Salmon in Toronto and GTA waters

Introduction to salmon in Toronto and the GTA

More than a century ago, Atlantic Salmon were commonly found in Lake Ontario and its rivers. With European settlement came an increase in negative impacts on aquatic habitat such as deforestation, pollution and construction barriers. As a result, the Atlantic Salmon population drastically decreased and by 1898 they were extirpated (locally extinct) from Lake Ontario.

Throughout the century, Chinook and Coho Salmon were introduced to Lake Ontario to enhance recreational fishing and can now be seen in large numbers in the GTA’s rivers during fall migration. In 2006, Lake Ontario water quality and habitat improvements allowed the initiation of an Atlantic Salmon restoration program known as Bring Back the Salmon.

Historic timeline of salmon in Lake Ontario

1812 John McCuaig, Superintendent of Fisheries of Upper Canada, noted that Atlantic Salmon “swarmed the rivers so thickly that they were thrown out with a shovel and even with the hand.”
1881 Samuel Wilmot observes drastic environmental change, caused by European settlement, and laments that “I cannot disguise from myself that the time is gone by forever for the growth of salmon and speckled trout in the frontier streams of Ontario”
1898 Atlantic Salmon extirpated from Lake Ontario as last confirmed fish caught off the Scarborough shoreline.
1990 Large numbers of Chinook and Coho Salmon discovered in the North shore tributaries of Lake Ontario, a result of intense stocking programs throughout the 1900s.
2006 Full-scale Atlantic Salmon restoration program begins in Lake Ontario streams.
2011 Atlantic Salmon restoration on the Humber River begins with the stocking of 100,000 fry.
2017 Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) records the largest Atlantic Salmon to be surveyed in the last 28 years (15 pounds) during their Lake Ontario fisheries survey.


Bring Back the Salmon

Small salmon in a net
Salmon are grown in a hatchery and then released into local waterways. The Classroom Hatchery Program is offered by the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program to over 100 schools and other educational facilities from Hamilton to Kingston.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and many other partners are working to bring Atlantic Salmon back to Lake Ontario. The program has four major components: fish production and stocking; water quality and habitat enhancement; education and outreach; and research and monitoring.

To get involved with the program or for more information visit:

The Atlantic Salmon life cycle

The Atlantic Salmon Live Cycle: Atlantic salmon spend adult life in Lake Ontario until they migrate up streams to spawn in the fall. Spawning females lay 2000 - 8000 eggs. The eggs hatch into Alevin about three months after fertilization. The Alevin become swimming Fry after one to three months. At three to six months of age, they enter the Parr stage and remain in the stream feeding on invertebrates until they are 1 - 3 years of age. When they are ready to swim back downstream to Lake Ontario, they become Smolts Smolts will stay in the lake for 1 - 3 more years and grow into adults while feeding on invertebrates and other fish

Fish identification: The different types of salmon species in Toronto and the GTA

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)

Where to see salmon in the GTA

Salmon in the river

There are many places in the GTA where you can observe Pacific (Chinook and Coho) Salmon and/or Atlantic Salmon migrating up streams and rivers to spawn between September and November:

Étienne Brûlé Park
Humber River, 13 Crosby Avenue, York

Charles Sauriol Conservation Area
Don River, 701 Don Mills Road, Toronto

Morningside Park
Highland Creek, 390 Morningside Avenue, Scarborough

Glen Rouge Campground
Rouge River, 7450 Kingston Road, Scarborough

Whitevale Park
Duffins Creek, 371 Whitevale Road, Pickering

Bowmanville Creek Fish Ladder
Bowmanville Creek, 35 Roenigk Drive, Bowmanville

Erindale Park
Credit River, 1695 Dundas Street West, Mississauga