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Fresh Fish from the Great Lakes?

First time poster, long time lurker looking for an answer. Where do you go to get fresh fish from the great lakes. I am constantly let down by the options we have in Toronto. Most pickerel, trout and whitefish seems to be farmed or brought in from outside Ontario. I have asked fishmongers in the SLM for fish from lake huron, erie or georgian bay and have never been offered fish from these lakes. I know from experience (lucky enough to be in these areas) that there is a fishery in Byng Inlet on Georgian Bay and one in Bayfield on Lake Huron (never tried fish from Lake Erie, I have heard it is too shallow to produce a clean flavour). I went to Diana's last weekend and they were no help either. Why are Ontarians shut out of freshwater fish?

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  1. There is a guy at the Brickworks Farmers Market on Saturday morning that sells fresh and smoked whitefish and trout that is locally caught.

    1. Fresh might be a challenge, but you can get many varieties of frozen local fish at Culinarium on Mt. Pleasant.

      I think the foiks mentioned at the Brickworks fish out of Huron, near Wiarton.

      Another option might be Howell's fish in Wiarton, if they can ship, or if they do ship to anyone local.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Snarf

        There was a supply of fresh fish from Georgian Bay at Dufferin Grove market (Thursdays), but I haven't confirmed that this year (too far for me).

        You can get lake Erie fish in the port towns: Port Burwell, Port Stanley, and Kingsville. The water is clean. The supply is limited because of quotas, and also because U.S. sport fishing curtails the supply.

        Goderich harbour has fresh fish, as well as Purdy's under the bridge in Sarnia.

      2. I've wondered about the same thing regarding sources in Toronto. I can tell you that when we're up in Simcoe County we get very fresh Georgian Bay fish -- pickerel (mmm, tasty!), white fish, trout -- from LePage Fish Sales near Lafontaine. I know they supply area restaurants, you might check with them to see if they ship to anyone in TO. Contact info at link -

        Lepage Fishery
        6 Lafontaine Rd W, Tiny, ON L9M, CA

        1. I bought some really nice pickerel at the shop on the Danforth, I forget the name, Athena maybe?

          1. Andrew and Natasha Akiwenzie sell their fresh and smoked Georgian Bay whitefish and trout at Dufferin Grove market, south of Dufferin & Bloor and across from Dufferin Mall. Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm. Usually the fresh stuff sells out fast. The smoked fish is sublime!

            If you're looking for Andrew's smoked fish and can't get to the market, you can get it anytime at Multiple Organics at Dundas & Sheridan (west of Dufferin).

            There was a place on Roncesvalles, south of Dundas, east side that sold fresh whitefish: I don't recall the name of the place and don't know if they still carry it. Seems to me it was a butcher shop that sold fish as well.

            3 Replies
            1. re: goofibulator

              The Akiwenzies are also at the Riverdale Market on Tuesdays.

              I have seen fresh and frozen Great Lakes fish at the Healthy Butcher (Eglinton location, but if it's at one, I don't see why it wouldn't be at the other). They had two or three kinds, including pickerel and I believe trout.

              I bought some pickerel from the HB and I have bought fresh whitefish and trout and the smoked fish from the Akiwenzies and found it all very fresh and tasty. I think you can order from Akiwenzies in advance for the next week's market if there is something in particular you would like.

              1. re: goofibulator

                Smoked whitefish you say? I don't suppose you could also get some fresh cream cheese and bagels at the same place? Add some tomatoes and capers and you got a nice meal there.

                1. re: goofibulator

                  fish is available at both Healthy Butcher locations. It's sourced from Daily Seafood, a wholesaler commonly used by many restaurants and fish purveyors in the city.


                2. Fresh from the Farm on Donlands carries frozen and smoked, not fresh, trout and whitefish. Their supplier might be the Akiwenzies, not sure.

                  1. Many fish we consider to be wild are successfully farmed now. This includes pickerel (often labelled walleye), char, trout, and striped bass.
                    Much of the pickerel or trout offered in Ontario stores is farmed. The quality is good, but if you are looking for fresh fish from the Great Lakes, you will have to ask about the source.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jayt90

                      I have not heard of farmed Pickerel, not to say that it's not available.

