Practical Fishing Points

Fast & Cold Water

Many of Nunavut’s rivers are fast flowing, with turbulent rapids and deep water, which run ice-cold even in midsummer. Felt-soled insulated waders will help you navigate the slippery, uneven and rocky terrain of rivers, lake shorelines and coastal waters. It’s always a good idea to fish with a partner rather than alone, and let someone know where you are going and what time you are expected back.



Tidal fluctuations in Nunavut can be as high as 12 m. When fishing along the coast or tidal estuaries be wary of the fast-rising tide that can cut off access to the mainland. If you put down a pack, rod or gear along the water’s edge be sure to move it up the shoreline as the tide rises.



Although the ice is very thick in winter throughout Nunavut, most ice fishing takes place in the spring as temperatures warm. Always avoid narrows and areas of current. Watch for dark patches, especially during a thaw, which can indicate weak and rotting ice.

If you go through the ice, a pair of handheld ice picks allow you to claw back out; bringing a portable stove, shelter, food, beverage and a complete change of clothes will enable you to re-warm.

Unless you are experienced travelling the Arctic in winter, it’s best to secure the services of a guide or outfitter with knowledge of ice conditions.

No matter what the season, when out on the land in Nunavut, it’s important to realize that, if you are in a remote environment and if something does go wrong, it could be an extended period of time before rescue or emergency services arrive on the scene.

For more information on wilderness travel and medical emergencies visit



Frostbite is damage to skin after exposure to cold temperatures, usually occurring on hands, feet, ears or face. The early stage of frostbite is often called frostnip and can be detected by tingling, throbbing or numbness. Frostnip may also be visible as white patches of numb skin. The best way to avoid frostbite is to warm the affected area as soon as frostnip is detected.

Intermediate frostbite involves increasing tissue damage after longer exposure to the cold. Skin may feel hard and frozen. More advanced stages of deep frostbite can affect skin, muscle, bones and nerves and require immediate medical attention.


Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. When the balance between the body's heat production and heat loss tips toward heat loss for a prolonged period, hypothermia can occur. Confusion, fatigue, drowsiness and shivering are signs of hypothermia.

Treat hypothermia by getting the victim indoors and slowly restoring warmth by getting them in dry clothing and wrapping them in blankets. Give the person warm fluids to drink and get them to a hospital or community health centre where health care providers will continue warming efforts, including providing intravenous fluids and warm, moist oxygen.


Safety in Bear Country

Nunavut is home to polar bears and grizzly bears. When you travel in Nunavut you travel in bear country. Polar bears are found from the southern reaches of Hudson’s Bay up to the permanent pack ice of the Arctic islands. They live mainly on sea ice or within a few kilometers of the coast but have been seen as far as 150 km inland. Grizzly bears can be found throughout the Kivalliq Region and in large portions of the Kitikmeot Region. Polar bears and barren land grizzly bears are extremely dangerous animals! Both species are strong and fast on ice, land and in water.

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Arctic Clothing for Fishing

To safely enjoy Nunavut it’s important to dress for the conditions. In winter, the severe cold is intensified by wind and blowing snow. Average January temperatures range from -20°C along Southern Baffin Island to -37°C along Northern Ellesmere island. Footwear: Waterproof insulated snow boots rated to minimum of -40C and wool, mohair or synthetic socks. Hand wear: Windproof insulated mittens of nylon and fleece or hide and animal fur. Head wear: Wool, fur or thermal hat, full facial mask, neck warmer or scarf, sunglasses, ski goggles. Body wear: Goose down filled parka designed for the Arctic with hood and fur trim, windproof insulated snow pants and an initial layer of thermal underwear. Average July temperatures range from from 10°C on the southern mainland to 2°C farther north but snow flurries do occur in summer. Arrive equipped with hats, gloves and a selection of windproof/waterproof and insulating layers.


Flying with Fishing Gear

Air service to Nunavut:

Calm Air (

First Air (

Canadian North (

Nunavut Airlines generally allow two checked bags, free of charge, each weighing up to 44 pounds or more depending on the airline and whether the destination is served by a jet or turboprop aircraft.

The airlines serving Nunavut are fishermen friendly, allowing fishing equipment - one rod case, one landing net, one pair of boots and a tackle box - to be considered as one item and substituted for one of the two free checked pieces of baggage.

Rods should be packed in rigid cases or sturdy PVC rod tubes. Rod tubes over 161 cm or 5’3” will be charged an oversized baggage fee of $75 or more so it makes more sense to bring two-piece rods in a rod case or tube of less than five feet as part of checked baggage. Check with the airline you are flying for specifics.

