Species in Nunavut
Meet the Cast
No other freshwater fish is found as far north. The Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) is spread throughout the Kitikmeot and Qikiqtaaluk Regions and the northern Kivalliq Region. Captured all across Nunavut, especially in coastal rivers, the char is the hardest-hitting and most popular fish to catch and eat; so popular with the Inuit people that it is usually just called ‘fish’ — ‘iqaluk’ in Inuktitut.
Arctic Char Angling Techniques
Anglers can cast from shore or by boat into lakes or rivers. In tidal estuaries at river mouths, during the spring and fall migration, schools of arctic char will move with the rising and lowering of the ocean’ s tide. For seven-day tidal predictions in various locations throughout Nunavut visit http://www.tides.gc.ca/eng/station?sid=4140
Rod: 6 to 10 foot – medium power/fast action
Reel: medium-sized reel spooled with 10 – 20 pound test monofilament or braided super line.
Lures: Brightly coloured flashy spoons. Local favourites include .5 to 1.5 ounce Blue Fox Pixies and Mepps Syclops in yellow, silver/blue and fire tiger finishes.
In the still waters of lakes, rivers and tidal estuaries, fly anglers cast and strip line in to entice arctic char that swim by and great schools. In the current of rivers, anglers a work streamers through riffles, pools and current breaks.
Rod: 9 to 14 foot, 6 to 9 weight
Fly Line: full floating or sink tip with a 8 - 20 lb. test tippet
Flies: Arctic char hit a wide variety of #2 - 8 sized shrimp and minnow-imitating wet flies/streamers like the Muddler Minnow, Woolly Bugger, Mickey Finn and Egg Sucking Leech. In addition to blacks, browns and greens, arctic char seem particularly attracted to accents of pink, red, orange and white.
Arctic char are caught through the ice of the lake and river systems where they overwinter by vertical jigging lures.
Rod: 36 inch jigging rod/spinning reel combo. Most locals simply use a hand line wrapped around a length of wood.
Line: 12 to 25 lb. test monofilament
Lures: Silver .5 to 1.5 ounce William’s Whitefish, silver/blue Blue Fox Pixie
Actic char diet varies depending on the location and life history characteristics of a specific population. In freshwater, they feed on insects like chironomids and caddis as well as snails, plankton, freshwater shrimp and even smaller char. In saltwater, arctic char are voracious and opportunistic, exploiting any food source they can find including capelin, arctic cod, sculpin and shrimp.
Lake trout are distributed widely throughout the major river and lake systems of mainland Nunavut in the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot Regions. The lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) is actually a species of freshwater char, highly prized as both a game and food fish.These top predators strike aggressively and fight with dogged determination. Native only to the northern lakes of North America, Nunavut lake trout grow to trophy size, and are commonly caught in the 10-23 kilogram (22-50 lb.) range.
Lake Trout Angling Techniques
Casting large lures from shore or casting/trolling by boat in lakes and rivers is the most popular means of connecting with lake trout. Fishing is best just after ice out in June when lakers are found near the surface in shallow water. As waters warm in summer, lake trout move deeper but return to ferocious eating in the shallows when the water cools again in September. Lake trout also inhabit large rivers where they prowl deep pools and make aggressive feeding forays from current breaks in the runs and riffles of rapids.
Rod: 7 – 10 foot medium/heavy power, moderate action
Reel: large capacity spooled with 12 - 30 lb. test monofilament or braided super line
Lures: 4 – 6 inch Yakima Flat Fish, .5 to 1.5 ounce Williams Wablers, Len Thompson’s Five of Diamonds and ¾ - 1 ounce bucktail jigs. Traditional silver/gold as well as white, green and yellow are particularly effective colours.
Casting rocky shorelines or trolling over shoals by boat with streamers is a proven strategy. Lake trout also feed extensively on the surface and casting nymphs and dry flies to rising trout in lakes and in the gentle runs of large rivers, provides exciting top water action.
Rod: 9 – 12ft, 7 to 10 weight
Fly Line: floating or full sink with a 12 - 20 lb. test tippet
Flies: caddis and mayfly imitating dry flies and nymphs as well as minnow-imitating streamers like the Muddler Minnow, Grey Ghost and Black Nose Dace
Nothing compares to connecting with a 20 pound lake trout while vertical jigging through thick ice on a sunny May afternoon.
Rod: 36 inch heavy weight/fast action or hand line
Line: 15 - 30 lb. test monofilament
Lures: William’s Whitefish, ¾ –1 ounce white tube jig.
Habitat can greatly affect the lake trout's diet. Young fish tend to feed on aquatic insects, crayfish and freshwater shrimp. As they grow larger and mature, many lake trout switch to a fish diet, fuelling further growth by eating ciscoes, small white fish, sculpin and minnows. In cases where lake trout are the only fish in a lake, some become cannibals and feed on other lake trout.
Pike prefer warm, heavily vegetated rivers and weedy bays of lakes and are widespread throughout southwestern Nunavut in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq Regions. The northern pike (Esox lucius) is an aggressive predator that strikes hard with remarkable acceleration. This long and narrow fish is great eating and can grow larger than 18.1 kg (40lbs.) although the average size is generally between 2.3 and 6.8 kg (5 to 15 lbs.)
