Newfoundland Fishing: The Complete Guide
May 25, 2020 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Gorgeous Newfoundland doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. With its expanses of awe-inspiring wilderness and the oldest city in North America as its capital, the island has something for everyone. However, it’s the Newfoundland fishing scene, unique as it is abundant, which makes all the difference among passionate anglers.

A view of colorful houses on the cliff, in St. John's, Newfoundland

Freshwater or saltwater fishing, take your pick, you won’t be disappointed either way. Newfoundland’s culture is built on fishing and locals here are more than capable of showing you unforgettable angling action. While the island is only accessible for non-residents via sea or air, the trip will be worth it.

There’s no time like the present to add a new fishing destination to your bucket list, so read on.

Top Catches in Newfoundland

Now here’s a topic that deserves to be unwrapped like a fun birthday gift. Fishing is a way of life on the island, so you’re going to have a blast exploring all the diverse opportunities.

Atlantic Salmon, gorgeous Trout, as well as Atlantic Mackerel, Arctic Char, Halibut, Whitefish, Sharks, and Capelin are all in the cards. For a change in pace, Lobster, Crab, and Shrimp are on the menu.

From April–September, you can go after any of the mentioned species and enjoy the great weather while you’re at it.

The Tale of the Cod

A happy fisher kissing his catch, Cod
Newfoundlanders have a fun ceremony for mainlanders called the “Screech-In,” and as a part of that ceremony, you’re supposed to kiss the Cod.

Cod has been the most important fish in Newfoundland for several hundred years, both when it comes to food and jobs. Cod fishing has been a cornerstone of the island’s economy for a long time, but that all changed in the late 20th century.

In 1992, the local Cod fishery suffered a collapse due to commercial overfishing that seriously depleted the fish stocks. A moratorium was declared and Cod fishing was prohibited for years.

Two happy anglers holding a Cod
When Newfoundlanders say “fish,” they always refer to the mighty Cod. They specifically name all other species.

Nowadays, the Cod are slowly returning, so recreational fishing for them is allowed, but strictly regulated. If you want to target and keep delicious Cod, then you should talk to your guide about when to come to Newfoundland.

The season is open for 40–45 days each year, usually only on weekends in July, August, and a part of September. Additionally, there are a couple of two-week blocks in July and September when you can go after all Groundfish. Daily limits are subject to change every year, but you can normally keep up to five fish.

The favourite local method for catching the favourite local fish is Cod jigging. No rod or reel is necessary, you’ll hold a waxed-cord line with a baited hook in your hands and drop it close to the bottom. After that, all you have to do is make jigging motions and attract the attention of Cod. And when you do, your exciting battle can begin!

All This, and Salmon Too

Big Atlantic Salmon held half-submerged in water

If you’re an angler coming to Newfoundland, chances are, you’re here to chase the majestic Salmon. This is hardly a surprise, seeing as well over half the continent’s best Atlantic Salmon watersheds are on the island. During the open season, from June to September, big catches and thrilling battles are the norm.

Newfoundland Salmon are the ultimate game fish – they’re big, strong, relentless fighters and impressive acrobats at that. Every season, you can find specimens weighing up to 30 pounds at the end of your line.

Anglers coming to Newfoundland can go after sea-run Salmon or focus their efforts on its land-locked cousin – Ouananiche. What Ouananiche lack in size, they make up for with feistiness and speed, which is their main appeal, especially when it comes to fly anglers.

An Atlantic Salmon swimming upstream

In your angling quests, you might also stumble upon grilse, which are young Atlantic Salmon that spend only one year in the sea before they come inland for spawning. They’re smaller than grown Salmon (usually about 6–8 pounds), but they’re also quite a common catch.

In Newfoundland, Atlantic Salmon in all its shapes and sizes is a big deal, so don’t miss out on this adventure!

Add Trout to the Mix, and You’ve Got a Party!

An angler holding a Brown Trout half submerged in the water

Superb Trout fishing adds even more spice to the already exciting fishing scene of Newfoundland. Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout are all there for the taking.

Sea-run Trout enter the inland waters several times over the year. They’re abundant in the island’s numerous crystal clear rivers and lakes.

