BaitYourHook Guide to Fishing Destinations: Atlantic Canada 

Trapped in a scorched megapolis and dreaming of a quiet morning over a cool stream or ocean waves? Make a dash for Atlantic Canada, a haven for anglers! Known for its natural beauty, cultural richness, and outstanding recreational fishing, this area offers both relative proximity to the biggest metropolitan areas of the Eastern USA and Canada, and a fair degree of wilderness, not to mention unique fishing opportunities, that make it a dream for many anglers worldwide. Allow us to tempt you with a fishing trip to Atlantic Canada!

What is “Atlantic Canada”?

Atlantic Canada, also known as the Atlantic provinces, refers to the region of Canada that consists of four provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. These provinces, located on the east coast of the country, share the Atlantic coastline, which plays a significant role in the region’s economy, culture, and recreational opportunities. Along with countless rivers and lakes, this creates a variety of fishing environments. Let’s go through each of the provinces in detail.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador are renowned for their Atlantic salmon, thanks to the rich, cold waters and numerous rivers such as the Humber and the Exploits. Besides salmon, the province is also home to numerous species including brook trout and northern pike. The island of Newfoundland, washed by the warm Gulf Stream, promises a milder climate and more civilization, while the continental Labrador peninsula, with its rugged tundra rivers and lakes, is a perfect destination for a backcountry fly-in camp trip after Arctic char and landlocked salmon. 

While Newfoundland and Labrador aren’t as famous for saltwater recreational fishing as other Atlantic Canada provinces, its fjords, cliffs, and rugged coastlines make a good playground for nearshore and offshore fishing. Halibut, cod, and flounder are plentiful in the coastal waters, while further offshore, you can encounter giant blue sharks. If you’re planning a trip, the best time for salmon is during the summer months, from June through September. For sea fishing, the summer and early fall months are also the prime time.

Angler on Humber River, Newfoundland and Labrador
Angler on Humber River, Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia

Known as Canada’s Ocean Playground, Nova Scotia is virtually surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, providing a wealth of saltwater fishing opportunities. The province competes with Prince Edward Island for the title of the Bluefin Tuna Capital of the World, and indeed its waters, especially in the Cape Breton Highlands, can boast of record sized catches. 

Nova Scotia’s inland waters offer an array of fishing experiences, from trout and smallmouth bass in the to the elusive Atlantic salmon in the Margaree River on Cape Breton Island. The fishing season typically begins in April and lasts until October, with the peak season for tuna being August to October. 

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

PEI, Canada’s smallest province, is a favorite for many anglers. Here, you can experience the thrill of deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The province is renowned for its giant bluefin tuna, which can weigh over 1,000 pounds. PEI’s Tuna season runs from July to October, providing ample opportunity to land the catch of a lifetime. By the way, the captains of PEI who run both recreational and commercial operation are allowed to keep one tuna per season, and if you’re lucky, it will be the tuna you’ve hooked, and you’ll get an extra treat of the old-fashioned pier photo with your catch. 

The island’s inshore waters are also teeming with mackerel, flounder, and herring, making it a diverse fishing destination. If you’re interested in a unique fishing experience, you can also join a Lobster fishing tour during the Lobster season, which runs from May to June and August to October. 

New Brunswick

New Brunswick offers an unparalleled river fishing experience, primarily due to the world-renowned Miramichi River. This river system is one of the most productive Atlantic salmon fisheries globally, attracting anglers worldwide to test their skills against the ‘King of Fish.’ 

Aside from salmon, you can also find brook trout, smallmouth bass, and muskie in the province’s waterways. For those interested in sea fishing, the Bay of Fundy offers a unique opportunity to fish for pollock, haddock, and cod. The Bay is also known for its extreme tides, which provide a unique backdrop for your fishing adventure.

Atlantic Salmon, one of the biggest attractions of Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Salmon, one of the biggest attractions of Atlantic Canada

Top Fish Species in Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada’s diverse aquatic environments are home to various fish species, making it a sought-after destination for recreational anglers. Arguably, the main highlights of the provinces for a recreational angler are: 

Atlantic Salmon 

Unlike Pacific salmon, the Atlantic salmon doesn’t necessarily die after spawning, but might return to the sea and come back again, becoming even bigger. Known for their size and fighting spirit, these silver beauties are a prized catch, and the Atlantic Canada is the world’s best place to pursue them. The most reputable salmon runs are arguably found in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, although residents of other provinces might disagree. Atlantic salmon was decimated by overfishing by the middle of the last century, and strict protection measures are in place. Those include “schedules”, that is, a sequence of open and closed seasons, for all major salmon runs; be sure to study the regulations for the river you intend to fish when planning the trip. Pack wet flies and nymphs, although in some remote areas Atlantic salmon takes dry flies, too. 

Bluefin Tuna

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is among the biggest fishes in the world, with catches weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Each spring, the giants follow the Gulf Stream to the north, returning from the spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean Sea. The bluefin tuna is attracted by the herring spawn, and being exhausted from spawning and the long journey, they feed like it’s their last day, which results in excellent fishing experience – if you know where to find them, of course. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have top notch Bluefin tuna fishing.

Brook Trout

Found in rivers and lakes across the region, these fish are favored for their vibrant colors and delicious taste. Atlantic Canada is the original home of the brook trout, and in many rivers and streams here it managed to hold its ground against introduced brown and rainbow trout (although these species are present, too). Both sea-run and local brook trout can be pursued in Atlantic Canada, with habitat ranging from secluded small streams under the canopy of trees, and mightier rivers of the region. Brook trout exists all over Atlantic Canada, but if we were forced to choose one province, it would be Prince Edward Island. Catching a wild brook trout on a dry fly, with ultralight tackle, is a classic fly-fishing experience.

