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Moosebunk

Some Planning for Arctic Char...

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Passing some time preparing for an upcoming work/play trip to the Arctic and thought maybe it'd make a decent post...


During the early winter some may remember I spent time up in a remote Nunavut community called Kugaaruk (aka Pelly Bay)




Wanting to see much more of Nunavut, especially Baffin, while working up there this past winter I found that the community and people were absolutely incredible, and the landscape to be much more rugged and inspiring than other places typically found within many western Kitikmeot region towns.


It was said that May and June are the best months for ice fishing. That by mid to end of June most of the snow is off the land and the rivers are flowing to the mouths of the Arctic ocean. First week or two of July the ocean and lake shorelines thaw, icepack breaks and arctic char fishing can be done just by casting the shallow shorelines or by hopping on ice chunks and jigging between the cracks. By third week of July the char enter the rivers and begin their push upstream to spawning grounds. For the coming weeks more and more enter. Best week I was told was usually the third week of July and the following two weeks. Any earlier and the fishing can be good as well but, the bugs are so horrendous that most people prefer to stay indoors. Any later and the mass of the fish have pushed too far up and away and don’t actively feed.


When I got the call to go for the fourth week of July I asked to come a little earlier, by just four days. With 24 hours of daylight there will be plenty hours to fish and explore and, that little stretch before beginning the busy work schedule should allow for some local fun. It was an extremely poor winter there with a well below average snowfall and some milder than usual temps in December and January so, I'm not sure how this will affect things overall.


Been fortunate enough in the past to fish the Tree River for char. For those unfamiliar, the Tree holds the world record char (34lbs) and about 35 of 50 line class records as well. Every year numerous 20+ pound char are caught at the Tree and the odd time a 30+ as well. The bulk of it's fish are actually rare mutants more closely related to dolly varden than char found anywhere else known. Fish studies I have read show the Tree's char share a genetic link to dollies found in about 75% of the fish tested from that river and area. This gives them exceptional crimson colors and allows growth to enormous proportions. Only a handful of other rivers in the Coronation Gulf (such as the Coppermine) of the Arctic Ocean have fish similar to those found in the Tree, but none of them have the same level of high percentage genetic traits linking them more closely to dolly varden.


The Kugaaruk River does not have these rare giant Tree char but instead has only the generic char found around the rest of the northern world. The people of Kugaaruk boast their char are the best tasting in the region though, the reason being is they have higher hillier lands with clearer water lakes and fast flowing rivers.


Char on the Kugaaruk I believe average around 3 to 7lbs with chance of catching fish ranging up to 12lbs. An enormous specimen could push into the low 20's but I'm not holding my breath. Being fresh from the salt they are often much more chrome and also much more feisty. Different people had told me that at the right time and place around town, I could expect a few fish to a dozen or two in the span of an afternoon. I am surely hoping my timing for those four days works out because my on-call and work schedule following runs about 5-6 days at 100 hours per week leaving much less time for play.


Within 40km of Kugaaruk there are five other major rivers that flow into Pelly Bay. One young man I had met last time there promised if I return he would take me to a place where it's char after char on every cast. Surely hoping to see him. Others had said to keep my head up and jump on board with people heading out to caribou or whale hunt. If time only permits.


One thing not sure of is how safe going out on the land alone will be. In the winter it was mostly okay, but now I’d expect the polar bears won't be at the floe edge hunting seals but rather on land waiting for the ice to return. Packs of Arctic wolves could be a consideration as well. Thankfully, there's no barren ground grizzlies, venomous snakes or terrorists around. All this is speculation until arriving there really.


During this morning I packed up some odds and ends and also poured over Google Earth to orientate myself a little better with the Kugaaruk River.


Summer16-008_zpspzisxyln.jpg


The river is quite wide, looking to be anywhere from 50 to 250 meters although shallow in many stretches. There are no plans to take fly fishing gear. In the selection of lures I have about 40-50 spoons ranging 1/3 to 7/8 ounces. Pixies, Devle Dogs, Cleos, Strobes and Krocodiles make up the majority of heavy options, with a few other randos like Cyclops, Williams, Mepps spinners and some old Rocket Shads that can be cast a mile too. All the heavier spoons have a single siwash hook for safer retrieves as the river bottom is all jagged rock. Secondly, I packed about 40 jigheads in the 3/8 to 3/4oz range. The Jig-a-Joes with the long shank and wider gap are my favorite choice to tip with 4 to 5-inch twister tails and even white tube jigs.


Decided to take three spinning rods for travel. The Fenwick Methods is one I picked up recently. Plenty options out there the reason this one got me is, it's a 3-piece stick with 5 pieces. Having choice of a medium or medium heavy power, moderate to extra fast action, and the safety added with two tip sections and two mid sections in case of accident, it was by far the most practical and best rod by price point I looked at. Options of 6-14 or 10-17 pound line rating for bombing 1/4 to 1 ounce lures is perfect for many applications. It has been tested on saltwater and it performed great. Another I have packed is a Norwegian Lawson 8 1/2 foot 5-piece rod. A medium power and moderate/fast action rated for 6-12lb line and 1/4 to 7/8 ounce lures, it was a gift I have been aching to use for throwing spoons to river char. Lastly, I packed a 5 1/2 foot, 2-piece 4-8lb test light action Ugly Stick. It can be bent into my suitcase and used as back up or for someone else. On 3000 series spinning reels I'll run 15lb PowerPro to probably a 12 floro leader on the Lawson and 15 to 20lb PowerPro to a 15lb leader on the Fenwick. Will keep 10 and 20lb floro handy in case and another reel spooled with 30lb test.


The area to be explored for char breaks down into a few sections that can be accessed by foot from town or by vehicle dropoff. A road out of town stretches about 25-30 kilometers to an abandoned D.E.W. site. Much of it follows or connects with sections of the river until reaching Barrow Lake. The towns people don't fish Barrow much as they believe the D.E.W. site dumped toxins into the lake affecting the lake trout which reside there. Supposedly though, the 17km long by 4km wide lake has big ole greys that can reach the 40 pound range. I'm also wanting to pack my float tube for this lake and the ocean in front of town but don't think freight wise it will work out.


KugaarukRiver4_zpsfheqdnzf.jpg


The route is shown above and the breakdown of the river fell into three sections.


Section 1 is around town. From the apartment I can walk approximately five kilometers and hit all areas of interest marked 1 to 10. Some deeper pools above and below runs and rapids, the #8 point is at the community's water intake about 3 km's out of town. Praying the fish are here to make life easy and safe.


KugaarukRiver1_zpsrdw8ihci.jpg


Section 2 begins about 12km out of town. A bridge at point 17, if able I could use a vehicle or hitch a ride up. From points 11 to 18 is another 5km or so stretch of river. At spot 15 the Kugaaruk forks. The main channel goes onward to site 16 where it forks again above a set of rapids and travels far to an unnamed tundra lake about 11X4km long. At 15/16 though, it is this area where essentially two new rivers join the main and I'm not sure which one continues on as the Kugaaruk but, what appears the shallowest of them all follows the road onward to Barrow Lake. Spots 17 and 18 could be a bust if the bulk of the fish continue on at 15 to the northeast beyond spot 16, although Barrow 17X4kms and another unnamed lake 12X4km's both feed the system to the southeast and would be a draw to char looking to maybe spawn in lakes. Regardless, the bends in the river, the rapids and the joining of several rivers around spots 15 and 16 make it worth checking out.


KugaarukRiver2_zpsmjud7csq.jpg


Section 3 is where the river meets Barrow Lake. Points 18-22 are less than 3 kilometers apart. I half expect that lakers will be caught here from shore above and below the bridge across. One would drive in from the N.E. heading S.W. and spot 18 where the deep pool below the bridge exits into a long, wide and shallow stretch of the river is only about 150 meters off the road. Driving on to the bridge a rapid exists between points 20 and 21 and I'm hoping there to find at the very least some lakers in the current. Spot 22 is just a shallow point I can wade out on and hopefully cast long into some depths of Barrow Lake.