The season is usually open from February to September, though some of the species have a short closed season in the spring. Different areas have different closing dates, so make sure to double-check with your guide when the best time is to hit the water.

A beautiful Brook Trout being held out of the water

Brook Trout are a prized catch for local anglers, and you can easily hook 5–8 lb lunkers. You can even land fish weighing in the double digits. Eastern Brook Trout, also known as “Mud Trout,” is native to Newfoundland waters and could easily find its way to your line.

Going after Lake Trout is no less interesting. These beauties like to hang out in fast-flowing streams and rivers. This is a huge advantage to fly fishermen, who love going after massive Lakers in spring. And when we say big, we mean in the 20 lb ballpark! That’s enough to have any passionate angler reaching for their rod.

A Crustacean Galore

When Cod fisheries were depleted and Newfoundland’s economy was in danger, it was crustaceans that came to the rescue. Thousands of Cod anglers shifted their skills to shrimping and the results didn’t disappoint. Thanks to the abundant population of Lobster, Snow Crab, and Shrimp, the island was back on its feet.

Recreational anglers can combine fishing with catching some Lobster or Crab, and it’s usually a very successful (not to mention delicious) combo. Some charters even offer to cook the catch after the trip so that you can enjoy it fresh.

Lobster

A Lobster anglers hauling a Lobster trap overboard

Newfoundlanders like to brag – no Lobster is tastier than theirs, and a lot of people agree. Lobster are usually caught using wire traps with bait inside, which anglers drop at the beginning of the trip and pick up on their way back to the dock. The Lobster season opens in April and you can catch them until mid-July.

This fishery is strictly managed, so the Lobster you want to keep needs to have a hard shell, as well as meet the size and weight requirements. And then, it’s time for a feast!

Snow Crab

Snow Crab in net

The same goes for Snow Crab. You can go crabbing in nearshore waters where the seafloor is muddy, where you’ll set mesh traps of different shapes with bait in them. Only Crab that are of a certain size (minimum 3.75″ carapace width) will stay stuck in the trap. You should only keep male Crabs that meet the size criteria; everything else goes back into the water.

From all this, it’s not hard to see why Newfoundlanders love their crustaceans. Who wouldn’t?

How to Fish in Newfoundland

Newfoundland is a smorgasbord of fishing opportunities, which means that both pros and beginners will have fun here. Cast a line out of a traditional dory boat, hit the ocean, or stay on land, it’s your choice.

Fishing from a Boat

This is the most common, and usually the most productive way of fishing in Newfoundland. If you want an authentic and productive fishing trip, your best chance is to head out with a local guide.

A solitary boat on the the shore of a river in Newfoundland

If you’re looking to just get a taste of the local fishery, guides have a variety of trips on offer. Anything from 2–4 hours is an option.

Some anglers come to Newfoundland for their next great fishing adventure. They have plenty of fishing lodges dotted around the island that offer multi-day expeditions to choose from.

Some outfitters even offer more exotic, fly-in angling experiences that will take you deep into the wilderness to enjoy the fantastic action on pristine streams and rivers, away from everyday worries.

The best spots to look for your charter is usually in St. John’s, as well as Cox’s Cove, Hare Bay, and the Bay of Islands.

Fishing from Land

If you prefer to keep your feet steadily on the ground, and you enjoy fishing as well, have no fear! There are plenty destinations well suited for wading and fly fishing in Newfoundland.

Solo angler reeling in his catch at sunset

One of the most famous spots must be the capital itself, St. John’s, known for its Brown Trout fly fishing. If you prefer heading out to nature, go to the Lower Exploits River.

To combine excellent Salmon and Trout fishing with hard-to-look-away scenery, Serpentine River is your next destination. If you want to go wading for trophy-sized Salmon, then head out to Upper Humber River, where you can easily find lodging and guides.

Bear in mind that you might have to hike or drive to find your fishing spot. Embrace that as another memorable part of your adventure and rods at the ready!

Top Fishing Spots in Newfoundland

Among the many advantages Newfoundland has to offer, the number and variety of fishing hotspots are at the very top. Here are some of the most prominent locations that promise successful times on the water.

