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Fartknockers and Lunkers: An NWT Fishing Vocabulary

A woman holds a fish on a lake in the Northwest Territories

Fartknockers and Lunkers: An NWT Fishing Vocabulary

Gasp. A bite!
Whzzzz. Your reel spins like mad as the fish takes off with your line.
Oooooooh. You catch the first fleeting glimpse of the magnificent beast.
Slap! Its body breaches the water as it fights.
Ahhh. A satisfied sigh as you hold your prize in your hands.
These are the universal sounds of a successful day out fishing. But when you want to talk about this magnificent experience in the Northwest Territories, you may come across some words that aren’t so familiar. Knowing the local lingo is key to maintaining your cred around the campfire or at the bar when you’re giving a play-by-play of the big moment. So here are some terms to use to talk like a true NWT'er when spinning your Spectacular story:

a woman smiles while fishing in a boat in the Northwest Territories

Coney: Short for inconnu. This silvery freshwater fish is closely related to the whitefish, but can grow to be much, much larger. You’ll definitely feel like boasting if you reel in a coney.

Fartknocker: Popularized around here by Yellowknifer newspaper’s Fishin’ Technician, this describes the small, run-of-the-mill Northern pike you aren’t exactly over-the-moon about catching.

A man catches a giant jackfish in the Northwest Territories

Jack: No, this doesn’t mean you’ve come up empty. Jack is short for jackfish, which is another colloquial term for Northern pike—the feisty, sharp-toothed fighter found across the Northwest Territories, 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.

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 artforms by their practitioners—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 it sounds—this term is used in many NWT communities to describe an exceptionally large fish.

two men hold a giant pike on a lake in the Northwest Territories

Loche: This is what many folks in the NWT call burbot. A fish with a face that only its mother could love, burbot are the world’s only freshwater cod and they make for good eating. You can find it 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. Yeah, the Northwest Territories is kind of famous for its lunkers.

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’.)

a person is ice fishing in the northwest territories

Photo Credit: Martina Gebrovska/Blachford Lake Lodge

Sled: A snowmachine—it’s probably how you got out to your ice fishing spot.

Take it easy: How to respond to someone you think might be exaggerating the size of their trophy catch.

Ready to set out on your next NWT fishing adventure? Check out these great packages to get you started. 

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