Consider packing lures in individual compact plastic containers that slide into a soft sided tackle bag as well as a fly vest stocked with individual plastic or metal fly boxes. Once in Nunavut - when travelling on the land by ATV, snowmobile or on foot – have your gear in portable and rugged containers that are easily strapped down.


Fishing Supplies in Nunavut

There’s always room for a few more lures in the tackle box. If you want to check out the local favorites or you forgot a favorite of your own, there are usually fishing supplies available in Nunavut, even in most remote communities.
Arctic Co-operatives Limited ( operates Co-op stores in virtually every Nunavut community. Similarly the Northwest Company ( has a North Mart and/or Northern Store in most communities throughout Nunavut. These and other retail outlets all offer a limited supply of spinning rods/reels, monofilament line and lures. When visiting a lodge a selection of proven lures for the particular waterway is usually available.

Nunavut Fishing Traditions

Traditional Fishing Methods

For over 1000 years Inuit have been catching a wide variety of marine life in ingenious ways. Traditionally, they fished using their hands, weirs and three-pronged fishing spears.

Harpoons and spears were important items in the fishing arsenal of the Inuit. Harpoons have a detachable projectile head fastened to a hand-held line. Carved from walrus ivory, traditional Inuit harpoon heads detach in the deep muscle tissue and bone of an animal or fish.

In winter, spear fishing involved boring holes through the ice and exercising a great deal of patience before wielding kakivait or harpoons with deadly accuracy.

Nets were woven from thinly sliced leather or animal sinew - the tough fibrous tissue uniting muscle to bone. They were strung across streams and rivers during arctic char runs. Nets were also set in winter between holes in the ice. The Inuit excelled at creating highly realistic fishing lures from bone, shell and antler. These homemade spinners were dragged through the water with a hand line to attract arctic char. Fishing hooks were made of wood, bone, antlers and claws as well as sharpened goose bones and the jaw bones of large fish.

For the Inuit, fishing has always been a means of harvesting food. Today there are few harvest restrictions for the Inuit, who continue to catch fish by traditional means as well as by rod and reel. One of the most popular means of harvesting fish among the Inuit is by casting and snagging with large weighted hooks. The concept of recreational sport fishing is a new idea to the native culture of Nunavut – however many communities enjoy spring fishing derbies for lake trout, cod or sculpin featuring friendly competition and generous prizes for the fastest-caught and the largest fish.


Fish Weir

*Saputi (Inuktitut) or Haputi (Inuinnaqtun)

Inuit often fished by using stone weirs at the mouths of Nunavut’s rivers.

Weirs were constructed by piling stones in a crescent shape from the shore out into the flow of the river, and gradually building the stone wall up until it could trap fish. People sometimes walled in the opposite edge of the crescent to keep the fish from escaping, or simply waded in, trapping the fish in the weir and spearing or hooking them with hooks on long handles.

Often a narrow channel was left open in the edge of the weir, floored with stones until only a shallow stream of water flowed over the stones. A watcher on shore could easily see fins and tails as fish began to use the passage. This watcher alerted all others, ran out to close off the channel with stones, and the fishing began.

The fish were speared with pronged spears (singular: kakivak; plural: kakivat). The central prong pierced the fish, and the two arms spread out, the barbs catching in the side of the fish and holding it. A fish needle (mitqun or nuvit ikaalukmut or qupirut) was used to string the fish together on a thong.

The needle was passed through the fish just behind the operculum, through or under the spine. As the stringer grew heavier, it was pulled ashore and the fish were laid out on the side of the river.

Fish Weir


Copyright – Nunavut Parks

Fish Cache

*Pigu (Inuinnaqtun) or Qinnivik (Inuktitut)

The Inuit constructed stone boxes in which they could store food or tools and gear. The drawing of the cache below is specifically designed to store fish, especially frozen fish. These caches were usually built at the side of a large stone, and were usually rectangular in shape, to more efficiently hold the fish. Caribou skins were not used in these; rocks were placed directly on the frozen fish.

Fish Cache


Copyright – Nunavut Parks

*The Inuit language includes Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut. Inuktitut is spoken in eastern and central Nunavut and Inuinnaqtun is spoken in western Nunavut. Both languages have varying dialects depending on geographical location.


Myths and Legends

The Legend of Sedna, Mother of the Sea

It is Sedna who rewards the people of the land with food from the sea. Without Her blessing, hunts fail and the people starve.

Sedna is known as Niviaqsiaq, Talilajuq, Nuliajuk and by many other names. She is the Sea Goddess who drives the walrus and seal to the Inuit and ensures a bountiful hunt. Sedna’s story is one of the most popular Inuit Legends.