KugaarukRiver3_zps8jm6w7ik.jpg


Where, when, how far and even if the char will migrate and how far beyond town in what direction remains to be known. With my waders and boots on and the back pack loaded with snacks, bug dope, one tackle tray, some plastics, tools, reels, camera and two attached rods at a time, I'll surely feel like a little kid out there trying to figure it out.


Looking forward to work this summer...

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Can't wait to read the report when you get back. Arctic Char are very high on my fishing list, just need to plan my way up there one day!

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bunk...can i tell that you are excited? you dropped the report on us before even leaving!

 

jealousy doesnt begin to describe the envy that most of feel towards the opportunity you are presented with.

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One of my best times char fishing was casting from shore on islands about 10 miles or so out in the Coronation Gulf out of Kugluktuk NT. What a hoot it was pitching spoons into the ocean and having big feisty chrome char smoke your lures.

Most were heading East to ascend the Coppermine River. Biggest we got that day was about 15#'s or so.

Good times. :)

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One of my best times char fishing was casting from shore on islands about 10 miles or so out in the Coronation Gulf out of Kugluktuk NT. What a hoot it was pitching spoons into the ocean and having big feisty chrome char smoke your lures.

Most were heading East to ascend the Coppermine River. Biggest we got that day was about 15#'s or so.

Good times. :)

 

That'd work for me too Dave... if only...

 

Was offered some work in Gjoa H and Kug this summer but it couldn't fit availability. Would love to swing it to Kug one summer, do those islands maybe, jump over to the Tree but more importantly make the long trek up to the Bloody. Cam Bay would be mint too... but so would anywhere really. As long as their a need for my trade and these windows I'll be dreaming and scheming about ways to make it happen. Beautiful country as you know.

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11 days till we leave for nfld. Dad knows one of the only places on the island to catch arctic char. We are gonna giver a whirl. Ive caught them there before, but they were small.

 

Looks like you have a great trip planned man! Cant wait to hear about it!

 

S.

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bunk...can i tell that you are excited?

 

A wee bit man, just a wee bit.

 

11 days till we leave for nfld. Dad knows one of the only places on the island to catch arctic char. We are gonna giver a whirl. Ive caught them there before, but they were small.

 

Looks like you have a great trip planned man! Cant wait to hear about it!

 

You and Lori have a great trip too bud. Would be cool to see some Newfie char.

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Polar Bears...everything I have read of them makes them sound highly dangerous, even more so then grizzlies. Forget the wolves, PB go long periods of time without eating so they are motivated! They will stalk you for miles, and isn't the summer the feeding season cause those darn seals don't have to pop their heads up out of the ice? It sounds like a dream but you better be packing.

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Like the other guys said, it's obvious you're chomping at the bit Bunk. Who wouldn't be.

 

I would try to borrow a 12 gauge from somebody up there and keep checking over your shoulder.

 

Good luck Bunk, hopefully the fish are in, looking forward to reading about the adventure.

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In the Arctic, bear time is anytime, at least that is what I have found in my travels, always pays to be alert

 

but just to clear up : summer the feeding season ? comment...............Polar bears are the only bear that do NOT hibernate = they ESTIVATE !!!!!!!!! Their main feeding season is the winter and they slow way down during the summer...but that does not mean they would pass on a free meal walking by them :-i

 

ROOK

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I should have said that summer time is when they often go without a meal for long periods of time, hence the motivation. They hunt with their noses and can smell a seal a mile away buried under the snow. Bunk is going to smell like one giant Big Mac with his love of bacon, cheese, and other fats.

 

Other interesting facts, the large males can take off your head with one swipe of their paw and they usually kill their victims by crushing their heads in their jaws. They also like to sneak up on unsuspecting fishermen too engrossed in arctic char. They will spend hours waiting and moving stealthy closer to their prey before they charge.

