Fish stocking in Ontario

Fish stocking 101

If you like to fish and want to improve your chances of getting a good catch, your best bet is to head to one of Ontario’s 2,000 lakes and rivers that are stocked by Ontario Parks or the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The ministry has been stocking popular spots since the early 1950s with fish that are well suited to the area. Today, we operate nine fish culture stations, or hatcheries, across the province, where 12 popular sport fish (including walleye, salmon, trout and muskie) are raised.

Every year, we release about 8 million fish into Ontario waters!

Why do we stock our lakes and rivers?

preparing fingerlings for stockingThere are two reasons. The first is to improve recreational fishing, in what we call our “put, grow, take” program: we put in the fish, usually yearlings, they grow, and anglers take them.

The second reason we stock is to protect and rebuild fish populations, including species at risk. For example, the program is helping return Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario, and finding a way to culture at-risk mussel species.

When does stocking happen?

Most stocking takes place in the spring (right about now!) as soon as lakes and rivers are free of ice. This is because cold water holds more oxygen, creating less stress for the fish. We take great care to ensure that the fish we release are healthy and as stress-free as possible.

How do we stock?

It’s often done by helicopter. A hatchery truck filled with live fish and water pulls up to the helicopter pad. The fish are loaded in a tank in the rear of the helicopter and released as the pilot hovers over the lake.

Helicopter stocking
Helicopter stocking at Algonquin Provincial Park

We also do roadside stocking, which involves driving a hatchery truck as close to the water’s edge as possible and releasing the fish through a pipe. Occasionally, stocking is done by way of a canoe loaded with bags of fish in water, which are dropped into the deep part of a lake.

This video shows 4 different types of stocking:

How do I know whether my favourite lake’s been stocked?

Ontario’s digital Fish ON-Line tool is the perfect way of finding out what’s in your favourite fishing spots. Discover whether a lake has been stocked, how recently and with which fish species.

Fish ON-Line

Want to learn more about fish stocking?

Take a guided tour of one of our hatcheries. Make sure you call at least two weeks in advance so you’re not disappointed!

You can also learn more about the whole Fish Culture program here.