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First-Timer's Guide to Lake Nipigon, the Sixth Great Lake

All five of the Great Lakes have a shared border with our friends and neighbors to the north, with the exception of Lake Michigan which is entirely inside of U.S. territory. Lake Nipigon, on the other hand, is the largest lake fully within the borders of the province of Ontario, Canada, and it boasts of some of the world's best freshwater fishing.

Being that Ontario is Canada's second largest province at some 415,000 square miles, (Quebec is number one) and has an immense freshwater lake system, having Lake Nipigon as a center piece of freshwater angling is a feather in the cap for Canadians. But let's remember that, as an angling destination, Canada may have no match as an easy-to-get-to, welcoming, top-notch fishery.

Once any fisherman worth his or her salt takes a look at the map of this gigantic lake, they'll find themselves awestruck by all of the islands, bays, inlets, points, and shoals that Nipigon has to offer. Short of that, we'll take you on a little journey to her shores so that you will know a bit more about Lake Nipigon before you pick up the phone to make some reservations.

A Quick Roundup of Lake Nipigon

lake nipigon

Getty: ilbusca

Lake Nipigon is located entirely in the province of Ontario, Canada about 75 miles northeast of the city of Thunder Bay on Lake Superior. The surface area of the lake is roughly 1,800 square miles with a maximum depth of a whopping 540 feet, showing one of the reasons why the lake trout fishing here can be spectacular.

Did we mention the excellent moose hunting?

It is generally frozen from late November to early May, but the lake flows into the Nipigon River, (which then makes its way down to Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior) year round. Lake Nipigon is the largest tributary of Lake Superior, spilling millions of gallons into the big lake each year.

The lake is dotted with islands, the biggest of which are Caribou, Geikie, Murray, Murchison, Katatota, Kelvin, Logan and Shakespeare islands. The most frequently seen animals in the forests around the lake are foxes, beavers, martens, lynxes, deer, and moose. Add to that hawks, ospreys, and bald eagles just to name a few.

Interestingly, Lake Nipigon supports a large population of American white pelicans—one of the largest birds in North America and listed as a species of risk.

The Dams

Along the Nipigon River are located three different dams, making a possible journey from the big lake to Lake Superior by boat or other watercraft impossible. These include the Cameron Falls Dam, the Alexander Dam, and the Pine Portage Dam which was built in 1950.

These three dams are both responsible for making much needed hydro electricity and creating some of the best fishing in the world, in part by blocking the upstream migration of exotics such as sea lamprey, alewife, carp, brown trout, rainbow trout (neither native to Nipigon) and some salmon species.

One issue that the dams created is the partial decline in the brook trout fishery in some areas due to obvious changes in the water flows. Included in these areas is the world famous Gapen's Pool, a hotbed of traditional brook trout reproduction which was purchased in 2007 by Trout Unlimited Canada in an effort to protect the region's most famous resident: the coaster brook trout.

It is said that this is where the world famous Muddler Fly was born.

Excellent Fishing

Speaking of brook trout, we'd be remiss  if we didn't mention that the world-record brookie (speckled trout as some call them) was caught on the Nipigon River in 1915, a record that is still on the books today. It is said that the beast of a brook trout took a live minnow, but wasn't weighed in until many days later when the fish was brought to the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology in Toronto, Ontario. Some say that the 14.5 pound fish might have tipped the scales at 20 pounds had a proper scale been available at the time (before the fish dried out).

Those who routinely fish the main lake at Nipigon record excellent catches of northern pike, walleye, and lake trout. It might seem counterintuitive when talking about such species as pike and walleye, but to this day, Lake Nipigon is still one of the most pristine cold-water fisheries in the world.

When you see some of the pictures of wild caught brook trout that come from this incredible lake, your first thought might be that someone misnamed it in the caption, but rest assured, the brookies that routinely come from Lake Nipigon are really that big. But when you've laid your eyes on the photos of the northern pike, they may pop out of your head.

Add to that walleyes that come in to the net at sizes that push 25 inches, and you've got yourself into some of the best fishing in North America.

Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube.