has slowly been colonizing the upper Great Lakes and in 2003 was discovered in Lake
Superior around Thunder Bay.

42

Spawning Calendar – Toronto and Southern Ontario
Spawning is a time when fishes congregate and are most vulnerable to capture or disruption. It is also the time when they should not be disturbed until after they have
spawned and their young are independent. Many species spawn in shallow streams or near the lakeshore, so this provides a good time to observe them in the wild. Most
fish species leave their eggs unprotected. To prevent egg predation, some fishes bury them in the stream or lake bed, or deposit them over rocks and gravel where many of
the eggs fall into gaps and are protected. Other species deposit their eggs over vegetation, where the eggs adhere to aquatic plants until they hatch. Some, like sunfishes,
catfishes, and several minnow species, are nest builders and the male will protect the eggs and fry from predators until they are ready to leave the safety of the nest.
Common Name
Bowfins
Bowfin
Cods
Burbot
Drums
Freshwater Drum
Freshwater eels
American Eel
Gars
Longnose Gar
Gobies
Round Goby
Herrings
Alewife
Gizzard Shad
Lampreys
American Brook Lamprey
Sea Lamprey
Silver Lamprey
Minnows
Blacknose Dace
Blacknose Shiner
Bluntnose Minnow
Brassy Minnow
Central Stoneroller
Common Carp
Common Shiner
Creek Chub
Emerald Shiner
Fathead Minnow
Goldfish
Golden Shiner
Hornyhead Chub
Lake Chub
Longnose Dace
Northern Pearl Dace
Northern Redbelly Dace
Redside Dace
River Chub
Rosyface Shiner
Sand Shiner
Spotfin Shiner
Spottail Shiner
Striped Shiner
Mudminnows
Central Mudminnow
New World Silversides
Brook Silverside
North American Catfishes
Brown Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Stonecat
Tadpole Madtom
Perches
Blackside Darter

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUNE

JULY

spawns in Sargasso Sea

AUG

SEPT

OCT

NOV

DEC

Common Name
Perches (cont’d)
Fantail Darter
Iowa Darter
Johnny Darter
Least Darter
Logperch
Rainbow Darter
Tessellated Darter
Walleye
Yellow Perch
Pikes
Northern Pike
Sculpins
Mottled Sculpin
Slimy Sculpin
Smelts
Rainbow Smelt
Suckers
Northern Hog Sucker
Quillback
Shorthead Redhorse
White Sucker
Sunfishes
Black Crappie
Bluegill
Green Sunfish
Largemouth Bass
Rock Bass
Pumpkinseed
Smallmouth Bass
Sticklebacks
Brook Stickleback
Ninespine Stickleback
Threespine Stickleback
Sturgeons
Lake Sturgeon
Temperate Basses
White Bass
White Perch
Topminnows
Banded Killifish
Trout-perches
Trout-perch
Trouts & Salmons
Atlantic Salmon
Brook Trout
Brown Trout
Chinook Salmon
Coho Salmon
Lake Trout
Rainbow Trout
Whitefishes
Cisco
Lake Whitefish
Round Whitefish

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUNE

JULY

AUG

SEPT

OCT

NOV

DEC

Not as common

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s
not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Safe Consumption of Ontario Sport Fish
The Guide to Eating Ontario
Sport Fish provides information
on the safe consumption of
sport fishes (meals per month)
from over 1,850 lakes and
rivers in Ontario, with separate
recommendations for both
the general and sensitive
population (women of childbearing age and children under
15 years of age). Fish samples
are collected by the Ministry
of Natural Resources (MNR),
the Ministry of the Environment
(MOE) and other partners. Fish
tissue is analyzed for a variety
of contaminants, including
mercury, PCBs, mirex, DDT, and
dioxins/furans at the MOE laboratory in Toronto. Consumption advisories
are calculated based on health protection guidelines provided by Health
Canada. Copies of the Guide are available at select government offices
and retail outlets. It is also available at www.ontario.ca/fishguide,
or by calling 416-327-6816 or 1-800-820-2716.
For fishes caught in the Toronto waterfront area, the 2011-2012
Guide lists many species as safe to consume, including Northern Pike,
Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, and Brown Bullhead. Grenadier Pond,
the Humber River and Marsh, Eglinton Flats Pond, and the Rouge River
and Marsh are but a few of the other Toronto locations the Guide
indicates as having many different sizes and species of fishes that are
safe for eating. Always remember to refer to the most recent Guide to
Eating Ontario Sport Fish before deciding to fry up your catch.

Toronto Waterfront Fish Community Monitoring
photo: TRCA

Cindy Hignett, a TRCA fisheries technician, holds a Walleye caught in
the lower Don River in the summer of 2010. A long-term fish community
monitoring program for the Toronto waterfront was launched by TRCA in
1989; Toronto was designated as one of the 43 Areas of Concern within
the Great Lakes in the mid 1980s (see page 54). Fishes are collected
using various types of nets and electrical shocking (electrofishing). The
specimens caught are identified, counted, weighed, and measured
before being released. This intensive monitoring program has tracked
changes in the structure, population dynamics, growth rates, contaminant
loads, reproductive capability, and reproductive success of the Toronto
waterfront fish community. Fishes are sensitive to a wide array of
environmental stressors, and the long-term assessment of community
characteristics provides valuable information on the ecological health
of the Toronto waterfront.

43

We

st

Finch

Bayview

Yonge

Bathurst

Dufferin

Keele

Jane

ve
r

Bla
ck
Allen Expwy

es
tD
Ri
ve
r

er

Do

Riv
er

Queen
King

DVP

Spadina

ay

4

Bathurst

gsw

Dufferin

Bloor
Parkside

k

5

S.Kin

ee

Parklawn

Cr

427

nR

mb

r

Hu

ive

ton

ek
Cre
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on

ek Bla

W

Cre
es
W

rlett

Sca

St. Clair

das

2

eek

Located on the south side of Eglinton Avenue West, just east of Jane Street and west
of Weston Rd. TRCA recently completed substantial enhancements of a large portion
of shoreline and in-water habitat. The restoration works included irregular shoreline
profiles, log/stump placement, and boulders for shoreline stabilization and fish

Eglinton

Dun

QEW

e Cr

Bloor

icok

3 EGLINTON FLATS POND

401

3
Burnhamthorpe

Etob

At the foot of Parklawn Road just off Lake Shore Blvd. This waterfront park offers
angling access from its east and west peninsulas and in the boat basin at the mouth
of Mimico Creek. Fish for Smallmouth Bass, Freshwater Drum, Common Carp, White
Sucker, Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, Bluegill, and Pumpkinseed. The western bay has
a big, sporadic weedbed that holds Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass. The eastern
bay has easier access with weed lines spread out from shore. There is also potential
for large Walleye. In the fall, Chinook Salmon, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout
action can be good depending on water temperatures. Fishing Tips: Look for panfish
(small edible fishes that usually fit in a fry pan) in shallow water around the small
islands. Northern Pike and bass reside on the deeper drop-offs or weed lines around
the islands, south shore, creek mouth, and off the eastern point.

Eglinton

co

Sheppard

Dixon

mi

2 HUMBER BAY PARK

iver

Finch

r

Mi

At the start of Kipling Ave., south of Lake Shore Blvd. You can find Freshwater
Drum, Largemouth Bass, White Sucker, Common Carp, Pumpkinseed, Yellow Perch,
and Walleye. TRCA has carried out fisheries monitoring work at this location since
1985 and has observed an increase in the Walleye populations within the boat basin.
Fishing Tips: Fishing the inside boat basin is your best bet. Look for Largemouth Bass
close to sporadic weed patches. Anglers can cast for Chinook Salmon, Brown Trout,
and Rainbow Trout at the mouth of the boat basin, as well as directly out into the
lake. Northern Pike are always present, especially early in the season.

be

409

1 COLONEL SAMUEL SMITH PARK

ber R

m

Ri

Hum

Hu

400

Kipling

27

427

Steeles

Over the last 15 years, fish communities residing along the Toronto waterfront have
increased in both diversity and abundance. Waterfront park development projects,
shoreline rehabilitation work, and management techniques with an ecosystem based
approach are thought to be the catalysts. Today there are numerous Toronto waterfront
parks, walking trails, and naturally occurring habitat features that have created great
fishing opportunities for both the avid shore and boat angler, as well as nature viewing
enthusiasts. In this section we offer details on some of the City’s most productive areas
to fish. Fishing tips are provided by Mike Correa, an Environmental Technician with
TRCA and an accomplished tournament angler. Unless otherwise noted, all of the fishing
locations are near public parking and are also accessible by public transit.

