Data of incident hemodialysis patients from 2001 to 2007 were abstracted from The Renal Disease Registry (TRDR) from central Ontario, Canada and followed until December 2008 to determine 90-day mortality rates for incident hemodialysis patients. Modifiable risk factors of early mortality were determined by a Cox model. In total, 876 of 4807 incident patients died during their first year on dialysis; 304 (34.7%) deaths occurred within the first 90 days of dialysis initiation. The majority of deaths were attributed to a cardiovascular event or infection and more likely occurred in older patients and those with cardiovascular co-morbidities. Of potentially modifiable risk factors, low body mass index (<18.5), a surrogate for malnutrition, was a strong predictor of early mortality [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 4.22 (CI: 3.12–5.17)]. Also, central venous catheter use was associated with a 2.40 fold increase risk of death (CI: 1.4–3.90). Patients who attended a multidisciplinary pre-dialysis clinic were less likely to die (HR: 0.60, CI: 0.47–0.78). The first 90 days after initiation of dialysis is a period of especially high risk of death. We have identified potentially modifiable risk factors in vascular access type, pre-dialysis care and nutritional status.