Today’s post comes from year-round multispecies angler and writer Ashley Rae of SheLovesToFish.com.
Since moving to Ottawa nearly four years ago, the Rideau River has become one of my favourite fishing playgrounds as it offers such a great variety of species to chase. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed targeting Large-mouth Bass, Walleye, Muskie, Northern Pike, Common Carp, and Black Crappie….just to name a few!
Beginning at Upper Rideau Lake and flowing all the way to the Ottawa River where it empties, the Rideau River is nearly 150 km long.
Rideau River Provincial Park is situated on the shores of the Rideau, just across from the community of Kemptville. The park operates from May to September, offering nearly 200 campsites along with a boat launch for easy access to the river.
In the early spring, I enjoy tucking into sheltered bays with dark bottoms, seeking out warmer water in my search for Black Crappie. They stack up quite thick before they spawn and I’ve had some of the best days ever targeting these scrappy fish on the Rideau.
Pumpkinseed and Bluegill are not usually too far away from the crappie and often move into the spawning grounds first. I’ve had my best luck using smaller tackle for these species, such as white tubes or small jigs under an adjustable float.
After the crappie begin to spawn, I let them be and move on to target big ol’ Common Carp. Carp spawn later than crappie but can feed quite aggressively prior to spawning as well. Carp are mainly targeted from shore with scented presentations that sit on bottom, such as corn and boilies (a type of flavoured dough ball).
You’ll definitely want to ensure your equipment is rated for these large powerful fish as they grow quite large. Fight hard, and peel lots of line. They’re an absolute riot to bring in and can easily be one of the largest fish you’ll ever catch!
*NOTE* While Common Carp were introduced to Ontarian waters over 100 years ago, they are actually an invasive species (much like their more infamous cousins, Asian Carp). Common Carp can have extremely negative impact on ecosystems, destroying spawning sites for other fish, decreasing water quality, and competing with native species .
For these reasons, it’s extremely important that anglers not allow Common Carp to spread to new waters. Help protect our water quality, our fisheries and aquatic ecosystems by dumping your bait bucket at least 30 m from the water, cleaning your livewell, and never transporting live fish.
As the spring progresses, other species come into season and it’s time to focus on the predators. Fish with teeth are definitely my favourite as they increase the adrenaline rush, adding even more excitement.
Walleye, Northern Pike, and Muskie are all found on this body of water. These predatory species — along with their less toothy neighbor, the Large-mouth Bass — can often be found near vegetation and cover, ready to ambush their next meal. Healthy green weeds are key when targeting these species as they provide oxygen and cover for prey. Find locations that include structure (like vegetation, stumps, and docks) and access to deeper water nearby.
For pike, I typically move out to the weed edges and throw moving baits (for example spinnerbaits and swimbaits). My favourite way to target Walleye on the river is ripping bucktail jigs along weedlines. For Large-mouth Bass, I enjoy using heavy jigs fishing in the thickest cover up shallow as well as throwing topwater frogs.
There’s nothing quite like the explosion of a bass on the surface! It’s amazing how they can bust through even the thickest of weeds and slop for a meal.
When targeting Muskie, it’s crucial to use heavier gear rated for these powerful fish. Bringing Muskie in on the proper equipment means a shorter battle and a better recovery when they’re released. It will also give you peace of mind that your equipment will hold up after tangling with a monster.
Your fishing memories await on the Rideau River. All the best this season!