                      There is indeed a large harvest from the Great Lakes. A day trip to a fishing port would present you with the following species: Perch; Walleye: Lake Trout; White Bass (white perch); White Fish; and possibly Carp and Freshwater Drum. There are occasional catches of various Herring types as well. None of the Salmons, or Trouts (with the exception of LakeTrout) may be fished commercially. Nor may Pike, or Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass.

                      A deal of the catch is sold locally, but the majority is trucked to New York and much of that is shipped to China for processing!

                      With the exception of Lake Ontario, the fish from all the lakes are generally safe, even Lake St. Clair.

                      Raybon's question is a good one and has puzzled me for years as well. Toronto is a Great Lake port yet its people eat aged fish from elsewhere rather than something fresh from 3 hours away.

                      Toronto fish markets exist for the amusement of Maritimers.

                      1. re: DockPotato

                        Farmed pickerel is available, though how widely, I'm not quite sure. As my family has a lot of avid fishermen, a week at the cottage is generally filled with meals of fresh catch, and a lot of pickerel. I love it, but I get my fill during the summer :-)

                        1. re: tjr

                          I got some fresh, wild pickerel from Loblaw's. They weren't sure from which body of water it originated, and it's $2.20/100g. I think?

                          1. re: tjr

                            That price is good. At loblaws it would probably be about the same freshness as, say, sole, tuna or mackerel etc. from a good fish monger. Did you enjoy it? Can you comment on comparisons?

                            1. re: DockPotato

                              It's actually very good, especially for the price (and effort)! Not as good as caught then filleted and cooked on shore, but a lot of that is taste derived from the experience :-)

                              No odour, the fish was very fresh and very delicious. I'd definitely recommend it.

                      2. re: jayt90

                        If you read medical experts like dr mercola, farmed fish are not healthy to consume.

                      3. The best part of catching a lake trout in Lake Ontario was the thrill of the catch and the photo. The fish was as tasteless as a can of spackle.

                        1. This is a good question, Raybon, since we are all trying to eat as locally as we can. I was in Silver Spoon on Roncesvalles last week and had an absolutely delicious Ontario Rainbow Trout. I was delighted to find local fish.

                          Silver Spoon
                          390 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R2M9, CA

                          1. I don't agree with what you've heard about Lake Erie fish. Try Minor Fisheries in Port Colborne -- about a two hour drive from Toronto -- for fresh perch, pickerel, etc. The Lake Erie shore in Niagara seems to be more on the radar for Buffalonians than Torontonians.

                            1. I can't help but think of The Erie Beach Hotel in Port Dover and home of the famous Lake Erie Pickerel and Perch dinners. Step back in time and enjoy your fish with some pickled pumpkin served from their salad cart.

                              Erie Beach Hotel
                              , Port Dover, ON N0A1N0, CA

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: smartalex

                                Hey All, Just a reply to the Erie Beach Hotel comment. it"s exactly as stated, "a step back in time", but with 75+ yrs in business, they've perfected their menu. For locals, its not really a go-to spot for lake fish ( a touch pricy). The port dover area has many small but tastey eating spots serving Lake Erie perch, pickeral, trout, whitefish, smelt, etc. Back to the original post, you might enjoy a day trip to the port dover area. There are 2 places selling fresh or smoked fish straight of the dock basically.

                                Erie Beach Hotel
                                , Port Dover, ON N0A1N0, CA

                                1. re: NorfolkGuy

                                  Can you provide names and locations? I get to Port Dover about once a month. Usually for a Knechtels fix. But I'd like to pick up some fish too.

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    I know this is an old thread, but I would also like the names and locations of these places if anyone can provide. Thanks!

                                    1. re: 16crab

                                      I have enjoyed wild lake fish prepared in shore-side places at Killarney, Wiarton, Tobermory, Bayfield, Goderich, Sarnia (Purdy's under the bridge) Kingsville, Port Stanley, and Port Dover. They are all easy to find, although some may not open until May 24, they are right on the shore where the fishing boats dock. Many will sell fresh fish or frozen fillets to take home.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        any specific names in Killarney, Wiarton or Tobermory? Thanks!

                                        1. re: shekamoo

                                          Howell's Fish in Wiarton. 153 Division Street. It's to the west of the main downtown street, up the escarpment hill. I'm a fan of the Lake Huron whitefish.
                                          Just do a google search and you'll see maps and reviews for Howell's.

                                          I used to buy from Raney's Fish Store (519-596-2492) in Tobermory, but I've been told (unconfirmed) that they've closed the business.