Islington

Exceptional Sport Fishing Locations in Toronto

Renforth

44

Gardiner Expwy

Lake Ontario

1

6

Parkland
Natural Heritage System,
identified in City of Toronto Official Plan

habitat. In addition, viewing areas/“fishing nodes” were incorporated into the
overall Enhancement Plan, making Eglinton Flats easily accessible to shoreline
anglers. The pond is great for fishing with kids who may catch Largemouth Bass,

7

“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?” – Lee Wulff
Reesor

tle
Riv

ge

er

River

ge

ek

Rou

Cre

Sheppard

Rou

Finch

Meadowvale

Markham

Brimley

ide

McCowan

Midland

4 LOWER HUMBER RIVER
Lit

ngs

Kennedy

rni

Leslie

Mo

404
Victoria Pk

Steeles

401

k

n

to

s
ing

rth
fo
an

y Creek

L

On
ake

Morningside

d C
ree

D

sse

Victoria Pk

Danforth

Ma

lan

tar

2A

nd

11

k

or

gh

hla

ee

er

Tay
l

Hi

K

Eglinton

Hig

Cr

Riv

Lawrence

Highland

k

on

st

st

ee

tD

We

Cr

Eas
Don Mills

Ea

Ellesmere

10

Visit Etienne Brulé Park to fish above Bloor Street. For fishing downstream of Bloor, access
King’s Mill Park. To fish near the mouth of the Humber, go to Sir Casimir Gzowski Park, just
west of Toronto’s Sunnyside Beaches. Common species include: Rainbow Trout both in the
spring and fall; Brown Trout and Chinook Salmon in early autumn; resident populations of
Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Common Carp, White Sucker, Yellow Perch,
and even a few Black Crappie and Walleye. The weirs north of Bloor Street offer exciting views
of jumping salmons and trouts as they migrate up the Humber River in the fall months. Fishing
Tips: Anglers cannot fish within 25 m (75 ft) of any dam. Work upstream or downstream
from Bloor St. for warmwater species in spring and summer. Fish deep pools for Smallmouth
Bass when the season opens.

5 GRENADIER POND

io

9

Right in the heart of Toronto’s famed High Park. Shoreline fishing access exists on both the
east and south sides of the pond. The pond contains Brown Bullhead, Black Crappie, Bluegill,
Pumpkinseed, Common Carp (including Koi and giant Goldfish), Largemouth Bass, and even a
few Northern Pike. Many young city anglers get hooked on fishing after spending summers at
this big pond. Thanks to some terrific habitat restoration work by TRCA and the City, anglers
can target sunken wood, fallen trees, and weed edges that hold many fishes. High Park also
has nature trails, a swimming pool, picnic areas, a playground, and a small zoo. Fishing Tips:
There are some really nice Largemouth Bass here. Fortunately, more people are realizing how
important it is to live release these fish – which helps keep the population healthy for all to
enjoy.

6 TORONTO ISLANDS

8
Black Crappie, Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead, Common Carp, and even
Northern Pike. As with most small urban ponds, catch and release
fishing becomes an important tool to help sustain these fisheries.
Fishing Tips: Black Crappie can be a little trickier to catch than most of
the other fishes found in the pond. Begin by clipping a small bobber
onto your line. Instead of live bait, try a pink or white plastic mini
tube jig inserted into a small jig head. Crappie look up to feed, so a
trick that really pays off is to place the tube jig only 30 cm or so from
the bobber. Fishing close to the surface, in the shallow water near the
shore, results in a fun visual experience for kids.

Unless you have your own boat, the Islands are ferry access only; with the terminal at the
foot of Bay Street. The Islands are a great destination to combine angling and family fun
with walking paths, an amusement park, and four world class lifeguarded beaches. The Islands
have numerous Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead, Bowfin,
Freshwater Drum, Walleye, and big Common Carp. A real bonus is the plentiful and oversized
Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass. Through routine fisheries monitoring, TRCA has also
observed a rise in Walleye presence throughout the many waterways adding to the angling
opportunities within this fishing hotspot. On the open lake side, you occasionally catch Brown
Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Chinook Salmon. Shore fishing is great at Centre Island’s boathouse
where you can borrow a rod and reel, buy a license, and get some free fishing advice. The
Island’s waterways, bays, and lagoons hold many fishes for those fishing from shore, and
anglers in boats can try the many deep water points. Fishing Tips: The bass fishing is so good,
professional anglers fish the Islands during local tournaments. Look for Largemouth Bass
around sunken trees or weed edges.

45

46

7 LESLIE STREET SPIT/TOMMY THOMPSON PARK (TTP)

10 HIGHLAND CREEK

This active lakefill spit at the foot of Leslie Street was started in 1950 and now
extends 5 km out into the lake. TTP is accessible by transit, and there is parking
near the front gate. TRCA operates a free shuttle van between the park gates
and the pedestrian bridge (about 3 km inside the park). It is open weekends and
most holidays during the day (check for hours before visiting). Shoreline anglers
can catch Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, White Bass,
Yellow Perch, Common Carp, White Sucker, Freshwater Drum, Black Crappie, and
increasing numbers of Walleye. Fishing Tips: There is untapped potential for boat
anglers to ply the outer harbour and the west side of the spit for these fishes as
well as Brown Trout and Chinook Salmon. In addition, May and June can offer
some phenomenal Northern Pike action within the embayments.

8 ASHBRIDGE’S BAY PARK

At the foot of Coxwell Avenue, south of Lake Shore Blvd., there is shoreline
fishing for late-summer and fall Brown Trout and Chinook Salmon. Huge
Common Carp are always present. Yellow Perch action is sporadic, but there are
jumbos along weed edges. The outer and inner basins produce Northern Pike,
Largemouth Bass, Freshwater Drum, and the occasional Walleye. Brown Bullhead
and Pumpkinseed in the shallow warmer parts of the bay can keep children
entertained. The current lakefill park extends into relatively deep water, and
outside rocky points can be productive fish habitat. The Inner Boat Basin can
be fantastic angling for Brown Trout in the fall. Fishing Tips: Use caution when
fishing from the steep rubble shorelines as footing can be tricky!

9 BLUFFER’S PARK

This park is hidden at the foot of Brimley Road. Boat launch ramps are available.
The park offers views of the spectacular Scarborough Bluffs and a beautiful beach.
Common species include Chinook Salmon, Brown Trout, Common Carp, Northern
Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Brown Bullhead, Yellow Perch, and
other panfish. Fishing Tips: Some of Toronto’s best summer trouts and salmons
action occurs right here; that’s why several charter boat captains use this as
their home base. Shoreline anglers can catch fishes from rocky breakwalls inside
the west harbour and at the entrance to the east harbour. There’s a small bridge
in the middle of the complex where they can fish too. Water temperatures can
change drastically here, due to wind direction, disrupting fish locations; so look
for steady warm days without a strong wind pushing cold water into the area.

Fishing the Humber River near Bloor Street
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

Excellent angling opportunities occur in much of the lower portion of Highland
Creek. Or, to fish near the mouth of Highland Creek, access East Point Park and
walk east along the Chesterton Shores Trail to the creek mouth. Follow the trail
north along the west side of Highland Creek for other great spots. This stream is a
sleeper for angling opportunities and many anglers overlook Highland Creek when
planning their fishing trips in the Toronto area. There is a sizeable run of Chinook
Salmon in the fall, and Rainbow Trout runs occur in both the spring and fall. Other
fishes you may encounter seasonally are White Sucker, Northern Pike, Smallmouth
Bass, and Common Carp. Fishing Tips: Fishing deep pools in the outside edge of
channel bends are your best bet for both salmons and trouts.

11 LOWER ROUGE RIVER

Rouge Beach Park is located at the end of Lawrence Ave. East and includes the
river mouth and adjoining marsh. Fish for Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass,
Brown Bullhead, Black Crappie, Yellow Perch, White Sucker, Northern Pike, Chinook
Salmon, and numerous Common Carp. From the fall through to the spring Rainbow
Trout run upstream, especially after heavy rain or spring thaws. If fishing for
migratory salmons or trouts near Hwy. 2 (Kingston Rd.) park outside the Glen
Rouge Campground. Fishing Tips: The marsh area at the mouth can be tops for carp.
Try using kernels of cooked corn presented near the bottom on a single hook.

OFFSHORE FISHING – The offshore Lake Ontario fishing is also fantastic. You can
launch your boat from many locations along the Toronto waterfront and go fishing for
Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Lake Trout, and three species of salmons – including the
huge Chinook Salmon that grow to over 20 kg. For those who don’t have access to a
boat, there are many fishing guides and charter boat operators in the Toronto area.
They are sure to provide customers with an enjoyable experience while fishing on the
open waters of Lake Ontario. For families, this is a great adventure where everyone
can participate and have lots to talk about. For the experienced angler, you’ll learn the
local tricks and get in some great fresh water action. For business entertainment, you
will find that this adventure gives you a great way to build and maintain relationships.
The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division partners with other
agencies and volunteer groups to host Family Fishing Events throughout the
year. At the Toronto Islands, there is a popular Fishing Camp for kids in
the summer, and the public can also come here and borrow a rod and reel
courtesy of the OFAH Tackle Share Program. Contact PF&R at www.toronto.
ca/parks or, if within the City, call 311 to inquire about existing and future
fishing related opportunities.

