Although small and subject to rather dramatic fluctuations in water level, the Rouge River provides excellent seasonal fishing for rainbow trout, brown trout, coho and chinook salmon, as well as suckers, bullhead and carp.
Rainbow trout ascend the river each spring on their spawning run beginning in late February or early March. By the time the season opens on the 4th Saturday in April, rainbows are liable to be found anywhere between the river mouth and the Milne Dam, located on the east side of McCowan Road, just south of Highway 7. By opening day most of the fish will have completed spawning, and have set up in deep pools to feed and replenish their strength before returning to the lake. It is usually possible to find some trout in the Rouge until mid- to late May. Water level and temperature play a large role however, and with an early spring, many trout will have returned to Lake Ontario before the season opens.
As the rainbow trout action winds down, however, fishing improves for white suckers, redhorse suckers and carp. White suckers are extremely abundant in the Rouge, and weigh from one to two pounds. Redhorse suckers are much larger (three to five pounds) and are easily identified by their bright orange fins and tail. Carp up to 20 pounds are also found throughout the creek – particularly in the pools immediately below the Milne Dam. Worms fished on bottom are the most successful baits for these species.
Through the summer the Rouge offers limited opportunities for panfish and small, stream-resident smallmouth bass. Good fishing resumes in the early autumn, when fall rains raise and cool stream water levels, attracting a large run of chinook salmon. The best action comes a day or two after a rain, when chinook take up positions in deep holding pools. Any place where you can’t readily see bottom has the potential to hold large numbers of fish. Drifting with worms or spawn bags, or fishing near bottom with small spinners or Flatfish-type wobbling plugs tends to provide the most action.
Salmon are joined by good runs of brown trout in October, and increasing numbers of rainbow trout by November. Fishing remains consistent till freeze-up.
Running right through mainly parkland and mostly within the eastern reaches of Toronto, the Rouge River is easily accessible by car and by public transit.