Many of Nunavut’s rivers are fast flowing, with turbulent rapids and deep water, which run ice-cold even in midsummer. Felt-soled insulated waders will help you navigate the slippery, uneven and rocky terrain of rivers, lake shorelines and coastal waters. It’s always a good idea to fish with a partner rather than alone, and let someone know where you are going and what time you are expected back.
Tidal fluctuations in Nunavut can be as high as 12 m. When fishing along the coast or tidal estuaries be wary of the fast-rising tide that can cut off access to the mainland. If you put down a pack, rod or gear along the water’s edge be sure to move it up the shoreline as the tide rises.
Although the ice is very thick in winter throughout Nunavut, most ice fishing takes place in the spring as temperatures warm. Always avoid narrows and areas of current. Watch for dark patches, especially during a thaw, which can indicate weak and rotting ice.
If you go through the ice, a pair of handheld ice picks allow you to claw back out; bringing a portable stove, shelter, food, beverage and a complete change of clothes will enable you to re-warm.
Unless you are experienced travelling the Arctic in winter, it’s best to secure the services of a guide or outfitter with knowledge of ice conditions.
No matter what the season, when out on the land in Nunavut, it’s important to realize that, if you are in a remote environment and if something does go wrong, it could be an extended period of time before rescue or emergency services arrive on the scene.
Frostbite is damage to skin after exposure to cold temperatures, usually occurring on hands, feet, ears or face. The early stage of frostbite is often called frostnip and can be detected by tingling, throbbing or numbness. Frostnip may also be visible as white patches of numb skin. The best way to avoid frostbite is to warm the affected area as soon as frostnip is detected.
Intermediate frostbite involves increasing tissue damage after longer exposure to the cold. Skin may feel hard and frozen. More advanced stages of deep frostbite can affect skin, muscle, bones and nerves and require immediate medical attention.
Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. When the balance between the body’s heat production and heat loss tips toward heat loss for a prolonged period, hypothermia can occur. Confusion, fatigue, drowsiness and shivering are signs of hypothermia.
Treat hypothermia by getting the victim indoors and slowly restoring warmth by getting them in dry clothing and wrapping them in blankets. Give the person warm fluids to drink and get them to a hospital or community health centre where health care providers will continue warming efforts, including providing intravenous fluids and warm, moist oxygen.
Safety in Bear Country
Nunavut is home to polar bears and grizzly bears. When you travel in Nunavut you travel in bear country. Polar bears are found from the southern reaches of Hudson’s Bay up to the permanent pack ice of the Arctic islands. They live mainly on sea ice or within a few kilometers of the coast but have been seen as far as 150 km inland. Grizzly bears can be found throughout the Kivalliq Region and in large portions of the Kitikmeot Region. Polar bears and barren land grizzly bears are extremely dangerous animals! Both species are strong and fast on ice, land and in water.
To safely enjoy Nunavut it’s important to dress for the conditions. In winter, the severe cold is intensified by wind and blowing snow. Average January temperatures range from -20°C along Southern Baffin Island to -37°C along Northern Ellesmere island. Footwear: Waterproof insulated snow boots rated to minimum of -40C and wool, mohair or synthetic socks. Hand wear: Windproof insulated mittens of nylon and fleece or hide and animal fur. Head wear: Wool, fur or thermal hat, full facial mask, neck warmer or scarf, sunglasses, ski goggles. Body wear: Goose down filled parka designed for the Arctic with hood and fur trim, windproof insulated snow pants and an initial layer of thermal underwear. Average July temperatures range from from 10°C on the southern mainland to 2°C farther north but snow flurries do occur in summer. Arrive equipped with hats, gloves and a selection of windproof/waterproof and insulating layers.
Nunavut Airlines generally allow two checked bags, free of charge, each weighing up to 44 pounds or more depending on the airline and whether the destination is served by a jet or turboprop aircraft.
The airlines serving Nunavut are fishermen friendly, allowing fishing equipment – one rod case, one landing net, one pair of boots and a tackle box – to be considered as one item and substituted for one of the two free checked pieces of baggage.
Rods should be packed in rigid cases or sturdy PVC rod tubes. Rod tubes over 161 cm or 5’3” will be charged an oversized baggage fee of $75 or more so it makes more sense to bring two-piece rods in a rod case or tube of less than five feet as part of checked baggage. Check with the airline you are flying for specifics.
Consider packing lures in individual compact plastic containers that slide into a soft sided tackle bag as well as a fly vest stocked with individual plastic or metal fly boxes. Once in Nunavut – when travelling on the land by ATV, snowmobile or on foot – have your gear in portable and rugged containers that are easily strapped down.
Fishing Supplies in Nunavut
There’s always room for a few more lures in the tackle box. If you want to check out the local favorites or you forgot a favorite of your own, there are usually fishing supplies available in Nunavut, even in most remote communities.
Arctic Co-operatives Limited (www.arcticco-op.com) operates Co-op stores in virtually every Nunavut community. Similarly the Northwest Company (www.northwest.ca) has a North Mart and/or Northern Store in most communities throughout Nunavut. These and other retail outlets all offer a limited supply of spinning rods/reels, monofilament line and lures. When visiting a lodge a selection of proven lures for the particular waterway is usually available.