Dolly Varden Char

Fish’N The Arctic Update

Well, Great Slave Lake is at an all-time record high water level, and the fishing has been absolutely amazing. The high water sure has played a big part in helping get my boat into places I could not go before due to the shallow water. It’s also causing me to go to places that I didn’t plan on going. As we know, the year started off not so great. But it is great to hear that the interest in fishing is on the rise and people have found new ways to come together.

For me, the season started in March, spending weekends isolated on the ice with my wife and kids, Ashleigh, Arizona and Hunter—oh, and Sugar, the dog, too! 

family ice fishing
Isolated ice fishing with the family in March/April.

We survived winds over 60 kilometres per hour and -40C temperatures while tucked away inside our monstrously huge pop-up ice hut. And we fished, ate food, and enjoyed long lazy days and nights on the ice, catching Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Burbot. Our government was prompting us to go out on the land to isolate, so we did. We went out every weekend. 

In one trip, I filled up every jerry can I have with gas to last us the season. And we fished right up until May when I had the opportunity to venture out on my own in search of a monster Lake Trout in an area that I had spent some time learning and mapping out the year before with my Garmin. 

Lake Trout ice fishing
My personal best through the ice, Giant Great Slave Lake Trout, web episode on YouTube my Channel.

Change of Plans

The season one premiere of Fish’N The Arctic was expected in March but was postponed until summer. And my subsequent plans for filming a second season became a bit of a pipe dream with everything going on in the world. So I went out solo with my cameras to see what I could find and make videos for YouTube with my cell phone and my new GoPro Max 360° camera.

ice fishing
Our winter home away from home.

There was slush everywhere, which made it tricky to ride my snowmobile and haul all my gear behind me in my Yukon Expedition toboggan—but I was on a mission. It was May 2nd, and the ice was beginning to melt, and it was only a matter of days before it would not be safe to travel on it. Once I got to the spot, I fired up the 10” Garmin GPSMap that I’d stolen out of my boat and rigged up on the sled so I could reference the map I’d made in the fall. After a slight adjustment based on the contours, it was time to set up home for the night, get things dried out, and prepare for the morning bite.  

It was midnight by the time I settled in, and the sun was still setting on the horizon as it was staying up longer each day as we approached Summer Solstice—when the sun is up all day. I didn’t sleep much; I’d left a line in the water with a bell attached, hoping to catch a Burbot or two. That sucker didn’t stop ringing all night, and I had a limit of Burbot on the ice before daybreak.  

Circle Hooks

I managed to get a bit of rest and then set up my tip-up on the shallow side of the hut near a pinch point of small islands where I’ve found some larger Trout to be travelling in the past. Using a big single circle hook attached to a giant Cisco that I caught for bait the previous fall, the line was set. I had recently read an article by Gord Pyzer about using Circle Hooks on your tip-ups to reduce the chances of fish swallowing the hook. I seldom use tip-ups for Trout because they have a bad habit of swallowing the bait down deep, often causing them to perish. But the Circle Hook has proven to change all of that for others, so I figured I would give it a try and hope for the best.

I continued to catch a few more Burbot, and then some Pike showed up and a small Lake Trout or two. 

The Battle Was On

I was dreaming in anticipation since I’d lost something huge earlier that morning. Something ate my Burbot as I was reeling it in, I think, and it was huge. But I never got to see it—or the Burbot, for that matter. I was kept busy by the rain. I was constantly dodging the drips and strategically positioning my gear inside the hut so it wouldn’t get wet.  

Then, as I peeked out to check if my flag was waving in the wind yet, it happened! My drag was screaming as I ran through the slush to get to my line. The battle was on. (I remembered not to set the hook but just to start reeling when using circle hooks.)

It was big. Really big. And the best part is, I was using an I-Fish Pro Tip-Up that allowed me to use my ice fishing rod to battle it out with this giant fish that quite possibly was not going to fit through the hole in the ice! 

Windows of Opportunity

The spring thaw hits quickly in the North when the sun is once again hanging high in the sky, allowing summer fishing adventures to seem like they never end. 

The high water opened up new areas to sight fish for giant Northern Pike as they sunbathe in the shallows between meals. It can be challenging dealing with the wind sometimes, but if you wait it out, you can be rewarded with perfect conditions from time to time. You just have to learn how to deal with the bugs.  