The Sedna Tales tell of a willful, strong young woman and a great storm. Long, long ago, when Sedna was a young girl she refused suitors from her own clan, instead Sedna chose a mysterious lover who turned out to be a sea bird in disguise. On hearing what had really happened, her father set out to rescue his rebellious daughter.

Finding Sedna in the nest of the Sea Bird, he spirited her away. Father and daughter began the long journey home in a skin boat. The angry and abandoned sea bird made a great storm to stop them. Fearing the power of the sea bird, the father decided to rid himself of his daughter and threw her into the sea.

Trying to save herself, Senda grasped the sides of the boat and pleaded with her father to pull her back into the boat. The selfish father, fearing for his own life, swung his knife and chopped off her fingers. Sedna fell in to the water and soon sank below the waves and was gone. When Sedna’s fingers fell into the water, they became whales, seals and polar bears, and the nails became whalebone. As the young woman sank into the sea she was transformed into the mystical being known as Sedna, Mother of Oceans and ruler over all life in the Sea.

The blessings of Sedna are still sought by the people of the North, who know it is She who sustains them.

Copyright – Nunavut Development Corporation


Qailertetang, Sedna’s Companion

Qailertetang is a female deity who cares for animals, fishers, and hunters, and controls the weather. She dwells with her companion Sedna at the bottom of the sea, in the company of seals, whales, and other sea creatures. Qailertetang is depicted as a large woman of heavy limbs. Before hunts, Inuit shamans ritually served both Sedna and Qailertetang on behalf of their people, recognizing the immense sacrifice humans ask of these two powerful sea-mothers.


An Inuit Girl’s First Catch

When young Inuit girls catch their first fish they are encouraged to drop the fish down the front of their parkas. It is believed that, when a girl has her first child, this will help to ensure a fast and problem-free delivery. It is a practice that continues to this day. Rankin Inlet’s Denise Kusugak says that when she was seven or eight her father insisted she follow the tradition and push her first fish through her parka.

“I was so mad because all I could smell was fish for the rest of our camping trip. But now I’m thankful he did that. My first child was born from first contraction to delivery in one hour and 47 minutes,” said Denise.

Denise Kusuguk - Rankin Inlet


Agloolik, Fisherman’s Friend

Agloolik is a guardian spirit who lives underneath the ice and protects seals and their pups from harm. In addition to keeping predators from their young, Agloolik is said to hunt down fish and provide them as food to seal families. It is also believed that Agloolik helps human fishermen by catching fish and attaching them to anglers’ fishing lines.



According to stories told across Nunavut, a huge beluga whale-sized fish of indeterminate age, known to elders as Isugajuaq, is said to lurk in one of the thousands of lakes across the Arctic. The legend is alive and well in communities like Hall Beach, where Inuit speak of a giant Lake trout living in the depths of nearby Hall Lake.


Traditional Preparation and Recipes

It’s hard to improve on perfection, the Inuit still enjoy eating freshly-caught arctic char raw, as they have done for thousands of years. The eyeballs and liver are favorite parts and cooking arctic char is a relatively recent practice in Nunavut.


Drying Rack

*Pipsiliuvit/Pittiliuqvik (Inuktituit) or Qimiqqun (Inuinnaqtun)

In warm weather, fish meat had to be preserved by drying.

Two or more standing stones supported long poles or skin thongs which ran from an anchor stone over the top to another stone. Tension was controlled by adding stones to tighten the thong as the weight of the fish was added. Split fish were hung over the poles or thongs. The meat was not smoked, but dried in the sun and wind. When dry, it was stored in stone boxes, or meat caches.

Today, people continue to dry fish (pipsi or piffi). This “country food” is still an important part of the diet in many arctic communities.

Fish Drying Line


Copyright – Nunavut Parks


Arctic char is also hot and cold smoked, made into jerky and candied. Fresh and frozen char can be prepared in innumerable ways.

Cooking with Char

The unique qualities of Arctic Char create a gourmet product that is undeniably linked to the culture and tradition of Canada’s North.

Read all recipies

All recipes are Copyright - Nunavut Development Corporation

Nunavut Fishing Licence

Sport Fishing Licence is required by anyone intending to sport fish in Nunavut other than a beneficiary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA).

Licences are available from the Department of Environment or Fisheries and Oceans Canada, most sport fishing lodges, sporting goods, hardware and convenience stores, as well as certain offices of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Non-resident anglers must obey the import laws of their country when returning home. Check with customs officials in your home country about regulations governing the importation and transportation of fish.


Nunavut Resident: A Canadian citizen or permanent resident who has resided continuously in Nunavut for a period of three months immediately preceding the day they begin to fish.

