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Bob’s Meanderings: Lookin’ for a Fishing Spot

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Bob Grylls, Columnist

My good friend ‘Buddy’ is a very avid fisherman primarily on the Ottawa River, knowing what species to target and the best spots to catch them. However, positive memories from his initial attempts at fishing as an eight-year-old had been tugging at a corner of his brain ever since. He explained, “I always hope to replicate that moment of enjoyment when I caught that first fish.”

That led to a proposed scouting trip to seek possible new spots to fish for carp from shore. I asked if I could join him. We left in the morning at 8:30 am and returned by 6:00 pm discovering more than a few possibilities in the Kemptville and surrounding areas. 

Upon starting out, we reviewed fishing the Ottawa River. Walleye (a delicate table fish – known as Pickerel locally), Pike and Bass are the popular species. Bass fishing has given a rise to a significantly competitive angling industry. Sturgeon, once plentiful, are scarce and is now a catch and release. The river is teeming with relatively small catfish, although some bigger ones are present. Mudpouts are around in a few locations, not the extent that they once were. Carp are not present in in this section of the river. Although regarded as a prime sporting fish in Europe, only recently so in North America.

Some well-known fishing spots on the Ottawa for Bass are Scott’s Marsh, Grand Marais and Hennessey Bay. Depending on the species, different rod and reel combinations are used. Some keeners like Buddy have a dozen or more rigs. The gear, tackle and bait (live worms, plastic worms, etc) are different for each species. Buddy has a significant investment in many types of fishing gear.

Our first destination was a small public park near Kemptville on a subsidiary of the Rideau River. The water here was shallow and weedy, as was the next spot at Curry Park – both unsuitable. We pulled into Rideau River Provincial Park (entry fee), a large and attractive park with 201 sites for tenting and RV camping. We had our lunch there at the beach and then left to investigate two more possible sites using Google maps to guide us. 

Buddy had the Rideau Canal locks on his list and that’s when things became interesting.  At one, we watched one boat going upstream through the locks and one downstream, but most interesting was that all the locks on the Rideau Canal haven’t changed their modus operandi since 1832.  A female employee opened this lock with some heavy maneuvering by herself; no computerization to assist.

I spoke to a visitor who had made the journey from Ottawa to Kingston, generally accomplished in two or three days. On her trip she said, “We had only one lock to go but it had just closed. That night there was a violent storm that delayed us three extra days making it a five-day trip.”

I’ve heard since that many spend all their vacation time camping for days while traversing along the canal. 


The Rideau system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a boater’s paradise. It still operates along its original route and was firstly commissioned by Queen Victoria who sent over Colonel By to supervise construction. The creation of this historic waterway (28 locks and 202 km) in a time of military threat, reached the settlement of Upper Canada from the strategic naval dockyard at Kingston. Today, rather than a link for the movement of troops and supplies, it has become a woodland of pathways and picnic areas along this waterway of hand-operated locks. It is a great story of Canada’s history. 

During the visit to the Lower Nicholson Lock, I talked with a man from Toronto who couldn’t resist saying, “This whole Rideau Canal was built successfully using primitive tools and the Toronto subway lines are taking far too long in comparison despite technically advanced equipment.”

We covered the two other locks before reaching our last one, Long Island, near Manotick. Most offered fairly good conditions for on-bank fishing. They are also attractive areas with picnic tables to relax.

The Road trip according to Buddy was a success, “I now have a few more options where I can fish for carp.” I too, enjoyed the day, the highlight being the historic Rideau River and Canal System, how it was built and maintained in its original state.