Next to the green grass, tulips and joggers that line Ottawa’s picturesque Rideau Canal, a monster lurks in the shallows — the legendary muskie.
“They’re essentially opportunistic hunters, anything that can fit into their mouths, sometimes even bigger things. They are not shy,” says Robert Fuchs, 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 40 pounds and stretch a five feet 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.
Earlier this summer, Fuchs was fishing the Rideau River along Strathcona Park, in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood, and caught a muskie more than 3 feet 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.
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.