Global warming has been in the news a lot lately, but whoever is in charge of it forgot to send the memo to some remote regions of Canada’s Arctic. When I arrived at an outpost fishing camp on the northwest corner of Nunavut’s Dubawnt Lake in mid-July, the majority of the immense body of water was still covered in ice. This fact would present us with some difficulties in getting to many of the lake’s hot spots, but at least the ice had retreated from some of the bays closer to the camp. I knew from experience that chances of encountering hard-fighting trophy lake trout were still good, and cool breezes blowing off the ice would keep the Arctic’s legendary swarms of biting insects at bay. When it comes to fishing in the Arctic, you have to focus on the positives.
Arctic fishing is not always easy. Trophy trout can be elusive at times and it is often a matter of trying different structure, depths, lures and techniques until you find the right combination that puts you on the action. The vicious strikes and thrilling fights that are a hallmark of these handsome fish is what makes dedicated laker fans travel to remote, harsh regions to experience one of North America’s most powerful freshwater adversaries.
After a breathtaking floatplane flight and quickly unpacking our gear, we were soon motoring towards a shallow bay just ten minutes from the lodge.
Bluebird days and calm waters are rare in the Arctic, but this is a good thing for ardent lake trout fans because choppy waters seem to trigger lake trout to feed more actively. Summer weather can range from 80ºF to whiteout conditions, so warm and waterproof clothing and footwear is mandatory. The Arctic is notorious for clouds of mosquitoes and blackflies, but most days are quite breezy, which helps keep the bugs at bay. Many dedicated Arctic anglers welcome the bugs because without them too many tourists would visit.
The Journey Begins
After a breathtaking floatplane flight and quickly unpacking our gear, we were soon motoring toward a shallow bay just ten minutes from the lodge. I knew that it would be a good spot to encounter active lakers seeking warm water—if you consider 40ºF water warm. As we cruised through the narrows into the main body of the bay we spotted something moving above a small rock face on the far shore about 400 yards away. It quickly stopped and was indistinguishable from some scattered snow banks that still clung to the rolling tundra. I steered in that direction and the object started moving again as we closed the gap. Casting a few backward glances in our direction, the impressive Arctic wolf leisurely trotted out of sight beyond a rocky ridge. As we were discussing the surprise encounter, a caribou appeared from the general area where the wolf had gone and came running toward our location. The big bull barely slowed as it kicked up spray along the shoreline and began swimming across the bay.
One of the guests was thrilled with the wildlife display we witnessed in just the first few minutes of the adventure. “I don’t care if I even catch a fish. Just seeing those animals has already made this trip worthwhile!” We didn’t get to prove the veracity of her statement because it didn’t take long for her to experience the vicious strike of a hungry lake trout as we trolled the newly christened Wolf Bay. After a 10 minute battle the gleaming 24 pound laker was quickly photographed and released. I now fully understood the term ear-to-ear grin.
Tukto Lodge has been in business since 1992 when Bob Huittikka bought his first camp at Mosquito Lake, NWT. Bob has been a bush pilot and lodge owner in northern Ontario for nearly four decades. He has always been fascinated by the Arctic, and after sampling the excellent fishing at Mosquito he bought the only camp on the lake and has since built the bare bones camp into a popular retreat. The new main lodge features a panoramic view of the Arctic scenery and provides guests with various amenities. Huittikka has really made this operation his labor of love and has built new guest cabins and upgraded all the equipment including stable aluminum fishing boats with reliable Honda engines. His hands-on approach to lodge management has made Tukto a favored destination for a very discerning international clientele.
The main camp at Mosquito provides excellent trout fishing on the 400 square mile lake, with inflowing and out-flowing river systems teeming with big, hungry arctic grayling that provide lively fights on ultra-light spinning tackle. Many fly-fishermen are enamored with grayling due to their willingness to gobble a wide variety of presentations and their lively, acrobatic fighting characteristics. Grayling over three pounds are common here, making this region one of the world’s best destinations for these pretty and colorful fish. Just getting to the best grayling waters is a fun adventure in itself, as skilled guides run stretches of quick rapids by boat to access the pools where grayling stack up in back eddies. Huge lake trout also lurk in these pools and it’s not uncommon for them to attack a hapless grayling that has taken an angler’s lure.
To keep up with growing demand for lake trout fishing destinations, Huittikka established his first outpost camp on Dubawnt Lake, 100 miles north of his main lodge at Mosquito. This vast body of water is one of the largest lakes in North America and stretches nearly 90 miles long by up to 50 miles wide. Tukto Lodge now operates three outpost camps on this enormous lake, but less than 60 fishermen per year ply its waters to sample the legendary fighting qualities of lean, mean Arctic trout. Fish breaking the 40 pound mark are caught here annually, but it’s the average size of fish caught that keep dedicated guests coming back for more. Most of the trout caught here break the 10 pound mark and trophies over 20 pounds are almost a daily occurrence. Tukto has implemented a strict catch-and-release policy and all lures must utilize single barbless hooks to minimize damage to the fish. Trophies are quickly measured, weighed and released unharmed to fight another day.
When most people think of lake trout fishing they conjure up images of downriggers or a host of other techniques to get their lures deep to target trout that seek colder water. In the cold Arctic waters of Dubawnt the trout never go deep and can be caught throughout the season in shallow water. The preferred and most effective method is trolling along rocky points and drop-offs or targeting fish that are suspended in the water column. In the early season, inflowing creeks can provide unbelievable action when the fish are concentrated in these warmer water regions.
For anglers and adventurists not interested in traveling to tropical destinations, a visit to Tukto Lodge will provide unparalleled beauty and some of the world’s best trophy lake trout fishing. When you add rare and unique wildlife, beautiful scenery, experienced guides and plenty of feisty Arctic grayling to the mix you have a recipe for one of North America’s most memorable and exciting angling adventures.
Notes of Interest About the Northwest Territories
- Capital: Yellowknife
- Area: 1,346,106 Km2, (519,734 sq mi)
- Population: 43,485 (est. 2011)
- Official Languages: Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey
- Considered the best place to view the auroroa borealis
- Nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer
Where To Toss The Bags
Getting to Tukto Lodge is remarkably easy considering its remote location. Guests must first travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where international flights arrive daily. From here a charter plane flies guests to the Kasba Lake Airstrip just across the NWT border. At this point a floatplane shuttles guests to the main camp at Mosquito Lake, arriving in time for lunch and an afternoon of fishing. Be sure to visit arcticfishing.com for more info on visiting the land of the midnight sun.