Of course, the wealth of the Atlantic Canada aquatic life does not end here. Many rivers and lakes offer excellent fishing for northern pike, muskellunge, and pickerel; smallmouth bass is locally available in parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Many lakes have decent lake trout fishing opportunities, and the tundra environment of Labrador offers a great chance to hook an Arctic grayling or char. Don’t forget about striped bass, the fish that can exist – and be fished for – both in fresh- and in salt water. Marine environments of Atlantic Canada offer flounder, cod, and the blue shark. For the gourmets, there’s also lobster: while not typically a “recreational” catch, lobster fishing tours are popular in the region. 

Atlantic bluefin tuna
Atlantic Canada is one of the world’s best destinations for bluefin tuna fishing

Planning Your Trip to Atlantic Canada

There is a wealth of options for every taste and wallet in Atlantic Canada. You can settle in a hotel of your choice, and explore the local fishing scene by yourself, or hire a fishing guide to help you navigate the trout streams and salmon runs, or engage one of the excellent fishing charters to take you out in search of bluefin tuna and other big fish. Or you can book your stay in a dedicated fishing lodge that will provide you with both accommodation, catering, and guide services. Some of those fishing lodges may be located almost within city limits, while others may sit among unspoiled wilderness and require a bush plain to reach.

The best time for a fishing trip to Atlantic Canada depends on your target species. Generally, the fishing season starts in April or May and lasts until October or November. The salmon season typically runs from June to October, while the bluefin tuna season is from August to October. Ice fishing enthusiasts should naturally plan their visit in the winter, but bear in mind that with the relatively milder winters of Atlantic Canada, intensified by climate change, not all rivers and lakes may have enough ice to fish on even in the dead of winter. It’s always advisable to consult a local expert and check local fishing regulations for the most accurate information. 

Whatever time you choose to visit Atlantic Canada, consider hiring a local guide, especially if you’re new to the area. They will have invaluable local knowledge and can help you find the best fishing spots, and, last but not least, make sure you won’t violate any of the occasionally complicated rules and regulations. Be mindful of catch and release practices to ensure the conservation of fish populations. And remember, fishing isn’t just about the catch—it’s also about enjoying the beautiful landscapes, soaking up the culture, and creating unforgettable memories in Atlantic Canada.

It’s Not Only About Fishing

Atlantic Canada is more than just a fishing destination. It’s a region full of history, culture, nature, and charm, offering a wealth of activities that cater to a wide range of interests, and well deserves a visit on its own. Newfoundland and Labrador offer the Gros Morne National Park with stunning fjords and waterfalls, L’Anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Norse site in North America, and brightly colored row houses, vibrant arts scene, and local delicacies such as Jiggs’ dinner and toutons in St. John’s. Nova Scotia is home to the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the historic waterfront district of Halifax, and the scenic Cabot Trail drive. 

PEI is a magnet for lovers of L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables”, and boasts beautiful red-sand beaches and a vibrant food scene that features locally-sourced seafood. In New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy, the site for the highest tides in the world, is a must-visit, as well as Visit the Historic Garrison District of Fredericton, which hosts reenactments and performances, and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery with works from renowned artists like Salvador Dalí and J.M.W. Turner. This is but a short list of must-see’s, and a deeper research into your specific destination will surely provide you with something that the non-fishing members of your family would love to see and do. 

Atlantic Canada is a region full of history, culture, nature, and charm.
Atlantic Canada is a region full of history, culture, nature, and charm.

What to Pack: Fishing Gear, Clothes, Other Essentials

When planning your trip to Atlantic Canada, consider the type of fishing you plan to do. For river fishing, a good-quality spinning or fly rod and an assortment of lures and flies are essential. Make sure all your flies have barbless hooks; they are a legal requirement for Atlantic salmon fishing, and for all fishing on scheduled rivers. For deep-sea fishing, you might need heavy tackle, which can often be provided by charter services. As for clothing, prepare for variable weather conditions. Atlantic Canada’s weather can be unpredictable, so layering is key. Bring a waterproof jacket, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for protection against the elements. Waders are the essential piece of gear for river and stream fishing.

How to Get to Atlantic Canada? 

Reaching Atlantic Canada by plain is easy and straightforward, with a variety of either direct flights or easy connections through major East Coast hubs such as New York. For residents of most metropolitan areas along the U.S. and Canadian Eastern Seaboard, it only takes 2-3 hours of flight time, making a weekend’s getaway a workable option. If you have a little more time on your hands, you can reach most Atlantic Canada destinations from New York City or Toronto in a day of dedicated driving, without a necessity for a stopover (that doesn’t include the ferry to Newfoundland, though). An interesting option, especially for Canadians, is a train; while it may take a little longer, you avoid the hustle and bustle (as well as security checks and baggage limits) of the airports, and the strain of driving, and can just relax and admire stunning views of the countryside. 

Understanding Local Fishing Laws and Regulations

When fishing in Atlantic Canada, it’s vital to familiarize yourself with the local fishing laws and regulations. Each province has its own set of rules, including fishing seasons, catch limits, and gear restrictions. Also, most places require you to have a fishing license, which you can usually purchase online or at local sporting goods stores. Fishing guides, lodges, and charters typically arrange all necessary licenses for their clients. 

Go Fishing in Atlantic Canada!

Atlantic Canada offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities that can satisfy any angler’s desires. With the right preparation and knowledge, you can look forward to an exciting and rewarding fishing adventure. Pack your gear, study your maps, and get ready to cast a line in the rich waters of Atlantic Canada. The fish are waiting!

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