47

Threats to Fishes of Toronto
Invasive Species
Invading species are one of the greatest threats to the biodiversity of
Ontario’s waters, wetlands, and woodlands. Originating from other
regions of the world, and in the absence of their natural predators
or controls, invading species can have devastating effects on native
species, habitats, and ecosystems.
More than 185 non-indigenous animal species have become
established in the Great Lakes aquatic enviroments. Invading
species, such as the Zebra Mussel and Round Goby, are extremely
adaptable and have high reproduction rates enabling them to flourish.
Unchecked, these invaders will outcompete native fishes and other
wildlife and unbalance natural ecosystems.
Invading species are introduced to Ontario waters through a variety
of pathways such as the construction of canals (see Sea Lamprey on
pg. 35), ballast water from ships, aquarium and horticultural trades,
live food fish trades, and unauthorized fish introductions or transfers.
These species can be further spread into Ontario’s inland lakes by
boaters and anglers. Leftover live baitfishes and unwanted aquarium
fishes must never be released into local waterbodies.

Although it is a small creature (avg. 3 cm), its ecological impact can
be huge. The Zebra Mussel is a filter feeder, meaning it feeds on
plankton and other organic material. Each Zebra Mussel can filter
about one litre of lake water per day. This may not seem like much,
but when there are billions of Zebra Mussels in a lake, the amount of
organic material consumed is enormous. These large colonies of filter
feeding Zebra Mussel increase water clarity, enabling more sunlight to
penetrate deeper in the lake resulting in increased growth of aquatic
plants and algae, and forcing light sensitive fishes, such as Walleye,
to find new habitat. As well, Zebra Mussel attach to native aquatic
animals like clams and crayfishes, often resulting in the death of these
animals. In doing so, they have caused a decline or disappearance of
many native mussels in the Great Lakes region. People are affected by
Zebra Mussel because they wash up on beaches causing unpleasant

Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)
The Zebra Mussel, while not a fish, is one of the most well-known
of the Great Lakes invaders, its initial introduction being roughly 20
years ago. The Zebra Mussel is from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea
region and was carried in the ballast water of ocean going vessels to the
Great Lakes in 1988. Since that time, Zebra Mussel have spread to all
of the Great Lakes, as well as a host of inland lakes in Ontario.

Zebra Mussels

photo: David Britton

48

odours, and their sharp shells cut the feet of swimmers and pets. The
Zebra Mussel also firmly attaches to hard surfaces; this causes damage
to items like boats, motors, and intake pipes; resulting in millions of
dollars in control costs. The Quagga Mussel is a similar invasive mussel
from the Ukraine/Black Sea region. It is slightly larger, paler in colour,
and able to survive in deeper waters.
The best defense we have against Zebra Mussel and Quagga Mussel is to
prevent their spread to new waterbodies (see page 70). Once they become
established in a lake, there is no known way to eradicate them.

Alewife

illustration: Charles Weiss

Alewife Die-off

photo: Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant

Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus)
The Alewife is native to the east coast of North America, and was likely
introduced to Lake Ontario in the late 1800s via the Erie Canal. Its
invasion was likely successful due to the decline in top predators such
as Lake Trout and Atlantic Salmon. By the 1950s, the Alewife had
spread to all of the Great Lakes through connecting waterways and
canals. In its native range, the Alewife is a marine species that moves
into freshwater lakes and streams to spawn. In Ontario, the Alewife
has adapted to spend its entire lifecycle in fresh water and spawns in
nearshore areas.
Alewife have caused serious declines in native populations of Yellow
Perch, Cisco, and Emerald Shiner. They have become an important
prey item for many Great Lakes sport fishes. Unfortunately, many
of the large predatory fishes that feed on Alewife experience reduced
reproductive success (egg and fry mortality) due to an enzyme present
in Alewife that destroys an essential amino acid (thiamin).
The Alewife (avg. 15 cm) is not well adapted to freshwater systems.
The Alewife’s inability to adapt to rapid fluctuations in temperature,

resulted in large scale die offs in the past, often leaving recreational
beaches littered with thousands of Alewife carcasses. In recent years,
Alewife populations have steadily declined in the Great Lakes due
to reduced nutrient levels, increased predation, and impacts from
invasive Zebra Mussel and Quagga Mussel. As a result, the annual dieoffs that were once common are not seen as often today.

“You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They
don’t want to eat the fish, they just want to make it late for something.” – Mitch Hedberg

Asian carps
Asian carps (Silver, Bighead, Black, and Grass Carp) have been
introduced to North America from Asia. At the time of publication,
Asian carps are not established in the waters of Lake Ontario.
Individual Grass Carp and Bighead Carp have been found in Lake
Ontario, but they are not believed to have come from breeding
populations. The two main species of concern, the Bighead Carp and
Silver Carp, escaped from aquaculture facilities in the southern United
States when the facilities were flooded in the early 1990s. These carp
subsequently spread northward up the Mississippi, and Illinois Rivers,
approaching Lake Michigan. Specialized electric barriers in the
Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal are currently all that prevent these
fishes from entering Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes,
and potentially causing an ecological disaster. Resource managers in
the United States are routinely monitoring the spread of these highly
invasive fishes and investigating additional control strategies.
Certain species can reach lengths of over 1.2 m (4 ft) and weigh close
to 45 kgs (100 lbs). The Silver Carp is infamous for its ability to
Silver Carp

photo: Ted Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

leap over 2 m (6 ft) out of the water when startled, often resulting in
boaters being struck and injured. Researchers believe that if introduced
to the Great Lakes they will be able to survive, reproduce, and spread.
Because of both their high reproductive rate and food consumption,
it is believed Asian carps will seriously disrupt the Great Lakes’
ecosystem, damaging the multi-billion dollar sport and commercial
fisheries. Asian carps are a popular food fish sold in Ontario markets.
The possession of live Asian carps was banned in Ontario during 2005
to prevent release or escape.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) and Koi (Cyprinus carpio)
Goldfish and Koi are popular ornamental aquarium and pond
fishes, which are domesticated versions of wild carp species. Selective
breeding has produced the characteristic colour patterns that we
see today. Goldfish and Koi will often revert to their more natural
ancestral colour over time if released into natural waterbodies.
Unfortunately, when Goldfish and Koi are released into lakes and
streams in Ontario they can establish reproducing populations, which
can cause considerable ecological harm.
Goldfish being removed
from a local pond.
photo: Ontario Streams

49

50

As with most invasive species, once Goldfish and Koi have been
introduced into a suitable habitat, they are very difficult to control.
Water garden escapes, and aquarium releases are the main reasons for
the spread of Goldfish and Koi. Both Goldfish and Koi uproot and
feed on aquatic plants, degrading fish and other wildlife habitats in
wetlands and nearshore areas. These species also carry Koi herpes virus
– a virus now detected in Lake Ontario. Everyone should remember
that it is illegal to release fishes into a natural waterbody. If you have
unwanted aquarium or water garden pets, they should be donated to
a pet store, school, or a friend.

Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus)
The Round Goby is a small fish (max. 25 cm) native to eastern Europe
that invaded the Great Lakes in the early 1990s from the ballasts of
ocean-going ships. First discovered in the St. Clair River in 1990, they
quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes system. By 1998 there were
established populations of Round Goby in all five Great Lakes, and
Round Goby

photo: David Copplestone

several connecting tributaries. They are now an established part of the
Lake Ontario ecosystem and have become prey for many predatory fishes.
In addition to the ones in the Great Lakes, there are two established
inland populations, one in Rice Lake, near Peterborough, and a
second in Lake Simcoe. The spread of the Round Goby in the Great
Lakes basin may have been aided by a number of factors including:
ballast water transfers, bait bucket transfers, connecting waterways
and canals, and an abundant food supply. The Round Goby is now
one of the most common fish in the lower Great Lakes, and has
caused significant damage to the Great Lakes ecosystem. The Round
Goby is a voracious consumer of Zebra Mussel and Quagga Mussel.
Unfortunately, they also displace other bottom dwelling fishes and eat
fish eggs and very small fishes. They reproduce many times per season
and quickly increase their population size and are a nuisance to anglers
who repeatedly catch the aggressive goby. In an effort to prevent the
spread of these fish to new locations, the Ontario government amended
the fishing regulations in 2005, making it illegal to possess live Round
Goby, or use them as bait.
Invading Species Awareness Program
In 1992, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and MNR
established the Invading Species Awareness Program in order to address
the increasing threats posed by invading species in Ontario. The objectives
are to raise public awareness of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive
species, encourage participation in preventing their spread, and facilitate
monitoring and tracking initiatives related to the spread of new invaders
found within Ontario through citizen reports to the Invading Species Hotline
and the Invading Species Watch program.
For more information about the Invading Species Awareness Program
contact the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or visit
www.invadingspecies.com

51

Urbanization
Water quality, aquatic life, and fish habitat typically suffer negative
effects due to increased development within the watershed of a stream
or lake. In a natural setting, most rain and snow melt infiltrates into
the earth to replenish the groundwater or is taken up by vegetation.
In Toronto, as in any modern city, we have changed the way water
moves. As so much of a city is paved or covered with buildings,
most of the rain that falls cannot be absorbed into the ground. The
stormwater runs off the roofs, roads, and parking lots and enters the
storm sewer system before discharging untreated into rivers and lakes.
Unfortunately, this stormwater picks up pollutants as it flows across
these hard (impervious) surfaces. Oil, grease, dirt, bacteria (from

animal/pet feces), road salt, pesticides, and other toxic pollutants (such
as chemical run-off from industrial or commercial storage sites) all end
up in the stormwater.
During heavy rainfall, the resulting high and fast flowing water causes
erosion to the stream banks. Erosion, combined with the unnaturally
high levels of dirt and plant material (like leaves) washing off streets,
building sites, and road works contributes to an excessive sediment
load – and a muddy (turbid) appearance that is detrimental to most of
the plants, insects, and fishes living in the watercourse. The increased
sediment and erosion of our watercourses during runoff conditions also
results in the burying or destruction of fish habitat and spawning sites.

