Multi-species Adventures in the Kawarthas

It was a wonderfully busy summer up here in Canada. Residing in southeastern Ontario (near Ottawa), there are endless lakes and rivers for me to explore locally, but it’s always fun to take a road trip to new waters.

One of my favorite summer adventures yet took place in the Peterborough and Kawarthas region located in southern Ontario. I had been to the Kawarthas a couple times in the past for day trips, but was especially excited for this four-day adventure, because I’d be bringing my boat and Eric was joining me as well.

The Kawarthas is a well-known fishing destination, with many lakes to explore and a wide variety of species to chase throughout the seasons. It was only natural to make this trip a multi-species adventure set on a few different bodies of water.

Part one: Lower Buckhorn
The trip began on Lower Buckhorn Lake, as Eric and I checked in at Three Castles Resort where we stayed for two nights. We were greeted by Louis, the owner, and chatted with him about fishing in the area and learned more about his lovely resort. He’s super friendly and took great care of us during our stay. Three Castles has 17 cottages and suites sitting along the shores of Lower Buckhorn. Our cabin was situated on a point with a gorgeous waterfront view from all three sides and our own private dock. The cottage itself was rustic with a gleaming all-pine interior, three bedrooms, full kitchen and bath, large sitting area, front porch, and more, and I loved it.

The Trent Severn Waterway lock system runs through Lower Buckhorn, providing the opportunity to travel to other lakes by watercraft. There are 45 lock stations that create the chance to travel nearly 250 miles of winding waters in central Ontario. That’s a lot of possibilities.

We quickly unpacked and hit the water for the afternoon. Eric had his heart set on bass and I was craving some muskie action, so we decided to spend time on both. The vegetation was lush and healthy everywhere we looked, but we quickly found success in areas where bait could be seen scattering and hopping along the surface. It was quite windy, so we tucked in for shelter and started catching largemouths and smallmouths among lily pads and floating mats in the shallows on chatterbaits.

We ventured in to another sheltered area and approached a weedline adjacent to a big patch of lily pads in around 10 feet of water. I worked the outside with a large chatterbait-style muskie lure (the Stud Finder by Northland), while Eric worked the edge. My Stud Finder got hammered by a nice muskie that put on a display with a couple jumps before being netted! I was so pumped to get a nice muskie like this in our first afternoon in the Kawarthas.

We did a little more searching for muskies but didn’t find any others that evening. We moved up into the shallows where Eric was landing largemouth and smallmouth bass one after another. We were both happy, having caught what we came for, and anxious to see what the rest of the trip would hold.

We didn’t have any wind to deal with on the second day so we decided to make a run to some offshore rocky islands to start things off. The boulders were surrounded by weeds and sloped to deeper water, providing great muskie habitat. I threw a few casts tight to the boulders and a muskie hit right away! When I felt my Stud Finder stop I thought I might have hooked a rock, but the muskie took off jumping and thrashing! Another nice fish hit the net and I was shocked it happened so quickly. I felt the muskie rush and was shaking and smiling for a while afterward. Nothing beats the adrenaline that comes from landing these gorgeous toothy creatures. Our muskie rods and bass rods were in constant rotation on the deck of the boat for the remainder of the day. Eric lost a muskie boat side, which stung a bit after we caught a glimpse of it but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We were happy with our catches so far and we still had two more days to explore.

Part two: don’t carp about the wind
Our third day took us for a brief visit to Rice Lake, but heavy winds changed our plans. We’d planned to spend the fourth and final day of our trip with Will Muschett of Peterborough Carping Guides, but decided to meet up with him a day early, extending our carp-fishing adventure. I was so excited, as I’d been talking back and forth with Will on Facebook leading up to the trip.

We met up with him in the evening of our third day, and fished for a few hours, landing one carp and broadcasting the experience in a live Facebook video.

It was a great start and we were hopeful for some more action the following day as we saw plenty of fish jumping and even spotted some feeding just a few feet off shore where we had chummed.

We spent the night right in Peterborough, at Best Western Plus Otonabee Inn, and had a lovely stay. Our room was cozy and comfortable with a Jacuzzi, full bath, sitting area, desk/workspace, kitchenette, and a view of the river outside of our ground-level balcony. There was plenty of space in the parking lot for the boat, and electrical outlets on lampposts to charge batteries. We had a great sleep and were anxious for the next day of carp fishing especially since we would be joined by some special guests. During the trip, I had received a message from a man named Terry, who follows my fishing adventures with his son, Jaden. An avid young angler himself, Jaden, at the age of 12, has caught some impressive fish.

Over the years, proud dad Terry has shared pictures with me, and when he heard about my visit to Peterborough, wondered whether I might have some time to meet Jaden, because they live in the area. I decided to invite them out to join us for the second day of our carp-fishing adventure. Jaden was lucky enough that his parents let him miss a day of school during the week to join us. We were all excited to have Jaden, and parents Terry and Clara, join us for the day.

Jaden had never caught a carp, so guess what our goal was?

Eric and I arrived first to chum the area and get set up. Jaden and his father arrived next. We showed them the equipment we were using, as it was the first time they had seen carp-specific gear. They were both anxious to learn about it. Carp can be caught on basic equipment, but due to their size and power it’s best to gear up properly so as not to break your equipment or lose fish. We saw carp jumping consistently and not far in to our morning, Eric’s rod went off literally in his hand when he was picking it up to re-cast.

After Eric’s fish, Jaden’s rod went off twice in a row, and he had a few seconds of battle before the fish came unbuttoned. Will, our professional carp guide, joined us next and set up all his gear.

It seemed Jaden had the hot stick, because his rod went off again with another fish. This time, the fish stayed hooked and the battle was on. I helped by steadying the rod as Jaden reeled the fish in. The fish took several runs but Jaden was able to bring it to Will who was ready with the net and successfully land his first carp. Some passersby noticed the commotion and stopped in to take photos. It was the most memorable fish of the trip, especially for Jaden as it was his biggest fish ever at 18 pounds!

He was quite thrilled and told us it was the best day of his life.

After things settled a bit and we gathered ourselves, another rod went off and this time Terry had the opportunity to reel in a carp. Big fish = big smiles! We all had an awesome day, so here’s a huge shout out to Will at Peterborough Carping Guides for putting us in some prime carp waters and helping us all have such a memorable experience.

That trip was a highlight of last summer, and I cannot wait to be back in the Peterborough and Kawarthas region again. If you are looking for a new multi-species Canadian adventure, it’s a sure bet.


     Ashley Rae is a Canadian writer residing in Ottawa, Ontario. She is on the water year ‘round chasing many fish species and enjoys sharing her adventures with anglers around the world. You can check in on her latest outings through social media or find her at