Resident Canada: A Canadian citizen or permanent resident who normally resides in any part of Canada other than Nunavut immediately preceding the day they begin to fish.

Non-resident: A person other than a Nunavut Resident or a Resident Canadian.

Licence Fees

Nunavut Resident $10 -
Resident Canadian $20 $15
Non-resident $40 $30

* A 3-day licence is valid for 3 consecutive days commencing on the date stated on the licence

The federal Goods and Services Tax (5%) must be added to all fees. The length of licence(number of days) and fees are subject to change. Please contact vendors for current licence details.

Unless otherwise noted, Sport Fishing Licences are not required by:

  • NUNAVUT Residents and Resident Canadians under 16 years of age
  • Non-residents under the age of 16 who are accompanied by a person who holds a Sport Fishing Licence

Nunavut Settlement Area (NSA)

Sport fishing in the NSA may be subject to terms and conditions in accordance with the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. For further information, contact the Hunter’s and Trapper’s Organization or the local Conservation Officer.

Goverment of Nunavut

Conservation Offices

Pond Inlet : 899-8819
Resolute Bay : 252-3879
Arctic Bay : 439-9945
Pangnirtung : 473-8937
Qikiqtarjuaq : 927-8966
Kimmirut : 939-2004
Clyde River : 924-6235
Iqaluit : 979-7800
Grise Fiord : 980-4164
Igloolik : 934-8999
Sanikiluaq : 266-8098
Cape Dorset : 897-8932
Hall Beach : 928-8507
Kivalliq Kitikmeot
Arviat : 857-2828
Repulse Bay : 462-4002
Rankin Inlet : 645-8084
Baker Lake : 793-2944
Whale Cove : 896-9187
Coral Harbour : 925-8823
Chesterfield Inlet : 898-9130
Kugluktuk : 982-7450
Cambridge Bay : 983-4167
Gjoa Haven : 360-7605
Kugaaruk : 769-7011
Taloyoak : 561-6231

Goverment of Canada

Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Office Locations
Iqaluit : 867-979-8000
Rankin Inlet : 867-645-2871

National Parks

A NUNAVUT Sport Fishing Licence is not valid in a national park. A separate national parks fishing licence is required and may be obtained from a Parks Canada office.

Parks Canada Offices

Pangnirtung - (867) 473 - 2500
Pond Inlet - (867) 899 – 8092

General Regulations

The regulations state that:

  • You must carry your licence and produce it at the request of an officer.
  • Live fish cannot be used for bait. Live fish or live fish eggs cannot be put into Nunavut waters.
  • During the open water season, you may fish with only a single line or rod. No more than two hooks can be attached to the line.
  • While fishing through the ice, you may fish with no more than two lines, or two rods and lines. No more than two hooks can be attached to any line. You must remain within 50 m (60 yds.) of your line or lines.
  • You may use a hand net for landing fish caught by angling.
  • You may not use or possess a gaff while sport fishing.
  • Dip nets may be used for ciscoes and suckers. The diameter of the dip net hoop cannot exceed one metre, and all other species of fish caught must immediately be returned to the water.
  • Snagging of fish is prohibited.
  • There are special regulations if you intend to spear fish. No person shall engage in spear fishing except while swimming. The use of kakivaks or fish leisters is restricted to Nunavut beneficiaries and their assignees. For more information contact the local Conservation or Fishery Officer.
  • It is an offense to waste any game fish which is suitable for food.
  • It is an offense to fish within twenty-five yards downstream from the lower entrance to any fish-way, canal, obstacle or leap.
  • It is an offense to sell any fish caught by sport fishing.
  • You must not leave fish, fish remains, or refuse from fishing in the water or on the ice.
  • Except when preparing your fish for immediate consumption, you must leave the skin on the fish to help in determining the species. Fillets must be separated before freezing them. Two fillets are regarded as one fish.
  • When fish are stored other than at your permanent residence, the fish must be identified by name and Sport Fishing Licence number of the person who caught them. The name and licence number must also be marked on the outside of the package if you are transporting it.


Catch Limits (DCL) and
Possession Limits (PL)

Artic Grayling ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 3 5 None
Lake Trout ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 3 5 None
Northern Pike ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 5 10 None
Walleye ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 5 10 None
Brook Trout ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 3 5 None
Suckers ALL NUNAVUT WATERS No Limit No Limit None
Whitefish (All Species) ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 10 20 None
Ciscoes ALL NUNAVUT WATERS 350 350  

For more information on licensing, safety and sport fishing regulations please refer to the Nunavut Sport Fishing Guide: Nunavut Sport Fishing Guide.

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