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Fishin' fantastic

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 22/05) - There she stands in the boat: a monster grin matching the monster lake trout that the angler - yet again! - has plucked from the generous waters of the Northwest Territories.

Casting a line anywhere in the NWT is a pretty good guarantee of reeling in something tasty for dinner and it seems there's no threat to the territory's reputation for world class lakes and rivers.

Favourite recipes:

Baked trout

Slice onions and potatoes and filet your choice of fish. Butter some tin foil and place a layer of onions on the bottom. Place fish over top and cover with ketchup (recipe author Trevor Wotherspoon explains this may frighten people, but the result is a mild tomato flavour with great texture). Layer potatoes over top and then onions. Fold foil and pinch around all the edges. Throw the package on the fire and when it puffs up after 10 minutes, turn and leave for another 10. Unwrap and enjoy.

Lemon pickerel

Filet pickerel. Place in plastic bag full of Lemon Shake and Bake. Shake and fry in butter. It's ready as soon as it flakes apart with a fork.

"That's our favourite fish recipe. You've always got a fire or barbecue and it doesn't take up much room for a box of Shake and Bake," said Collin Malewski, manager of Aurora Marketing and River Tours in Fort Providence.

"The fishing is pretty good this year, there's lots of fish," said Gerald Tutcho of Deline, explaining there was certainly no decline in fish stocks since previous years.

The 20-year-old reeled in a 40 pound trout on Great Bear Lake his first outing of the year, Father's Day.

Residents of Fort McPherson won't find themselves going hungry either.

"Quite a few of them (anglers) are having a good season," said life-long resident Abe Stewart, who explained plenty of coney, whitefish and pike have hit the community's barbecues.

When the respected elder heads out himself to cast a line, he needs only remember one secret, he said.

"Arctic Red River is about the best place for fishing."

When out on any of the thousands of NWT lakes and rivers, one lure gets mentioned time and again as a necessary tool for any tackle box.

"There's been a white flat fish working really well and of course the five of diamonds," said Mike Hill, manager of the Kasba Lake Lodge near the Nunavut, NWT, Manitoba border who's been host to more than 130 visitors since mid-June.

Made in Alberta, the five of diamonds tend to fly off the shelves at Collin Malewski's fishing supply store in Fort Providence.

"They're a really good selling spoon," he said, recommending sizes 00-4.

If bait is more your style, Karen Taggart recommends ciscos, a small type of herring.

"They're the way to go," said the Yellowknife resident who explained she actually had two fish bite on one cisco in the east arm of Great Slave Lake last week.

"They're slimy little things but they work."

For trophy-size swimmers, Brabant Island on the west shore of Great Slave Lake near the mouth of the Mackenzie, and the Sahtu's Great Bear Lake, often top the list, but there are many others:

The bay of Prelude Lake - east of Yellowknife - has great trout fishing, according to Stephanie Berube of NWT Tourism.

Trevor Wotherspoon says Akaitcho Bay of Great Slave Lake is a good spot for pike.

To snag some pickerel, Malewski feels the Horn River or Kakisa Lake are the places to be, whereas Mills Lake, with its weeds, is home to its own monsters.

"There's big jackfish in there."

But though fish are anxious to bite and tranquil lodges dot NWT's rugged landscape, the number of tourists who visit the North simply to fish has been on a steady decline since 2000, going to a projected 4,141 for 2005, from 4,355 five years earlier.

"We've seen the numbers decrease at a rate of one per cent a year for non-resident fishers," said Sarah Trim.

The co-ordinator of research and planning for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment said an aging population and the trend of more family-style vacations has led to fewer anglers travelling north.

"It's not just the NWT, it's nationwide."

The GNWT initiated a survey this year to identify problems within the industry.

Operators believe, however, that the GNWT has not invested enough money or effort to promote recreational fishing after the 9-11 attacks impacted all areas of travel.

"I would like to see a recovery effort like they did with the aurora business," said Robin Wotherspoon, owner/operator of Watta Lake Lodge, who's had 20 guests so far this season and expects business to pick up a bit in August.

"They need to promote this business."