Sewers and Combined Sewer Overflows
There are three types of sewers in the City of Toronto: Sanitary, Combined, and Storm.
Most of the city is serviced by a separate sanitary sewer system that collects wastewater
from sources such as washrooms, kitchens, and commercial or industrial processes. This
sewage flows to one of Toronto’s four wastewater treatment plants where it is cleaned and
disinfected before being discharged to Lake Ontario or the Don River.
Rainfall and snow melt flows to a catchbasin (grates on the roads and parking lots) and
then travels in the storm sewer system until eventually discharging untreated to the natural
environment.
The combined sewer is a type found in some of the older parts of Toronto, including much
of the former municipalities of Toronto, York, East York, and southwestern Scarborough.
When it rains in these areas, the combined sewer collects both the sanitary wastewater
and the stormwater. To protect the treatment plants from excessive flows the combined
sewer system was constructed with overflow points. During even moderate rainfall events
the sanitary/stormwater mixture overflows (Combined Sewer Overflow or CSO) directly
into the rivers, larger creeks, and the Lake Ontario waterfront.
This CSO discharge is a significant source of pollution containing bacteria, excess nutrients,
metals, and harmful organic compounds. Eliminating CSO discharges is a major objective
of Toronto’s Wet Weather Flow Master Plan (WWFMP).

Combined Sewer Overflow Outfall – Taylor Massey Creek
photo: Toronto Water

52

Stormwater entering the streams after flowing overland typically has a higher
temperature than the background spring or groundwater sources. The
elevated stream temperatures stress many resident fishes, frequently reducing
diversity, leaving only those more tolerant species. Heavy rainstorms cause
raw sewage in combined sewers to overflow into surface waters, and force
wastewater treatment plants to by-pass (only partially treat much of the
sewage prior to discharge).
All this pollution degrades the water quality of our streams and Lake
Ontario, causing significant negative impacts to Toronto’s natural aquatic
life, including the fishes. But read on – the future is looking much better for
our watercourses. There are many things you can do to improve stormwater
quality, and the City has already initiated a long term wet weather plan to
help clean up our streams and the lake and improve and restore fish habitat.

What are current water quality conditions?
Contrary to popular belief the quality of water in Toronto’s watercourses
and Lake Ontario is generally quite good. Along the waterfront and on the
Toronto Islands, the City has 11 official swimming beaches, eight of which
are considered world-class based partly on exceptional water quality (see page
55). Since the mid-1980s intensive monitoring and enforcement by City staff
regarding wastewater discharges to the sanitary and storm sewers has significantly reduced dry weather pollution sources. Wet weather flow management
initiatives have started to have a noticeably positive impact on water quality.
Still, water quality during, and for up to 48 hours after, a significant rainfall
is frequently impaired due to the stormwater related issues discussed above.
Bacteria, contaminated run-off, and suspended solids (mud, debris, etc.)
continue to be a problem and are the target of the City’s Wet Weather
Flow Master Plan (WWFMP) (see page 57).

Toronto’s Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant bypassing
after a large rain storm (stormwater collected by the combined sewers
dramatically increases the flow entering the plant and forces a portion of
the sewage to receive only partial treatment before being discharged)
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

Sediment plume from the Humber River after heavy rainstorm
photo: Toronto Water

53

Fish-Friendly Policies in Toronto
Protection, restoration, and enhancement of natural habitat in the City
is of prime importance to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity.

Toronto’s Natural Heritage System
The City’s most significant natural heritage features and functions have
been identified and mapped and are collectively referred to as a natural
heritage system. Toronto’s natural heritage system is a connected
system of natural features (such as forest, wetlands, meadow areas,
stream valleys, and the shoreline of Lake Ontario) and functions (such
as riparian zones and floodplains) and includes lands that have the
potential to be restored (such as the lower Don River and mouth).
Lower Humber River mouth
estuary hooks constructed to
provide fish habitat for shelter
and feeding.
photo: TRCA

For a major city, Toronto has a relatively healthy system of natural
areas. This is primarily due to an extensive network of valleys and
ravines, combined with a few remnant natural tableland (above the
floodplain) areas such as High Park, and shoreline features such as
marshes at the mouths of the Humber and Rouge rivers, and wetlands
in the Toronto Islands, and at the Leslie Street Spit/Tommy Thompson
Park. Historically these areas exist either because: they were more
difficult to develop (valleys and ravines), by design (High Park, Rouge
Park), or by habitat restoration/creation (Leslie Street Spit). The largest
blocks of habitat, including rare productive forests, are found in the
Rouge River and Highland Creek watersheds in the east part of the
City. The total area of natural habitat across the city, and the extent
of numerous forest and meadow communities with a large diversity of
plants and animals, many being rare or threatened, is impressive for a
large urban area.

Protecting, restoring and enhancing natural areas
Toronto’s important natural areas are protected by a variety of policies
including the City’s Official Plan policies and land use designations
which restrict or prevent development within natural features and
areas. The Ravine and Natural Features Protection bylaw also helps
to protect forested areas and valley slopes by regulating removal of
trees of any size and any changes to grade. The Official Plan policies
and municipal bylaws work together with provincial and federal
regulations and TRCA policies which also regulate activities within
valleys and wetlands and help protect natural areas. There are a wide
variety of restoration and enhancement projects within natural areas
across Toronto including restoration and enhancement of ravine areas
adjacent to development projects, achieved through the development
approval process.

54

Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan
In the mid-1980s, Toronto and Region was identified as one of 43
locations around the Great Lakes where local environmental conditions
may be causing harm to the wider Great Lakes system. These locations
are referred to as Areas of Concern (AOCs) and are located in both
Canada and the United States. The clean-up, or remediation, of an
Area of Concern occurs through a mandated process called a Remedial
Action Plan, or RAP. Many of the RAP Goals are similar to Toronto’s
WWFMP Objectives (see page 57) and include habitat and water
quality improvements.
Significant improvements in sewage treatment, stormwater
management, pollutant regulation in sewers, and progressively tougher
provincial and federal regulations have led to dramatically reduced
discharges. Accordingly, the Toronto and Region RAP progress reports
show a continuing positive trend in water quality resulting from
lower levels of pollutants such as heavy metals. The concentrations of
these toxic chemicals (such as copper, zinc, and lead) have decreased
significantly over the last few decades, and now meet the provincial
objectives at most sampling stations under dry weather conditions.
Intensive urbanization and population growth within the Area of
Concern continues to pose its own challenges to environmental
conditions. Urban development activities result in decreased water
quality both locally and downstream. The losses of lakefront habitat,
such as the historic conversion of the extensive Ashbridge’s Bay Marsh
into the Portlands industrial area, are being slowed and even reversed
by several aquatic habitat and wetland restoration initiatives. However,
upstream in the watersheds, important habitats such as wetlands and
many streams remain disconnected from Lake Ontario, or are being

eliminated or severely stressed by the urbanization taking place on,
and around, them.
Many environmental challenges remain in the Toronto and
Region Area of Concern. The mitigation or removal of dams in
the watersheds is an important task associated with restoring and
connecting upstream habitat with the lake (see page 60). The
adoption of low-impact development practices, and measures to
improve the quality of water runoff from developed areas, are critical
to protecting the medium – water – in which fishes survive. And fish
habitat itself must be protected and restored throughout the region to
ensure humans and fishes continue to coexist to the benefit of both
species.
(from Toronto and Region 2007 RAP Progress Report. For more information visit
www.torontorap.ca)

Reporting Spills!
You should immediately report all spills or illegal discharges to the
environment or sewer system.
- The Ontario Ministry of the Environment SPILLS ACTION CENTRE
can be reached at 1-800-268-6060
- 311 Information: Toronto offers both customer service and 24/7 spill
reporting. Report all spills witnessed within the City of Toronto to
311 and a Toronto Spill Responder will be dispatched immediately
- For spills that are an immediate threat to human health, call 911

Brook Trout

illustration: Charles Weiss

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a
shortage of fishing poles.” – Doug Larson
Toronto’s Wonderful Beaches
The City of Toronto is very proud of the fact that 8 of its 11 Lake Ontario
beaches are recognized as meeting Blue Flag standards. Blue Flag is an
internationally recognized eco-label awarded to beaches that achieve
high standards in 29 criteria including water quality, environmental
education, environmental management, safety, and services.
During the summer, water quality testing is performed 7 days per week
(Ontario standards require only once per week). If the water quality is
not acceptable for swimming (E. coli bacteria more than 100 counts per
100 ml of water), signs are posted recommending visitors do not swim.
The decision to post signs is based on the previous day’s test results and
current beach conditions (waves, weather, water clarity).

