The present study was designed to develop a novel, rapid, direct DNA-based protocol to enumerate aeromonads in recreational waters. An Aeromonas genus-specific real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) protocol was developed and optimized using newly designed genus-specific oligonucleotide primers derived from the gyrase B subunit (GyrB) gene. A standard curve was developed based on the PCR protocol with a minimum quantification limit of 10 cell equivalents ml−1 achieved using an autoclaved water sample from recreational water spiked with known quantities of an Aeromonas ATCC strain. The Q-PCR protocol was validated and applied to detect and quantify the total number of aeromonads in water samples collected from two fresh water beaches on Lake Ontario. The Q-PCR protocol revealed significantly higher numbers of aeromonads in all water samples than a culture-based assay at both beaches. Foreshore sand was found to serve as a reservoir of high concentrations of Aeromonas similar to this phenomenon noted for enteric bacteria like Eschershia coli. The new real-time Q-PCR protocol facilitated the rapid quantification of total numbers of Aeromonas cells present in recreational water samples in <3 hours without culturing.