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Home Story A Guide to Fishing Vocabulary in the NWT

A Guide to Fishing Vocabulary in the NWT

If you’re planning your fishing trip in the Northwest Territories for the upcoming season, you’re well on your way to discovering why the NWT is at the top of the list for many avid anglers and fly fishing enthusiasts. The Northwest Territories has a reputation for having some of the most remarkable fishing in the world.  Deep lakes, crystal clear waters, and long summer days attract people from all around the world, many of whom make the trip an annual tradition.

Over time, fishing folk in the NWT have developed lingo and slang as unique as the landscape itself. If you want to sound like a true Northern angler, or at least keep pace with the play-by-play of your fellow fishers, here’s a quick guide on some of the NWT’s most popular  fishing vocabulary: 

Coney: Short for Inconnu. This silvery freshwater fish is closely related to the Whitefish, but can grow to be much, much larger. These giants are a prized catch in the NWT, and the star of many suspenseful fishing tales. You’ll definitely feel like telling everyone you meet if you’ve just come back from reeling in a Coney.

Jack: Not to be confused with jack meaning “nothing” – as in “We cast all day and still came home with jack”. Jack in the NWT is short for Jackfish, which is a colloquial term for our monstrous northern pike—the feisty, sharp-toothed fighter found across the NWT, often in shallow waters. They’re big, they’re mean and they’re not picky eaters, so if you cast a line in just about any body of water up here, you will go home with Jack in the best way.

Jigging: This can mean two things. When you drop a lure into the water and jiggle and wriggle it up and down to attract a fish, that’s jigging. Jigging is also a lively and festive dance, where feet quickly fly forward and back and up and down. Both are considered art forms in the NWT—you’ll understand why when you see a real pro in action. And who knows, you might even celebrate a successful jig with a jig.

Jumbo: Just like what it sounds — this term is used in many NWT communities to describe an exceptionally large fish. Fishing has always been a part of life in the communities around the NWT. With so many waterways connecting spectacular lakes and sprawling rivers, nearly everyone has a fishing story or two about their first jumbo catch from the waters of the NWT. Head back into town after an absolutely bountiful fishing day trip and find good company to celebrate with – you just caught a jumbo! 

Loche: This is what many folks in the NWT call a Burbot. It’s a fish with a face that only its mother could love, but burbot are the world’s only freshwater Cod and they make for good eating. You can find this fish on the menu at Yellowknife’s famed Bullock’s Bistro under Great Slave Cod.

Lunker: Essentially, a really large fish. Think a monster lake trout in Great Bear Lake or a line-busting northern pike in Great Slave Lake. You’re probably catching on that there are a lot of ways to describe big fish in the NWT – another hint that big fish  is what we are famous for! When you’re spinning your spectacular story to the gathered crowd at an all-inclusive fishing lodge, you’ll find yourself grasping for the words to truly convey how big your catch was. Drop the word “lunker” with the same full-armed weight as the catch itself and you’ll understand why we have so many terms.

Pickerel: You might call them Walleye where you’re from — and technically you’d be correct — but in the NWT, we’ve long called this large, spiked dorsal-finned fish from the perch family Pickerel. (You may also hear walleye referred to as “dinner.”)

Sled: A snow machine or snowmobile — it’s probably how you got out to your ice fishing spot.

Take it easy: How to respond to people you think might be exaggerating the size of their trophy catch. Although be careful when you say it, as someone may just call your bluff – the NWT is known for producing some gargantuan lake trout and absolutely monstrous pike. What sounds like a tall tale may actually just be a true account of coming face-to-face with one of these colossal lake denizens. 

And there are also “fartknockers,” which anglers aren’t keen to boast about. Popularized in the NWT by the Yellowknifer newspaper’s Fishin’ Technician, this term describes the small, run-of-the-mill northern pike you aren’t exactly excited about catching.

Keen to make the catch of a lifetime? From the Arctic Ocean to a Barrenland brook, your fishing trip in the Northwest Territories will reward you with colossal fish, record-number catches, and an unbelievable story. Read more here to get the “who’s who” of fish species in the Northwest Territories.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Northwest Territories has endless opportunities for the best Northern and Arctic fishing in Canada. Be prepared to break a few personal records.

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