Redside Dace – The Redside Dace has been designated as “Endangered”
under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Urbanization is considered to
be a major threat to Redside Dace as it requires cool, clear streams
with well-vegetated banks. Urbanization often leads to increased
temperatures and increased sedimentation in streams and removal
of vegetation along stream banks. The strong erosive forces of flash
floods, typical of urban areas, changes the habitat from deep, narrow
quiet pools, preferred by Redside Dace, into inhospitable wide shallow
riffle areas. The City, TRCA, Ontario Streams, and MNR are working to
restore and protect stream habitat with the hope that the Redside Dace
may make a comeback.

E. coli bacteria levels are an indicator of water quality. This bacterium is
found in wildlife and human waste and can cause ear, nose, and throat
infections, rashes, and other health issues.
Most beach postings against swimming occur after significant rain storms
that cause bacteria to be washed into the lake, either from animals
or through combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges. Water fowl
(ducks, geese, swans) and seabirds (gulls, cormorants, terns) are major
contributors to bacteria levels along the waterfront – DO NOT FEED the
birds. It is usually advisable to wait at least 24 hours after a large storm
before swimming in any urban waters.
Of significant note is that many of Toronto’s Blue Flag beaches are rarely
posted, even after large storms – the water quality being extremely good
all year round. This is great news for the fishes of Toronto; just as people
require unpolluted water for recreation, fish require clean waters for
survival.
For more information on Toronto’s Beach water quality testing visit:
www.toronto.ca/parks/beaches or www.toronto.ca/health/beaches

Cherry Beach

photo: Toronto Water

Redside Dace with the larger, less colourful Common Shiner in a Toronto stream
photo: Dave Lawrie, TRCA

55

56

“No human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish.” – John Ruskin

Working to improve and protect fish
habitat – what are the City of Toronto
and its partners doing?
There are many agencies, organizations,
and levels of government involved in both
improving and protecting the water quality
and aquatic environments within the Toronto
area. The City of Toronto and the Ontario
Ministry of the Environment are responsible
for enforcing water quality regulations and
responding to spill events. Both Environment
Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada
enforce legislation and federal acts designed
to protect fishes, fish habitat, and the aquatic
environment. The Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources is responsible for managing our
fishes and other wildlife resources as it works
to promote healthy, sustainable ecosystems
and conserve biodiversity. Toronto and Region
Conservation works to protect and restore the
health of the environment along Toronto’s
Lake Ontario waterfront and within each
watershed in the Toronto region. All of the
above government agencies work alongside
or partner with environmental organizations,
educational groups, corporations, and grass
roots community groups to increase awareness
and achieve a greener, cleaner, healthier
environment.

Reducing Road Salt
Salt entering the environment due to road de-icing operations creates a serious risk to plants and
animals. Fishes and other aquatic organisms are particularly at risk if harmful salt concentrations
increase in their lake and stream ecosystems or impact the quality of the life sustaining groundwater
inputs to surface waters.
The City of Toronto has a Salt Management Plan covering the use of salt applied to roads for safety
purposes in winter conditions. Equipment upgrades, staff training, and improved use of weather
forecasting information are major components of the Plan. The result is a significant reduction in
the amount of salt used on City roads and sidewalks.
A recent innovation involves the mixing of salt with water to create a brine solution that is applied
to roads as a liquid or used to pre-wet rock salt as it is spread on the roadway. The City’s use of
brine returns the roadway to normal driving conditions more quickly and helps each application
last longer than rock salt alone. It is better for the environment because less salt is required for the
same degree of safety. Another advantage is that the brine typically stays on the road as opposed
to rock salt which has a tendency to bounce or migrate off the road surface and enter the storm
sewers or ditches that direct run-off flow to the streams and Lake Ontario.

De-icing truck sprays
brine on the roads

photo: Toronto Transportation

57

Protecting water quality and aquatic habitats –
The Wet Weather Flow Master Plan
The City of Toronto’s Wet Weather Flow Master Plan (WWFMP)
is a long-term, multi-billion dollar initiative launched in 2003.
WWFMP projects are successfully improving the water quality and
aquatic habitat in the City’s streams and waterfront by reducing
and collecting contaminated stormwater run-off. Combined sewer
overflows are being intercepted and stored in massive underground
tanks before treatment at wastewater plants. Sewer-Use By-Law
Officers investigate and eliminate illegal discharges and cross
connections (sanitary connections to the storm sewer). Numerous
stream restoration projects are underway to reduce destructive erosion
and improve aquatic habitat, and stormwater ponds are being built to
collect and naturally treat wet weather flows. These ponds also help
control the volume and velocity of stormwater entering the streams,
which reduces the erosion and flushing of fish habitats, and provide
aquatic and terrestrial habitat within the stream valleys once natural
and planted vegetation takes hold.
The WWFMP has 13 key objectives; including many that have a
direct effect on fishes and fish habitat:
• Achieve healthier aquatic communities that include warmwater and
coldwater fisheries as appropriate;
• Reduce fish consumption advisories due to local wet weather
pollution sources;
• Reduce erosion impacts on stream and riparian (forested stream
banks) habitats;
• Re-establish a natural hydrologic cycle (movement of rainwater)
based on maximizing permeability and minimizing runoff;

• Protect, re-establish, rehabilitate, and/or restore natural features
such as wetlands and streams;
• Virtual elimination of toxic contaminants in groundwater and
surface waters through pollution prevention at their source;
• Achieve federal, provincial, and municipal water and sediment
quality objectives and guidelines in area watercourses and along the
waterfront;
• Eliminate discharges of sanitary sewage to the natural environment
from such sources as combined sewer overflows (CSO) and
wastewater treatment plant by-passes;
• Contribute to eliminating objectionable deposits, nuisance algae
growth, unnatural colour, turbidity, and odour in order to improve
the aesthetics of area surface waters.
For more information on the WWFMP visit:
www.toronto.ca/water/protecting_quality/wwfmmp/index.htm
www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/archived/wwfmmp_archive/index.htm
Stormwater Management
Wetland in High Park

photo: Vicky Shi, Toronto Water

58

Stream restoration
The City of Toronto, MNR, Ontario Streams, and TRCA continue
to be involved in numerous projects to restore or create aquatic
habitat in Toronto’s streams.
Stream restoration projects are designed to return watercourses to a
more natural condition. Restoration projects also attempt to reduce

Humber Creek, 2002, pre-restoration (these three photos show
the same location; note the willow tree on the right side)
photo: Toronto Water

the amount of bank erosion along a watercourse in order to improve
downstream water quality, and reduce the loss or burial of fish habitat.
During a restoration, in-stream structures (riffles, pools, boulders),
substrate (stream bed materials), and cover (logs, woody debris,
vegetation) are utilized to provide a variety of habitat for the
protection, foraging, and reproduction of fishes and other aquatic life

Humber Creek, 2007, post-restoration with properly graded
banks that have erosion protection and new plantings
photo: Toronto Water

Humber Creek, 2010, productive fish habitat with
extensive riparian vegetation for cover and shade
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

59

(insects, amphibians, plants, etc.). Large rocks
(armourstone, boulders) are placed along the
stream banks to prevent erosion. Trees and other
vegetation are also planted at the stream edges
(riparian zone) to reduce erosion, supply shade to
keep water temperatures low, and provide shelter
and food for fishes and other wildlife.
A good example of a stream restoration project
can be seen in Humber Creek (see previous
page), a small tributary of the Humber River that
runs between Islington Ave. and Scarlett Road,
south of Dixon Road. The creek was typical of a
severely degraded urban watercourse and in
2002, a 900 m section near the start of the creek
in Alex Marchetti Park was restored to provide
stable banks and enhanced aquatic habitat. The
riparian shrubs and trees that were planted as
part of the restoration have been so successful
that within only a few years the creek is difficult
to see for all this beneficial bank vegetation.
Another major project is the ongoing restoration of
large segments of East Highland Creek in the area
south of Ellesmere Road near and within
Morningside Park. A massive rainstorm event in
August of 2005 damaged huge sections of
Highland Creek and the City of Toronto
continues to work on restoring these reaches.

Stream Restoration in East Highland Creek south of Ellesmere Road
Equipment is removing fine solids collected in a stilling basin. The
riffles, pools, and basin are designed to slow the flow during storms
and thus reduce the erosive forces of high fast flowing water (that
can fill the entire channel during big storms).
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

stilling basin
with large rocks

armourstone walls

deeper pools

shallow riffles with
low flow channels

60

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” – Steven Wright

Fish migration barrier removal
The City of Toronto, MNR, and TRCA
are involved with the removal of instream barriers to fish migration. Barrier
examples are bridge structures, culverts,
dams, log or debris jams, and weirs.
Culverts (large pipes under roads at a
stream crossings) with a vertical drop
on the downstream side are referred
to as “perched” culverts and are very
common. Typically an abrupt change
in the slope or elevation of the stream
surface is what acts as the barrier to fishes
and aquatic invertebrates, preventing
them from accessing upstream habitat.
Even salmonids can be blocked by low
barriers because the pool immediately
downstream of the barrier must be at
least as deep as the barrier is high for
them to reach an adequate jumping
speed. Many barriers also cause upstream
ponding that can result in excessively
high water temperatures that are harmful
to coldwater fish species. Other barriers
may cause habitat fragmentation,
interrupt sediment transport down the
river, and/or prevent fish movement
away from stressful conditions such as
spills to the river.

