Arctic Char Fishing on Somerset Island
On the shores of the Northwest Passage, Somerset Island offers unique arctic char fishing opportunities. Many of the lakes and rivers on the island, when in season, are inhabited by Arctic char, both landlocked and sea-run. The Arctic char, or Salvelinus alpinus, is a cold-water fish of the Salmonidae family. It is a circumpolar fish that inhabits almost all regions of the Arctic. There are two species of Arctic char native to Somerset Island and the surrounding Northwest Passage: sea-run and landlocked Arctic char.
Sea-run: the largest of the species, the sea-run Arctic char are born in lakes on Somerset Island. The Arctic char spawns from September to November in lakes with rocky shoals and gravel bottoms. The average female char will deposit between 3,000 and 5,000 eggs in a spawning cycle. Arctic char do not die after spawning like salmon and will often spawn throughout their lives, typically every second or third year. As the fish reach about 6 inches in length (after about 5 to 7 months), they will swim down to the ocean (in the spring) where they spend the summer gorging themselves in the rich Arctic ocean waters. Arctic char have been known to live over 25 years! A sea-run Arctic char's diet consists of (other char), smaller fish such as Arctic cod, insects, shrimp, crill and more. Come autumn (August through October), the Arctic char will return to the lake for the winter. Spwaning Arctic char will spend an entire year in the lake, not swimming down to the ocean.
A mature arctic char during the spring run to the Arctic ocean, caught and released on an 8-weight fly rod.
Land-locked arctic char: Land-locked arctic char is the smaller cousin of the sea-run arctic char. The name effectively implies the difference - this fish lives its entire life in the lake in which it was born. The land-locked Arctic char is extremely cannibalistic (and omnivorous), often small lakes with no more then the actual char themselves! These aggressive fish are generally smaller due to the limited food sources (available) and size of the environment in which it lives. In the winter months, both species will feed on zooplankton and fresh water shrimp.
Catch these gorgeous fish is a memorable experience! Here are a few spots on the island that offer great fishing!
Most of the locations are accessible from Arctic Watch. We are also proud to offer a sea-run Arctic char fishing experience by fly-in access to the southern tip of Somerset island. This optional experience is combinable with a stay at Arctic Watch - read more under "custom": www.ArcticWatch.ca/adventure
Fishing gear required:
Fly fishing: We recommend a minimum of an 8-weight fly rod with two lines - a fast sinking line and a floating line with medium sinking tip. While several fly patterns work well, look for orange, yellow, purple and red streamers! Sized 2 to 6 Mickey Finns, Muddler Minnows, Zonkers, Wolly Buggers, Rabbit Strip leeches in red, yellow, orange. Arctic char are aggressive fish (on Somerset) that have no fishing pressure (have never been fished for by humans before) and therefore react differently to southern fish who see lures regularly.
Spin fishing: We recommend pixie lures in red, silver, gold and pink. A casting rod with at least 100 meters of line is recommended. We suggest braided 20 pound line.
Chest waders: recommend for sea-run Arctic char fishing, but optional - alot of the fishing locations are close to the shorelines for lakes/rivers and ocean fishing.
Smiles while out fishing for land locked Arctic char (at Inukshuk lake) near Arctic Watch. Credit: David Merron