Fishing the Northwest Territories
Close your eyes and picture the scene. You’ve just landed after a 20-minute float plane ride from Yellowknife. You look out on a lake from the balcony of a beautiful lodge, set back among the trees. Your guide calls you down and you head out onto the waters by boat. The beautiful calm of the water is suddenly broken by the tightening of your line, and soon, the splash of a northern pike fighting to ditch your hook. After a lengthy fight, you finally hold the beautiful fish in your hand, imprinting the colors and size to memory before releasing it back into the water.
Can you picture it? Can you smell the air and feel the fish in your hands? This isn’t make-believe; it’s just one of a million angling stories to come out of the Northwest Territories.
These are the lands of fishing magazines, record-setting catches, and the best bar stories. Whether you’ve fished all over the world or just like to be out on the water, whether you like to fish with a fly, trawl from a boat, or drill a hole in the ice, you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful setting for laying your line in the water.
Here’s a quick guide to fishing the Northwest Territories.
What is there to fish?
Ten species of fish fill the waters of the Northwest Territories, drawing in fishing enthusiasts from around the world. Among those fish, the lake trout are probably the most sought after, if only for their size. These fish can reach a remarkable 75 pounds in the Northwest Territories, and make for a difficult fight. Who wouldn’t want to add a fish of that size to their belt?
Great northern pike, ranging up to 40 pounds, are probably the second biggest draw, and don’t lag far behind in terms of resistance. The smaller arctic grayling are another local favorite, and they’re plentiful in these waters.
The other fish you might encounter angling in the Northwest Territories include:
- Arctic char
- Bull trout
- Dolly Varden
- Lake whitefish
- Pickerel (Walleye)
The hot spots
The Northwest Territories are home to hundreds upon hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams to suit any angler’s tastes. These include some of the biggest and deepest lakes in the world, where fish can grow undisturbed for centuries.
The scene described earlier took place at Yellow Dog Lodge, on the shores of Duncan and Graham lakes. These waterways are teeming with lake trout, as well as whitefish, and walleye, pike and whitefish are only short trips away. The abundance of fish makes the lodge a popular destination for catch-and-release excursions. Plus, between all your fishing, you can go wildlife viewing for otters, bears and eagles, hike through forests, soak in a hot tub and even look up at the Northern Lights.
Great Slave Lake, close to the capital city of Yellowknife, is another popular fishing destination. It’s the deepest lake in North America, sinking down to an astounding 2,014 feet. It’s also the tenth biggest lake in the world, larger than Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. All of this size and depth is hiding some mammoth freshwater fish, and you won’t have a hard time finding local guides to take you out onto these waters. There are also a number of fishing lodges along its shores, including Plummer’s Great Slave Lake Lodge, the Frontier Fishing Lodge and Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge.
Many anglers enjoy trekking out along the Ingraham Trail, an approximately 43-mile paved route connecting Yellowknife to Tibbit Lake. This trail passes by a number of waterways, and many will stop at Pontoon and Prelude lakes to fish for hungry pike. Others head out onto the powerful Keele River, catching and cooking bull trout and arctic grayling after a day spent battling rapids.
Deciding what species you want to land, and knowing when you’re planning on visiting will help you choose the perfect fishing spot.
Hooked? Find out more about fishing in the Northwest Territories, and start planning your angling getaway.