Fishway entrance

Denil Fishway

Humber River weir upstream of Eglinton Avenue West. Note the Denil Fishway (a type of fish “ladder”) that was
constructed to allow both jumping and non-jumping fishes to migrate upstream of the weir (inset shows a side view of the
weir and the entrance to the fishway).
photos: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

61

However, strategic barriers can also be used for fish management by
preventing undesirable invasive fish species such as Sea Lamprey (see
pg. 35) or Round Goby from migrating into “unaffected” reaches, or
separating introduced migratory species (e.g. Pacific salmons) from
resident native fish communities (e.g. Brook Trout).

Sea Lamprey

illustration: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

notch

Humber River weir with notch in the centre of the
structure to assist with upstream fish migration
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

A Chinook Salmon, in the East Don River upstream of York Mills Road,
unsuccessfully attempts to migrate beyond an impassible barrier (high weir)
photo: Ken Sproule

62

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for
a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

With the removal or modification of undesirable
barriers, or the construction of a bypass or fish ladder,
new healthy diverse upstream aquatic communities can
develop, and migrating fishes can access the clear, cool
headwaters they require for spawning.
In the Humber River, between Bloor Street and the
St. Phillips Road bridge, there are eight weirs that have
been notched. The notching lowers the height of the
weir, allowing some jumping species to move up past
these structures. Also on the Humber, in Raymore Park
just north of Eglinton Avenue West, TRCA and the
MNR have constructed a fishway that allows virtually
all fish species to migrate upstream of the weir (see page
60). In the Spring of 2000, these barrier mitigation
efforts and others farther upstream resulted in the
successful migration of Rainbow Trout from Lake
Ontario to spawning sites in the headwaters of the East
Humber River.
In the Don River, TRCA recently constructed rocky
ramps at various weirs that help fishes navigate over some
of these weir structures. Rocks and boulders are used
to form a type of stepped or terraced path from below
the weir up to the lip of the weir. The flow-monitoring
weir just downstream of the Pottery Road bridge is an
excellent example of a rocky ramp design that now allows
migrating White Sucker and Chinook Salmon to move
up from Lake Ontario, past the weir, and into tributaries
of the upper Don River.

Don River weir and rocky ramp at Todmorden Mills (downstream of Pottery Road)
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

63

Waterfront and wetlands restoration
In recent years considerable work has started on the process of
restoring natural habitats and improving water quality along or near
the Lake Ontario waterfront, and aquatic ecosystems have begun to
show signs of recovery.
The restoration of coastal wetlands is a priority as these wetlands
provide reproductive habitat for top predators such as Walleye and
Northern Pike. Coastal wetlands have been, and are being, created

Leslie Street Spit/Tommy Thompson Park showing
embayments and “cells” that are sheltered from Lake
Ontario, providing refuge for juvenile fishes.
photo: TRCA

at various points along the Toronto shoreline. Excellent examples
of these restoration projects can be seen at Humber Bay Park and
in the embayments at Tommy Thompson Park. Wetland creation
often includes measures for excluding the introduced Common Carp,
which destroys aquatic vegetation that is essential food and shelter
for native fishes. The successful exclusion of Common Carp allows
native aquatic plants to flourish, including softstem bulrush, cattail,
arrowhead, water lily, dogwoods, and willows.

Humber Bay Park aquatic habitat and
carp exclusion gate near the mouth of
Mimico Creek.
photos: TRCA

64

Tommy Thompson Park – This series of photos illustrates the changes in habitat in Embayment ‘A’ (farthest SW protected bay) at Tommy Thompson Park
before, during, immediately after, and one year after enhancements were installed by Toronto and Region Conservation. While the shoreline in the before
picture appears green, it is severely lacking in aquatic habitat. The vegetation community is composed predominantly of Willow, a terrestrial species, with
only a few Cattails. During construction sand was added to push the shoreline farther into the embayment, providing space for the creation of backwater
lagoons, which creates a warm water refuge for fishes when the water in the open embayment is too cold and provides spawning grounds in the spring and
summer. The land between the new shoreline and the backwater lagoons is covered with piles of wood and boulders to provide habitat for perching birds,
basking amphibians and small mammals. One year after construction, the new shoreline is covered with vegetation including aquatic species in the water,
and wildflowers and shrubs on land. It is a healthy ecosystem that provides habitats for fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

1 - TTP Embayment A - before construction, Summer 2009

2 - TTP Embayment A - during construction, September 2009

3 - TTP Embayment A - immediately after construction, October 2009

4 - TTP Embayment A - one year after construction, August 2010

photo: TRCA

photo: TRCA

photo: TRCA

photo: Ann Gray

65

Central waterfront – The central waterfront of Toronto has also been the site
of numerous restoration projects, both on the land and in the water. For example,
within the Inner Harbour over 4000 m2 of new aquatic habitat was created
in conjunction with the construction of the three new pedestrian walkway
Wave Decks at the Spadina, Simcoe, and Rees slips. To create aquatic
habitat under the Wave Decks, a variety of different measures were used;
boulders, gravel, tree root balls, and large logs were placed on the lake bed
to provide an environment for fishes to reproduce, live, and grow.
The Spadina Wave Deck is adjacent to the Spadina Quay Wetland. This
unique open water marsh habitat, built in 1996 on the site of a former
parking lot, offers protection from the harsh wave environment of the
Inner Harbour. The sheltered wetland environment is now fostering the
development of extensive aquatic plant communities and an emerging fish
population. The Northern Pike is known to use this high quality wetland
for spawning. To promote the establishment of a healthy fish community
numerous underwater features, such as log cribs, were installed to act as
both cover and ambush points for the pike to prey on smaller fishes.

Longnose Gar

illustration: Charles Weiss

Spadina Wave Deck – constructing and installing root wads to provide cover
photo: TRCA

Spadina Quay Wetland entrance

Spadina Wave Deck fish habitat and the Spadina Quay Wetland
Northern Pike habitat (on the left) with its entrance gate
photo: Rod Anderton, Toronto Water

66

Aquatic Habitat Toronto – Aquatic Habitat Toronto (AHT) is a partnership between
agencies with an interest in healthy, sustainable aquatic ecosystems. AHT
implements the Toronto Waterfront Aquatic Habitat Restoration Strategy conserving,
restoring, and creating aquatic habitat that was historically degraded, and oversees
scientific research along the Toronto waterfront. The work is an important step in
addressing the environmental challenges that factor into Toronto’s listing as an Area
of Concern. AHT partners represent three levels of government and include Fisheries
and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
Toronto and Region Conservation, Waterfront Toronto, and the City of Toronto.
For more information visit www.aquatichabitat.ca

Largemouth Bass

illustration: Charles Weiss

Largemouth Bass habitat restoration in Grenadier Pond, High Park
photo: TRCA

Spawning-shoals (pond
bed raised using gravel
and rocks) providing
increased nesting grounds

“Log-tangle” (logs
placed together under
the water) offering
cover and protection

Planting aquatic vegetation in the Humber Bay Park wetlands
photo: TRCA

Rouge River Marshes – Located at the Toronto-Pickering border, the
Rouge River Marshes Wetland Complex supports a variety of plants
and animals, many of which are classified as Special Concern by the
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
and/or as a provincially significant species. Historically, the Rouge
River Marshes provided important breeding grounds for fishes and
other wildlife. Today, high siltation and turbidity, an influx of invasive
species, increased flooding and erosion, encroaching development,
and degradation of fish and wildlife habitat threaten the Rouge River
Marshes.
Rehabilitation efforts were initiated by Ontario Streams and the MNR
in 1998. The restoration involved re-grading the shoreline, adding
wetlands, and installing Canada Geese and Common Carp controls.
The work included removal of invasive vegetation, such as Purple
Loosestrife, and planting of native vegetation to establish a healthy
wetland plant community. Bird boxes, an osprey nesting platform,
and turtle basking logs were also installed. There is now improved
habitat for numerous species of birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians,
and fishes. The addition of native vegetation has created excellent
spawning habitat, essential to the survival of many native fish species.
Several public fishing access sites were also built for anglers to enjoy
the improved marshes and fish populations.

Yellow Perch

illustration: Charles Weiss

Rouge River Marshes, before (above) and after (below) rehabilitation
photos: Ontario Streams

68

How You Can Help
There are many actions you can take to improve and protect fishes
and fish habitat. Below are listed a selection of ways that individuals
can improve water quality, reduce the impact of stormwater flows,
and protect native aquatic life.

Here are some easy things …
• Stoop and scoop animal waste.
• Check your car for leaks of fuel, oil, brake, transmission and other
harmful fluids. Fix the leaks! Use a drop cloth if you do-it-yourself.
• Reduce usage of your car: ride your bike, take transit, or car pool.
• Eliminate or at least reduce your use of fertilizers and pesticides,
and follow application guidelines! (Ontario banned the use of
cosmetic pesticides in 2009.)
• Grasscycle! Leave grass clippings on your lawn when you mow
(mulch). They’ll help your lawn absorb more rain and return
nutrients to the soil. This will allow you to cut back on lawn
watering, and fertilizing, which frequently contribute to polluted
stormwater runoff adding excessive nutrients into surface waters.

