Fishing in the NWT: Catch Your Own Dinner

It’s a Saturday morning and a woman stands at the end of the dock at a cabin in the bush. She and her two travel companions took a tiny bush plane from Fort Smith to get to this slice of paradise in the Northwest Territories. It’s quiet, except for a quacking duck and the loons calling to one another. There isn’t another soul around. The woman tosses a fishing line into the water and waits. She feels a tug on her line. Twice. Each time she reels in, she unhooks a Pickerel from her line and tosses it into a metal bucket.  Fish is on the menu tonight.
One of the joys of summer in the Northwest Territories is catching and eating fish right out of a lake, river or stream. Long days, with daylight lasting 18 to 24 hours, mean lots of time to fish. And there’s no shortage of places to cast a line – whether you sit in a boat, on the edge of a lake or at the end of a dock with a line in the water. The waterways of the Northwest Territories are one big fish store. Just pick a lake or stream and reel in trophy sized Lake Trout, Arctic Char, Northern Pike and Arctic Grayling. Or snag Pickerel and Inconnu (French for “unknown”). Dolly Varden is a pretty fish that looks like a bull trout and can be found in the western Mackenzie Delta and Peel River watershed.
Fish grow slowly in our cold, clear waters. Some individual fish in northern lakes have been found to be 40 years old. The granddaddies of the fish world, Lake Trout, have been known to live for 60 – 80 years. With such lengthy life spans it’s no wonder the NWT boasts a bevy of trophy fish records. A hefty 78.85-lb Lake Trout pulled from Great Bear Lake set an official world record. Another record-making catch was a beautiful 5 lb, 15 oz Arctic Grayling pulled from the NWT’s Katseyedie River.
The woman at the cabin pulled in a three-pound Pickerel. It is by no means trophy size, but certainly dinner size. She lays the fish on a table and fillets them. The delicately flavoured Pickerel are wrapped in foil and cooked over an open fire. They are eaten amid the silence and solitude of life in the northern bush.