The Great Banks of Newfoundland

There are few other places around the island that are better for saltwater fishing than The Great Banks. With hundreds of miles of fishing grounds, this is where you want to be during the Cod season.

A view of a boat going offshore from the coast of Newfoundland

The banks are actually plateaus where the warm Gulf Stream and cold Labrador Current meet, which makes for superb fish habitat, but tricky weather.

A lot of days, you’ll have to navigate your way through the fog, due to the clash of the current temperatures. Still, local anglers love coming here, because the fish that live here are worth it. Think massive Atlantic Cod and other Groundfish, as well as Capelin and even Swordfish.

Exploits River

This is one of the most popular and productive rivers in Newfoundland. It has well over 200 miles of fishable waters and one of the biggest Atlantic Salmon runs on the island.

These days, you can easily find 30-pound trophies on their way upstream. The Great Rattling Brook is one of the less-known hotspots where locals go to come face-to-gills with big fish.

The river also has a special autumn season in September, when all Salmon are strictly catch-and-release. You can also admire the Salmon making their way upstream from the viewing platform of the Salmon Interpretation Centre. This is a unique sight to behold and shouldn’t be missed!

Humber River

An aerial view of Humber River in Newfoundland

Another as-good-as-it-gets fishery is the Humber River. Wherever you go on the river during the open Salmon season, you’re going to find something on your line. You can find big fish here, especially toward the end of the season.

The Lower Humber, in particular, is known for its impressive Salmon – every year, 50–pounders have been caught. Follow the locals, and you’ll end up in the Sir Richard Squires Park, fly fishing for your next record. In the summer, the Big Falls, at the border of the park, is the place to be for ambitious Salmon anglers.

Avalon Peninsula

The Avalon Peninsula offers the best of both saltwater and freshwater fishing. The peninsula is in no way connected to the mystical Avalon of King Arthur, but the fishing is legendary.

A view of a lighthouse and the sea on the Avalon Peninsula

You’ll find some of the best Trout fishing here, especially if you’re going after Brownies. Sea-run Brown Trout thrive here and you can land trophies that weigh over 10 pounds. Some of the most productive watersheds include Colinet and Salmonier Rivers. For impressive catches, check out the Lower Pond, right on the Witless Bay.

The saltwater front is equally fun to explore. Target Cod in the summer, as well as Halibut, Haddock, and Sharks. Placentia Bay, Trinity Bay, and St. Mary’s Bay offer some top-notch angling fun.

Fishing Licences and Regulations

A close shot of a boat on the coast of the river

Newfoundland faced difficult times after failing to manage its fisheries carefully. That’s all changed now. There are strict fishing seasons, especially for the endangered Atlantic Cod. Local authorities and guides make sure that all the regulations are followed to a T, and the effort has done a lot of good for Newfoundlanders.

While locals don’t need a fishing licence, for non-residents, it’s a must. All visitors who would like to fish more than 800 meters (2600 feet) from a provincial highway need to hire a local guide.

If you stay within the 800 m limit, you can fish exclusively for Trout. Family fun is guaranteed, just remember to buy a Trout licence before you go. It’s not always easy to find a Trout licence in local tackle shops, so make sure you come prepared.

When it comes to saltwater fishing licences, it all depends on the charter you choose. Some guides include all necessary licences into the price of the trip, while others don’t. Talk to your captain before the trip to find out what you need to bring.

Newfoundland: The Land of Fishing Opportunity

Wondering whether you should give a Newfoundland fishing adventure a try? We say, “Go for it!” With its absolutely unique culture and incredible love of fishing, Newfoundlanders will know how to show you a good time.

Fishing docks in  in Bonavista, Newfoundland

Chase gorgeous Trout in the pristine streams, battle huge Salmon in powerful rivers, and experience the unique thrill of Cod jigging!

This island, lovingly called “The Rock,” won’t disappoint with its angling potential and magnificent spans of wilderness. Newfoundland will become a fishery that you’ll want to come back to, year after year. Hey, we get it, who wouldn’t?

Have you been fishing in Newfoundland? What are your experiences? What are your highlights from fishing “The Rock”? Share your stories and comments, we’d love to hear from you.

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