To increase my chances of catching these windows of opportunity, I camp out on the lake in my boat. And this year, I captured all my adventures on camera to share with you. At the end of my shallow water Pike season, things started to come together for the first season premiere of Fish’N The Arctic and the production of season two, so priorities changed a little. I had to develop a new plan quickly, and finishing the edits of my last few Pike trips took a back seat for the summer. But they should be out soon—the best is yet to come!

From One Adventure to the Next

In August of this year, Season One of Fish’N The Arctic premiered with NorthwesTel Community TV and began airing on Wild TV and The Water Channel on September 29th. It has been a rewarding experience, trying to figure out the production side of things and how to best capture my adventures on video. I’ve had the opportunity to experience some pretty incredible moments fishing in the Arctic over the last eight years and the biggest thing that I have learned is sometimes you just have to grind it out and keep trying. It will happen; you just have to be out there. 

Season One came with its challenges—the biggest being the weather, which often resulted in cancelled trips and missed opportunities. But we kept at it, made some adjustments on the fly, and put a few nice fish in the boat. All while taking in the views of the lake and capturing it all on video.

Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures

Shooting the second season, however, has been epic! I still expect to wake up from a dream at times. It all happened so fast. My amazing wife graciously altered her plans so I could head out for some back-to-back weekends of crazy fishing, not long after returning from the last fishing adventure. 

I teamed up with a local outfitter, Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures, and Captain Andrew Moore to get a taste of the fishing experiences that he provides to his guests. He was able to keep his business running by providing trips for Northwest Territories locals only due to the pandemic and the closed NWT border. The plan was to head out after his guiding season and check out his camp and fishing area. But due to the high water levels, winds, and the continual water input throughout the summer from the surrounding watersheds, the water conditions became more turbid than usual. Because of the sediment input from the high water, the fish seemed to have moved out or stopped biting.

pike with captain andrew moore of yellowknife sportfishing adventures
Filming Season Two with Captain Andrew Moore from Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures. One of many giant Pike on back-to-back casts, all in one episode.

A Bucket List Trip

Instead, we decided to set out on a trip that we had both been dreaming about for some time and ventured out to some further reaches of Great Slave Lake in search of clear water and big Lake Trout. We travelled over 700 kilometres by boat over four days of absolutely incredible fishing, giant Lake Trout and spectacular scenery. It seemed like we had the entire lake to ourselves. And for the whole boat ride home, we had glass-calm conditions, making for an even more stunning experience.

Dolly Varden Char
Dolly Varden Char from the Tree River. Last-minute trip, backpacking with a buddy for the weekend, and filming a YouTube Episode in the rain.

After that, I flew into a remote river on the Arctic Ocean coast in Nunavut with my good friend Mason. We backpacked a portion of the Tree River in pursuit of Arctic Char—in this case, a Dolly Varden strain of Char—while sleeping on the riverbank with the barren ground Grizzlies and Polar Bears. It was epic. And man, did we catch ’em! After a quick pitstop home, I was off on another adventure with Captain Andrew Moore. This time, for a Jet Boat River Fishing Adventure in his new guiding territory, chasing Trophy Northern Pike and Inconnu on a tributary of Great Slave Lake.

Inconnu
One of many Inconnu in Season Two. Non-stop action all day long. This spot will ruin you if you go there too often. Insane! I will be guiding there next season with Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures.

A Fisherman’s Dream Season

It was a fisherman’s dream season; I am still having a hard time believing it just happened. Everything aligned perfectly with the weather this year, and the fish definitely came out to play! A lot of hard work and planning went into making it all happen, and I could not have done it without the team I have working with me. You will be able to see it all go down in Season Two, Premiering on NorthwesTel in the near future. Until then, head on over to WILD TV to check out Season One of Fish’N The Arctic, brought to you by the Government of Northwest Territories Film Commission and NorthwesTel Community TV. Starting Tuesday, September 29th, episodes will air with Wild TV Tuesdays at 8:30 PM (EST), Wednesdays at 3:30 PM (EST) and Fridays at 8:30 AM (EST).

Oh, and I wrapped my boat with some fantastic artwork by Nick Laferrier, designed by Fish Wreck in Australia. Check them out if you’re in the market to make your boat stand out from the crowd!

I hope you enjoy the show. Fish on! 

Ryan Gregory

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