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Polar Bears...everything I have read of them makes them sound highly dangerous, even more so then grizzlies. Forget the wolves, PB go long periods of time without eating so they are motivated! They will stalk you for miles, and isn't the summer the feeding season cause those darn seals don't have to pop their heads up out of the ice? It sounds like a dream but you better be packing.

 

Some tidbits from online resources...

 

The Gulf of Boothia (GB) polar bear subpopulation is one of the largest in Canada and is managed entirely by Nunavut. The most recent demographic study on the GB subpopulation estimated the mean total number for the 1998-2000 study period to be 1,592 (± 361) bears. A new 3-year research project was initiated in 2015 to provide updated information on the abundance of bears in GB. This mark-recapture study differs from the previous studies that relied on chemical immobilization of all bears for capture and marking. This study does not involve capture of bears but instead utilizes DNA extracted from tissue samples obtained using biopsy darts to uniquely identify individuals. The sub-population abundance estimate and status will be assessed by means of genetic mark-recapture. Between 29 April and 26 May 2015, we spent 96 hours of helicopter flight time searching for polar bears. Most of the GB subpopulation range was surveyed but poor weather and logistical constraints limited the intensity of the coverage of the whole area. We flew a total distance of approximately 11,737 km searching for polar bears. A total of 185 bears (in 115 groups) of various age classes and both sexes were encountered, of which 152 were successfully biopsied. The rate of sampling averaged 1.8 bears per hour of search time. The number of bears encountered during the spring of 2015 was equivalent to approximately 10% of the previous 1998-2000 mark-recapture population estimate currently used for harvest management. However, until genetic results are available it is impossible to discern how many different individual bears were encountered. General impressions from the first year of sampling suggested that polar bears were abundant and in good condition in GB. Preliminary habitat use analysis showed that polar bear densities were higher than expected in active pack ice and lower than expected in shore fast ice. Seal observations suggested that shore fast ice was preferred by seals while they avoided inactive pack ice. Seal kill densities were higher than expected in active pack ice and brash ice (found mainly as a transition between shore fast ice and active pack ice) but lower than expected in shore fast ice. Preparations are under-way for the second field season which will begin in April of 2016.

 

Kugaaruk is in GB... see the link... https://polarbearscience.com/2013/06/18/gulf-of-boothia-unheralded-arctic-utopia-has-the-highest-density-of-polar-bears-worldwide/

map3_en.jpg

 

Like the other guys said, it's obvious you're chomping at the bit Bunk. Who wouldn't be.

 

I would try to borrow a 12 gauge from somebody up there and keep checking over your shoulder.

 

Good luck Bunk, hopefully the fish are in, looking forward to reading about the adventure.

 

Thanks bud. Will see about a gun or even a local guide for sure. Everything I think I know about timing, the fishing, the land and such isn't by any means personal experience yet. Hope luck is on my side as everything may need to align just right for me to have the time to even catch a fish or two. Whatever happens though, it'll be a month in the arctic and surely better than sitting in my cool basement pounding on a keyboard. lol.

 

In the Arctic, bear time is anytime, at least that is what I have found in my travels, always pays to be alert

 

but just to clear up : summer the feeding season ? comment...............Polar bears are the only bear that do NOT hibernate = they ESTIVATE !!!!!!!!! Their main feeding season is the winter and they slow way down during the summer...but that does not mean they would pass on a free meal walking by them :-i

 

ROOK

 

There's no messing around anytime. If they want a human for dinner they'll eat a human for dinner. No gun, I'll have to play safe and keep my head up. Thankfully the tundra this time of year is green, grey and flowery and a polar bear is still a giant, white, moving snowball out of place in July.

 

How much does a flight cost and what do you want me to bring?

 

 

 

You don't want to know. ;)

 

Somewhere around $4K

 

Today's best rate with taxes, booking fees and out of Ottawa to Kugaaruk return about $5200. The employer will buy my ticket but not a second one, for anyone.

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