To say Canada’s North is vast and untouched would be a gross understatement. The Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut account for almost half of the area of our country and yet less than ½ of 1% of Canadians live here. Home to 1/3 of a million km2 of water, the lakes and rivers range in size from tiny to among the biggest in the world. And don’t forget that all three Territories border on the Arctic Ocean. World-class fishing opportunities are everywhere you look in the North.
From east to west, the North almost extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This means that the fishes native to the region include Pacific salmonids and brook trout. There are also more novel species here such as Arctic char, Arctic grayling, and inconnu. However it is the species that inhabit central Canada, such as lake trout and northern pike, which garner the most attention. This is because they are prolific and reach gargantuan size in the North.
To illustrate this consider lake trout. Great Bear Lake (NWT) produced 12 lake trout over 50lbs and one 70lber in 2014 alone, never mind the countless other trophies over 20lbs. If trophy lake trout are on your bucket list, then you have to visit the NWT. If the lake trout example is any indication, it should come as no surprise that the 3 Territories have produced many (if not most) of the all-tackle and line-class records for species such as lake trout, lake whitefish, inconnu, northern pike, Arctic grayling and Arctic char. And many of these records are being shattered annually with even bigger fish caught in the North. This is a testament to the lack of exploitation and catch and release practices.
But fishing isn’t just about catching — it’s about the whole experience and the adventure of it. It’s things such as the 24 hour daylight, the herd of muskox that were grazing on the bank of the river you were fishing, the wildlife safari of caribou, wolves, bears, moose or bison you saw on the flight into your destination, the taste of pure untreated water scooped straight out of the lake, or the amazing late season display of northern lights you witnessed. These are highlights that many visiting anglers equally cherish alongside the biggest fish of their lives!
Most people visit one of the many fishing lodges in the North, as many of the fisheries are extremely remote. However it may surprise some to learn that many productive fisheries in the Yukon and NWT have road access. And if long drives don’t appeal, you’ll be happy to hear that airfare to Whitehorse, Yellowknife or Iqaluit can be quite inexpensive. Therefore it isn’t necessarily cost prohibitive to do a DIY trip to the North. As with anywhere though, hiring a local guide is worth its’ weight in gold.
Craig Blackie fell in love with the far north of Canada in the 1990s when he started his guiding career with Plummer’s Arctic Lodges. This love transferred over to his academic background in fisheries science and he has published several papers on chars and whitefishes. It also led to his outdoor writing career. Since moving to Yellowknife to start a family, he has been instrumental in fisheries conservation programs in the NWT’s diamond mining industry. An avid angler, Craig has fished the north extensively for Arctic char, lake trout, grayling, whitefish and pike although inconnu has been a particular fascination as of late.
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