                                          See here for whitefish from Raney's:

                                          Howell's Fish
                                          153 Division St, South Bruce Peninsula, ON N0H, CA

                                          1. re: longolame

                                            thank you, just the kind of info I was looking for

                                        2. re: jayt90

                                          Raneys is indeed closed. If you want to sample some fresh whitefish in Tobermory, the best restaurant to go to is Shipwreck Lee's. While other restaurants try to pass off other species for Georgian Bay whitefish, you get what you order at Shipwreck's. Fun spot too, pirate theme, entertaining servers, delicious food!

                                          Georgian Bay Restaurant
                                          48 Main St, Penetanguishene, ON L9M1T2, CA

                                2. Couple of fishmongers in Kensington had "fresh, line-caught ontario pickerel" last week. Guess that could be just about any of the great lakes but it was definitely fresh and tasty.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: downtownfoodie

                                    ..."fresh, line-caught ontario pickerel"...

                                    The operative word there is "line." I'd be very sceptical about that line. I think they're "lyin'."

                                    Anyone with a commercial licence and Walleye quota uses gill nets or trap nets.

                                    Yes, your fish were fresh and tasty and if i were still in TO I'd be down there.

                                    1. re: DockPotato

                                      I agree. There's something fishy about that "line-caught" claim.

                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        Well, it could mean amateur fishers, bringing their daily catch from Lake Erie, or Georgian Bay to a fishmonger in Kensington. I would buy that, and expect it to be fresh.

                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          It is illegal to sell "recreationally-caught fish" and even getting commercial product to the counter is a weighty process. No, it sounds like creative marketing which I wouldn't let stand in the way of a good meal.

                                          Incidentally, there is one mainstream source for freshwater fish - Sobeys. Pickerel and Whitefish are common at our local store. Hopefully this is the case for GTA as well.

                                          1. re: DockPotato

                                            Not sure where you are located DockPotato, which Sobey's is this?

                                            1. re: SNACKeR

                                              Kincardine. I saw Whitefish last saturday and Walleye the week before.

                                              They even have a whole Shark about 3 feet long which I've never seen anywhere. Needless to say, the Shark was not local : )

                                              The only Sobeys I'm familiar with in Toronto is the one at Yonge & St. Clair which I doubt very much would fit this bill at all. I would assume that there is uniformity of product chain wide but may be wrong.

                                              1. re: DockPotato

                                                Sobey's in Pickering is good, with a dedicated staff. Some of the lake fish is farmed, some of it caught. They cut their Pacific Halibut (not quite in season yet) from a large carcass.

                                            2. re: DockPotato

                                              I would be a little sceptical about your pickerel being from the Great Lakes from Sobeys. I used to shop at one and found out what they were selling as locally caught pickerel was in fact a European pickerel that is farm raised. Great product, but certainly not "local". BTW, it was in Kincardine, interestingly enough!

                                              1. re: SitaGG

                                                How exactly did you find this out?

                                      2. re: downtownfoodie

                                        What about the First Nation supplying fish? In North Bay you can buy fresh caught pickerel and whitefish from licenced Native fisherman that comes from Lake Nipissing. They have a decent quota that I'm sure they sell commercially. This may be the line caught fish you see, although I know they do net the fish also.

                                        First Nation
                                        , Stratton, ON P0W, CA

                                        1. re: jack_sprat_ca

                                          This is exactly what I was going to suggest.

                                      3. in Nobel, just north of Parry Sound and just up the hill after the Esso/Tim Hortons there is a fish place called Le Page Fisheries (705-342-5825)on the right hand side of Hwy #69 (east) run out of the guy's house. He is the guy who actually does the fishing. He sells fresh/frozen/smoked whitefish/ lake trout and pickerel. I bought some frozen whitefish off him the other day and he gave me crushed ice to fill the cooler with as well. The fish is top notch and i have had it many times. long way to go but if you are up in the area, check him out

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: hillsy

                                          Interesting. I wonder if he's related or associated to the LePage fishery I mentioned above near Lafontaine / Penetang -

                                          I actually spent some time a few years ago at friends who have a summer home near Nobel. I thought I'd surprise them with fresh fish for dinner and was frustrated not to be able to find any at the grocery store in town. I figured, come on, we're near Georgian Bay, French River and Lake Nipissing and no fresh fisth? So, good to know if I ever visit again.