Urban fishing in Canada's national capital
A fisherman casts a line into the Rideau Canal in Ottawa on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Visitors to Ottawa can enjoy urban fishing in locations like the Rideau Canal and Dow's Lake.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
OTTAWA - Next to the green grass, tulips and joggers that line Ottawa's picturesque Rideau Canal, a monster lurks in the shallows — the legendary muskellunge, a fierce fish with razor sharp teeth.
"They're essentially opportunistic hunters, anything that can fit into their mouths, sometimes even bigger things. They are not shy," says Robert Fuchs, 30, a professional angler and avid urban fisherman.
As fishing legend has it, the prehistoric beast will eat beavers, ducks, muskrats and even small dogs.
"In the spring," says Fuchs, "a family of ducks will swim by and after a big splash there's two missing."
Fuchs says the elusive muskie — which can weigh more than 20 kilograms and stretch a metre and a half — is just one species of trophy fish that make Ottawa's famous canal their summer home.
And they're attracting a growing number of urban anglers looking for a prize catch.
"Even if it's on my lunch break, if I can make it down to the canal, it takes me 10 or 15 minutes to get there," says Fuchs.
Earlier this summer, Fuchs was fishing the Rideau River along Strathcona Park, in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood, and caught a muskie more than a metre long.
"People could not believe it, and it was by far not the biggest fish that swims in there," he says, noting the mammoth creature sported teeth as long as a fingernail.
"There's nothing like it, to be a fisherman and having that much access to so many excellent fishing spots. It's very convenient."
More and more area anglers are forgoing faraway rural fishing holes for nearby urban locales, next to malls or even behind the Parliament Buildings.
"It's world-class fishing," says Fuchs about the Ottawa River, Rideau River and canal.
"The amount of big muskie and pike that gets pulled out of the Ottawa (River) on a monthly basis, it's absolutely astonishing."
Year round, anglers can fish for largemouth bass, perch, walleye, catfish and gar, all from the convenience of urban shorelines snaking through the downtown.
Fuchs says part of the reason fish populations remain so healthy in the area is the practice of catch and release.
He and buddy Robert Conley, 31, form a fishing team known as the "Bassassins," but they're not so much big-game hunters as devotees of setting their prey free.
"We're not quite the assassins because we don't fish to kill, but we do target the big ones."
Fuchs says anglers don't need power boats or kayaks to access great fishing. And places such as Dow's Lake offer picturesque backdrops for your casts.
"The entire stretch down from the locks, where the Rideau Canal enters the Ottawa (River), all the way up that entire stretch for seven kilometres is fantastic for shore fishing."
"People are always surprised and ask: 'Is there any fish in here?'" A couple of casts later, Fuchs says, he'll show passersby a bass.
Fuchs says more adventurous anglers can use rubber chest-waders to venture deeper into the waters of the river to find spots off the beaten path.
But he says the comforts of the shore, far from muskies or whatever else lurks in the waters of the Ottawa, works just fine for an afternoon of urban fishing.
If you go:
The best Ottawa fishing spots, says expert Robert Fuchs, are along the shore of Dow's Lake, a five-minute drive from the Byward Market. Victoria Island behind the Parliament Buildings is also a well-known spot among fishermen. Otherwise, anywhere along the Rideau Canal you're bound to get a bite.
You'll need a medium-light spinning rod with a six- to eight-pound test line; they're generally $80 to $90 apiece. Use stick baits and classic wacky rigs, with a No. 1 circle hook.
If you want to use worms, pick them from your front yard or try a Canadian Tire outlet.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version mistakenly said anglers could wade into the Rideau Canal.
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