• Don’t dump toxic substances into the sewer system. ONLY rain or
clean water is allowed in the catchbasins on your road.
• Drop-off harmful products such as oil, household cleaners, paint,
pesticides, batteries, and prescription medicines at the City of
Toronto’s Household Hazardous Waste Depots (call 311 for details
plus hours and locations).
• Try to limit your use of any hazardous product. Buy only as much
as you need and use it all up. If you do end up with leftovers,
consider sharing them with a neighbour or donating them to a local
community organization. Better still, why not use environmentally
safe alternatives for home and laundry cleaning products and
gardening/lawn maintenance.
• Don’t use soap to wash your car in the driveway. Soap is not
allowed to be discharged to the road or catchbasins. If you can,
wash your car over a surface that will allow water to soak into the
earth, or use a commercial car wash.
• Don’t discharge your chlorinated swimming pool water or
backwash to the catchbasin. Saltwater disinfection pool water must
be discharged to the sanitary sewer or stay on your property.

“FISH: an animal that grows the fastest between the time it’s caught and the time the
fisherman describes it to his friends.” – anonymous

• Use a broom to sweep garbage and soil off driveways,
sidewalks and patios – don’t use your hose to wash the
material to the road and catchbasin. By doing this you’re
helping reduce pollution picked up in stormwater runoff.
• Get involved in community watercourse restoration or
watershed management projects or the Yellow Fish Road
Program.

… and some things that need a little extra effort:
• Disconnect your home’s eavestrough downspouts from
the sewer. Catch the stormwater in a rain barrel and use
it to water your lawn and gardens, or redirect the flow to
a spot where it can soak into the earth and replenish the
groundwater. Visit www.toronto.ca/water/protecting_
quality/downspout.htm
• Consider using gravel, well-spaced interlocking bricks,
grass or other groundcover instead of impervious
(waterproof) surfaces such as pavement or concrete.
• Use landscaping that promotes the filtering of rainwater
into the ground or consider xeriscaping, a school of
landscape design that promotes water conservation.
• Help keep stormwater on your property and allow it to
soak into the earth and replenish groundwater. You can
do this by changing the drainage slope of your lawn, by
changing the grading or landscaping to stop stormwater
runoff.
• Plant trees and shrubs on your property to retain water.

Painting a Yellow Fish
beside a catchbasin
photos: TRCA

Yellow Fish RoadTM Program
(Toronto and Region Conservation)

The Yellow Fish RoadTM program is a free half-day,
curriculum-linked, action-oriented experience that gets
participants involved in community outreach. Developed by
Trout Unlimited Canada, the Yellow Fish RoadTM Program
offers a PowerPoint presentation, an in-class demonstration
and an interactive model helping participants understand
how storm drains are linked directly to local water bodies
without any purification/treatment. Once educated,
participants mark local storm drains with yellow fish
symbols and distribute educational leaflets to homes in the
area, helping to raise awareness of storm water pollution.
This program runs from the beginning of April until the end of October, and is ideal
for schools (grades 2-12 inclusive), Guides and Scouts, and corporate and special
interest groups.
www.trca.on.ca/school-programs/facilities-and-programs/watershed-on-wheels
www.yellowfishroad.org

69

70

• If you’re thinking of adding a bathroom to your home, make sure
to connect new plumbing fixtures to your home’s sanitary drain
(NOT the storm sewer).
• Rooftop gardens can help reduce stormwater runoff. This is a great
approach for Toronto businesses or building owners who lack
property for other stormwater management techniques. Visit
www.toronto.ca/greenroofs

Preventing invasive species
• Inspect your boat, motor, trailer, and boating equipment such as
anchors and fishing gear, centerboards, rollers, and axles. Remove

any mussels and other animals and plants that are visible before
leaving any waterbody.
• Drain water from the motor, live well, bilge and transom wells while
on land immediately before leaving the waterbody.
• Wash and/or dry your boat, tackle, downriggers, trailer, and other
boating equipment to kill harmful species that were not visible at the
boat launch. Some aquatic species can survive more than two weeks
out of water. Therefore, it is important to:
- rinse your boat and equipment that normally gets wet with hot
tap water (greater than 50°C); or
- spray your boat and trailer with high pressure water (250 psi); or
- dry your boat and equipment in the sun for at least 5 days before
transporting them to another body of water.
• Crayfishes can only be used for bait in the waterbody in which they
were caught and they cannot be transported over land. This will
help prevent the spread of non-native and invasive species like the
Rusty Crayfish.
• DO NOT dump your bait. It is illegal to release live bait into or
near any surface waters.
• Never release or flush unwanted aquarium pets, plants, or water into
natural waters, drainage ditches or sewers.
• Return or donate unwanted aquarium fishes, reptiles, snails and
plants to a pet store or a school.

Removing aquatic plants from a fishing boat and trailer before leaving the site
in order to not transport invasive plant species to another watershed.
photo: David Copplestone

Learn how to identify invasive species. Call the province-wide Invading
Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 to report new sightings, or visit
www.invadingspecies.com for more information.

71

Catch and Release
It has been said that catch and release is the single greatest personal contribution that
an angler can make towards the sport fishery. Selective harvest is practised today by
conservation minded anglers who occasionally keep a few fishes, but carefully release
most they catch. Sport fishes that are caught and released benefit both the species and
the fishery for future generations of anglers.
Catch and Release Tips
- Land fishes quickly by using the correct rod and reel for the species you are fishing
- Keep fishes in the water as much as possible
- Wet your hands before handling a fish to avoid excessive loss of the fish’s protective
slime coating
- Do not touch gills; they are very easily damaged
- Use rubberized or fish-friendly landing nets to protect the fish from abrasion
- Never use abrasive/grippy gloves that both injure and strip slime
- When holding, keep the body of large fishes supported in a horizontal position
- Remove hooks quickly; have pliers handy to cut the hook or help pull it out
For some species like trouts and even small panfishes, barbless hooks (barbs can
be pinched down with pliers) help make catch and release quicker and easier for
you and the fish. See the web resources at the end of this book for more Catch and
Release tips.
Facts about Bait
- The use of live bait is permitted in most Ontario waterbodies – but always refer to
the Ontario Recreational Fishing Regulations to confirm if any restrictions apply to
the location or waterbody you plan to fish
- Only a limited number of species may be used as bait (example: Yellow Perch
cannot be used as bait anywhere in Ontario) – check the regulations to be sure your
bait is allowed
- Salamanders cannot be captured, imported, or used as bait in Ontario
- It is illegal to release any live bait or dump the contents of a bait bucket into any
waterbody or within 30 m of a waterbody

Brown Trout caught in Ashbridges Bay by TRCA Fish Community
Monitoring Program staff
photo: TRCA

Northern Pike released after being caught along the Toronto waterfront
photo: TRCA

72

Fishing Regulations in the Toronto Area
Ontario is an angler’s paradise. There are
over 250,000 lakes in the province and
countless kilometres of rivers and creeks. The
Toronto area offers anglers many different
types of fishing experiences close to home.
Most people between 18 and 64 years of age
need to purchase a fishing licence in order to
fish in the Toronto area or anywhere in the
province. There are some exceptions, such as
for disabled Ontario and Canadian residents.
Licences can be purchased at Service Ontario
outlets or from hundreds of authorized
licence issuers around the province.
Royal Ontario Museum’s

In order to manage Ontario’s fisheries,
Field Guide
the Ministry of Natural Resources has
divided the province into 20 Fisheries Management Zones. Fishing
regulations help manage for healthy fish populations – there are
various open and closed seasons, catch and possession limits, and in
some cases, size restrictions for the fishes you may catch. Each zone
has specific fishing regulations that anglers must follow. Inland waters
in the City of Toronto fall within Zone 16, while Lake Ontario waters
fall within Zone 20.
To view a summary of Ontario’s fishing regulations, visit
www.ontario.ca/fishing. You can also pick up a hard copy when you
buy your licence. If you plan to fish near the boundary of a zone,
you can review the zone maps provided online to determine the
boundary between Lake Ontario and various stream mouths and bays.

Hooked-On-Fishing, Alyssa Mcdonald proudly displays her first Bluegill sunfish
with Wil Wegman of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The MNR and
local angling associations coordinate numerous youth fishing events every year,
including two Licence-Free Family Fishing periods. Visit the MNR website (see Web
References) for more information on fishing with children and other fishing events.
photo: Melanie Quinn, MNR Aurora District

To report resources abuse and fishing violations, call the TIPS-MNR
line at 1-877-847-7667.
This Fishes of Toronto booklet and the ROM’s Field Guide to
Freshwater Fishes of Ontario will help you become familiar with the
numerous fishes that swim in our local waters.

