Even the geographically savvy are often surprised to learn that Canada’s centre-point is 62 degrees north, 96 degrees west—near the hamlet of Arviat, NU. There’s a lot of land up there: Nunavut and the Northwest Territories comprise one-third of our country’s total area. Within these expansive northern lands, there’s a lot of water, which for the travelling angler equates to alot of fish.
Plummer’s Arctic Lodges opened its first fish camp inthe Northwest Territoriesmore than 70 years ago. Today, Great Bear Lake Lodge is the heart of its operation—a famous fly-in camp built right atop the Arctic Circle, on the shores of a body of water that’s bigger than Belgium.
“Great Bear Lake is the largest unpolluted body of freshwater in the world, and all the world-record lake trout have come from there,” explains Chuk Coulter, general manager of Plummer’s Arctic Lodges. “We’re the only operator on the lake… We’re all catch-and-release with barbless hooks, so we’re not impacting the fishery very much at all.”
The “lakers” (lake trout) are leviathans—the heftiest verified catch weighed 32.65 kg (72 lb). There’s always a chance that one of the lodge’s 300 annual guests will break this record: after 20 years of catch-and-release management, Coulter says, “the fishing keeps getting better.”
Plummer’s is also the only operator with access to Nunavut’s remote Tree River. Rushing into the Arctic Ocean’s Coronation Gulf, this rough-and-tumble waterway is home to every Arctic char world record.
“Most people who go there say it’s one of the most beautiful places they’ve seen in their lives,” says Coulter. “The word ‘magical’ comes up a lot… it’s a turquoise oasis in a barren landscape. It’s tough to compare to the Tree River.”
High Arctic Lodge sits one step closer to the North Pole, at a staggering 70 degrees north on Nunavut’s Victoria Island. Founded by famed northern bush pilot Don Hamilton and his wife Marlene in 1971, today their son Fred and his wife Dawn host char-chasing anglers in the realm of caribou and muskox. Fish grow slowly in the frigid, pristine waterways flowing into Hadley and Wellington bays, some 500 km (310 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. To help preserve this valued resource, High Arctic Lodge guides have been practising catch-and-release for the past four decades. They are true pioneers of this method.
In his 17th-century opus, The Compleat Angler, author Izaak Walton wrote: “Tis not all fishing to fish.” This is especially true beyond the Arctic Circle: surrounded by the barren grounds, beneath the midnight sun and virtually atop the world, angling quickly becomes secondary to the experience at large.
Or—maybe—call it a tie.
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