Northern Pike Angling Techniques
Pike prefer the warmer waters of shallow bays at ice out then lurk the weedy drop-offs through summer, attacking a wide variety of lures cast from shore or from a boat.
Rod: 7 to 10 foot, medium/heavy power, moderate action
Reel: large capacity spooled with 12 to 20 lb. test monofilament or braided super line with a 6-inch wire leader
Lures: 1 - 2 ounce Eppinger Dardevles, Len Thompson’s Five of Diamonds as well as 6-inch Rapala Husky Jerks and large in-line spinners like the Mepps Giant Killer.
It’s exciting to sight-fish for pike soon after ice out when the subtle allure of the well presented streamer is irresistible to pike sunning themselves in shoreline shallows.
Rod: 9 to 12 foot, 8 to 10 weight
Fly Line: Full floating or sink tip with a steel or 40-80 lb. test fluorocarbon tippet
Flies: Bucktail or marabou streamers from 3 - 8 inches, big deer hair bugs like the Dahlberg Diver and Whitlock Mouserat as well as large top water poppers. Effective colors include white, yellow, orange and red.
Rod: 36 inch heavy weight/fast action or hand line
Line: 15 to 25 pound test monofilament with 6-inch wire leader
Lures: Large brightly colored spoons like William’s Whitefish, Len Thompson’s Five of Diamonds and Eppinger Dardevle
Young pike feed on zooplankton and aquatic insects. Adult northern pike eat almost any living animal that is small enough for them to consume. The pike's diet is about 90 percent fish but they will also prey on frogs, mice, muskrats, ducklings, crayfish and even other pike.
The arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a feisty species of freshwater fish easily recognized by its prominent, sail-like dorsal fin. It is common in the large river systems of the Kivalliq Region and southern Kitikmeot Region. While average weights hover around the .9kg (2lb.) mark, there are areas of Nunavut where grayling that come close to the world record 5 lbs. 15 oz. are caught regularly. Putting up a terrific fight on light spinning tackle or fly fishing gear, arctic grayling are caught in the moving the water of rivers but are also found in bays of some larger lakes.
Arctic Grayling Angling Techniques
Look for grayling in the current breaks of fast-flowing rivers and along the steep, rocky drop-offs in bays of larger lakes. These diminutive fish hit aggressively and are deceptively strong fighters.
Rod: 5 to 6 foot light power/fast action
Reel: small capacity spooled with 4 to 8-pound test monofilament or braided super line
Lures: Bright spinners like a silver or gold #1 or #2 Mepps Aglia, small spoons like a ¼ ounce Acme Little Cleo or 1/8 ounce jigs and 2 inch soft plastic grubs
A true favorite of fly anglers because of their eagerness to take a dead-drifted dry fly from a river’s glassy surface and their willingness to inhale a subsurface nymph.
Rod: 9 foot, 4 to 6 weight
Fly Line: full floating line with 4 to 6 lb. test tippet
Flies: Small caddis, mayfly and mosquito-imitating dry flies like a #12 to 14 Elk Hair Caddis, Henryville Special or March Brown plus all-purpose nymphs like #8 to 12 Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail nymphs
During summer, arctic grayling will eat almost anything that moves, but drifting aquatic insects like mayflies, stone flies, and caddis flies are their primary food. Grayling will also eat fish eggs, smaller fish or terrestrial insects that have fallen into the water. They have even been known to eat the occasional vole or shrew. Immature fish feed on zooplankton and insect larvae.
Arctic Char, the Premier Fish of the Arctic
The arctic char’s appearance varies greatly. Sea-run adults are commonly deep blue or blue-green over their backs, shading to glistening silver along their sides. In its spawning colors the arctic char displays ivory-tipped blood-red fins, crimson belly and greenish flanks speckled with red.
Arctic char can grow larger than 30 pounds, eagerly take a fly or lure and perform tremendously on the end of a line as well as on the table, making the arctic char one of the most coveted game fish in the world.
Arctic char are anadromous, which means they are born in fresh water, spend much of their lives feeding in the sea and return to fresh water to spawn. The migration of char up Nunavut rivers begins in late August. They spawn in rivers or inland lakes in September and October. The young hatch in late April and may spend four or five years in freshwater before joining adult char in their annual migration back to the ocean from early June to mid-July. Arctic char can live to 40 years old but the lifespan of most is around 20 years.
Landlocked arctic char are found in lakes that were once connected to the ocean. Anglers can fish these char year-round. However, if you are targeting sea-run fish, plan your trip to correspond with their migration back to the ocean to feed in spring, or when returning up rivers in the late summer or fall to spawn.
Best fishing times for char migrating upstream are closely related to the tide. Because char cannot leap like Atlantic salmon, they depend on the tide to surmount obstacles like falls, resulting in the largest number of fish being in the river at high tide. For seven-day tidal predictions in various locations throughout Nunavut visit http://www.tides.gc.ca/eng/station?sid=4140
Ice fishing for char occurs in winter through the ice of inland lakes.