Conclusion

“Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they
know the fish.” – Mark Twain

Eels that swim to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce and
then die, their offspring spending years making it
back to Lake Ontario. A fish that can grow up to
3 m long and live more than a century. The return
of a species once so abundant you could have gone
to Mimico Creek, or the Don and Humber Rivers,
and “walked across a stream dry shod on their
backs”. The trophy-sized bass, pike, salmons, and
trouts that you can catch while having Toronto’s
skyscrapers and CN Tower in the background. The
minnows and sunfishes you see teeming in a local
pond or the salmons jumping by the hundreds at
the Old Mill dam on the Humber River.
All of these are amazing anecdotes about the
fascinating fishes that this book has tried to
highlight. We hope Fishes of Toronto will be just a
starting point to your connection with Toronto’s
fish community. If this book can spark a desire to
learn more about our local fish species or to open
the door to create your own “Fishing in Toronto”
stories, then we’ll be happy. However… if Fishes
of Toronto can become the gateway to create more
lifelong stewards who are determined to conserve
our fishes, their habitats, and fishing opportunities
for future generations… then we would have all
done our jobs that much better.
Remember, the future of our fishes is in your
hands!

Mike Correa, of TRCA, displays two Smallmouth Bass caught on the open coast side of the Toronto Islands
during ‘Nearshore Community Index Netting’; a fish sampling program run in conjunction with the MNR.
photo: TRCA

73

“Crayfish Slammer” – Smallmouth Bass
illustration: Charles Weiss

75

Select Fishes and Fishing Resources
BOOKS

Agencies and organizations

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison,
Wisconsin. xii + 1052 pp. (available online at: http://seagrant.wisc.edu/
greatlakesfish/becker.htm)

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources - www.mnr.gov.on.ca

Coad, B.W. with H. Waszczuk and I. Labignan. 1995. Encyclopedia of Canadian
fishes. Museum of Nature, Ottawa and Canadian Sportfishing Productions,
Waterdown, Ontario. viii+928 pp.

Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) – www.trca.on.ca

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) www.dec.ny.gov
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters - www.ofah.org

Holm, E., N. Mandrak, and M. Burridge. 2009, 2010. The ROM field guide to
freshwater fishes of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum Science Publication. Toronto,
Ontario. 462 pp.

Great Lakes Fishery Commission – www.glfc.org

Hubbs, C.L., K.F. Lagler, and G.R. Smith. 2004. Fishes of the Great Lakes region,
revised edition. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan. xvii + 276 pp.

Ontario Streams - www.ontariostreams.on.ca

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North
America north of Mexico. Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
Company, New York, New York xix + 663 pp.
Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res.
Board Can. 184. [1998 Reprint] Galt House Publications Ltd., Oakville, Ontario. xx
+ 966 pp.

Royal Ontario Museum – www.rom.on.ca
The International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) - www.iaglr.org
City of Toronto, Toronto Water - www.toronto.ca/water
American Fisheries Society - www.fisheries.org/afs
Fisheries and Oceans Canada - www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/index-eng.htm
The North American Native Fishes Association - www.nanfa.org/default.shtml
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper - www.waterkeeper.ca
Conservation Ontario - www.conservation-ontario.on.ca
Ontario Ministry of the Environment - www.ene.gov.on.ca

WEBSITES
Identification

Fisheries research and management journals

FishBase - www.fishbase.org
Ontario Freshwater Fishes Life History Database - www.fishdb.ca
WiscFish - University of Wisconsin, Center for Limnology, Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant - www.wiscfish.org

American Eel

illustration: Charles Weiss

American Fisheries Society Journals - http://afsjournals.org
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences www.nrcresearchpress.com/journal/cjfas
Journal of Great Lakes Research - www.iaglr.org/jglr/journal.php

Freshwater Drum

illustration: Charles Weiss

76

OTHER WEB RESOURCES

Ontario Chinese Anglers Association - www.ocaa.smartanglers.com

Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO):
www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/244543.html

Metro East Anglers - www.metroeastanglers.com

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):
www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Urban Fishing Sites in the Toronto Area - www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/
LetsFish/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_165643.html
Paddle the Don - www.paddlethedon.ca
Lake Ontario Charter Boat Association www.lakeontariocharterboatassociation.com
Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary 2011 - www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/
Business/LetsFish/Publication/STEL02_163615.html
Go Fish in Ontario - www.gofishinontario.com/index.aspx?language=en
The 2011-2012 Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/water/fishguide/index.php
Aquatic Habitat Toronto - www.aquatichabitat.ca, download the Toronto Waterfront
Aquatic Habitat Restoration Strategy and The Fish Communities of The Toronto
Waterfront: Summary and Assessment 1989 - 2005)
Toronto Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan - information of Lake Ontario
Evenings, Toronto RAP targets, www.torontorap.ca
Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program - www.bringbackthesalmon.ca
Great Ontario Salmon Derby - www.greatontariosalmonderby.ca
Ontario Sportfishing Guides Association www.ontariofishcharters.ca/ontariocent.html
www.ontariofishcharters.ca/ontariowest.html

Brown Bullhead

illustration: Charles Weiss

MNR Fish Culture - www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LetsFish/2ColumnSubPage/
STEL02_165904.html
Ontario Family Fishing Weekend - www.familyfishingweekend.com
MNR Kids’ Fish Art Contest - www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/KidsFish/index.html
Ontario Fishing Net - www.ontariofishing.net
Invading Species Awareness Program - www.invadingspecies.com
MNR Youth Fishing - www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LetsFish/2ColumnSubPage/
STEL02_165419.html
Tackle Share Program - www.tackleshare.com
Catch and Release Fishing www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LetsFish/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_166032.html
www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@letsfish/documents/
factsheet/stdprod_068934.pdf
CHECKLIST SOURCES
Buchanan, I. 1989. Fish community and aquatic habitat of the Toronto waterfront
1989. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Maple District. Prepared for Toronto
Remedial Action Plan.
ROM fish collection records
Strus, R. H. 1994. Metro Toronto Waterfront Fish Communities: Summary and
Assessment 1989-1993. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Greater Toronto
Area District. Prepared for Metro Toronto Remedial Action Plan.
Whillans, T. H. 1979. Historic transformations of fish communities in three Great
Lakes Bays. J. Great Lakes Research 5(2):195-215.

Rock Bass

illustration: Charles Weiss

77

Acknowledgements
Contributing Authors

Contributing Artist

Fishes of Toronto was developed by a group of dedicated and conscientious
professionals; without whose commitment this informative guide would not have
been possible. The City of Toronto would like to thank the Fishes of Toronto Working
Group (pictured below, from left to right): Rod Anderton, Pat Viggiani, Erling Holm,
Mike Correa, Wil Wegman, Meg St. John, Chris Robinson, Colin Lake, Kelly Snow.
Absent: Charles Weiss.

Charles Weiss – Charles Weiss is a Toronto-based
Ontario born artist and writer. He has tried to paint
underwater scenes as accurately as possible. He has
always felt passionately about nature and wildlife,
especially freshwater fishes. These subjects appear in
a lot of his artwork. His styles range from realistic to
editorial cartoons. www.charlesweissart.com

Photographers

We would like to also thank the following people for their assistance: Mary Burridge,
Andrea Chreston, David Copplestone, Becky Cudmore, Marc Gaden, Antonia
Guidotti, Harold Harvey, Nick Mandrak, Brian Morrison, Bruce Morrison,
Christine Tu, Jane Weninger.

Partners
Aquatic Habitat Toronto: www.aquatichabitat.ca
Great Lakes Fishery Commission: www.glfc.org
Ministry of Natural Resources: www.mnr.gov.on.ca
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters: www.ofah.org
Royal Ontario Museum: www.rom.on.ca
Toronto and Region Conservation: www.trca.on.ca

Illustrations by
Karen Klitz, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC),
Judy Pennanen (Atlantic Salmon Federation), Rob Slapkauskas.
ALL ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS AND ARTWORK ARE USED WITH PERMISSION AND ARE
COPYRIGHT OF THE ARTIST/PHOTOGRAPHER UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED.

Booklet designed by City of Toronto Information Production, City Clerk’s Office (2011)

Rod Anderton, Blaise Barrett, David Britton, Randy Brown, Nicki Butala, W. H.
Carrick, Jon Clayton, Brian Coad, George Coker, David Copplestone, Mike Correa,
Alan Dextrase, Emily Funnell, Bruce Gebhardt, Ann Gray, Great Lakes Fishery
Commission (GLFC), Glenn Guthrie, Kazutoshi Hiyeda, Erling Holm, Izumi Outdoors,
E.R. Keeley, John Kendell, Marc Lange, Elizabeth LaPorte, Gregory Lashbrook, Ted
Lawrence, Dave Lawrie, John MacGregor, Rob MacGregor, Montreal Biodome,
Nature’s Images, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources, Ontario Streams, Melanie Quinn, Mont Richardson, Royal
Alberta Museum, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Konrad Schmidt, Vicki Shi, Ken
Sproule, Toronto and Region Conservation, Toronto Transportation Services, Toronto
Water, Paul Vecsei, Doug Watkinson, Wil Wegman.

Financial Contributors

The Working Group and the City of Toronto would like to thank the following
for their generous financial support:
- Toronto Field Naturalists: www.torontofieldnaturalists.org
- The Schad Foundation
- MacFeeters Family Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation
- Ministry of Natural Resources: www.ontario.ca/speciesatrisk
- Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto: www.trca.on.ca/foundation
- Toronto and Region Conservation’s Paddle the Don Fund: www.paddlethedon.ca
- Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Zone G: www.ofah.org/zoneg
Back cover: “Northern Pike Chasing Yellow Perch”
© Charles Weiss