Here is artist Wally Stefoff's imaginative depiction of Canada’s top game fish. From west to' east: TYEE SALMON, a tourist whose ocean travels are legendary. RAINBOW-KAMLOOPSSTEELHEAD trout, a jet-set speedster with the lure. LAKE TROUT, a withdrawn citizen of the deeps. GRAYLING, whose distinctive flag flew long before Canada’s. WALLEYE, one of thev few gregarious lake fish. PIKE, the gangster of the weed beds. ARCTIC CHAR, the Eskimo of the fish world. BLACK BASS, the middleweight champ of Ontario lakes. SPECKLED TROUT, the coy darling of fly fishermen. ATLANTIC SALMON, the high-flying king of fish. STRIPED BASS, whose big appetite is the angler’s delight. TUNA, the strong man of the coastal seas.
TO SPEAK OF ANGLING is to speak of Canada, because few, if any, other lands favor the sportsman with such a variety and distribution of game fish. Between the tyee salmon of the Pacific Coast salt water and the bluefin tuna of Atlantic shores, Canada is one kingsize freshwater fishing hole containing varieties literally too numerous to mention. So let’s arbitrarily look at an even dozen of the most glamorous:
Tyee salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), largest of the five species of salmon in Canadian waters. Only two — the tyee, and the smaller coho — are the Pacific salmon of angling importance. The tyee (Siwash Indian for chief) occasionally exceeds 60 pounds, but the average is eighteen to twenty pounds. Usual method of angling is by trolling with plugs, spoons, flashers, or baitfish, but at times fly and spin fishermen take them in streams and brackish water.
Kamloops trout (Salmo gairdneri), alias rainbow trout, alias (in sea-going form) steelhead. A steelhead may grow to better than thirty-five pounds; a Kamloops, in mountain and valley lakes, up to fifty pounds; in eastern waters, to which it has been transplanted, up to eighteen pounds. Always a splendid fighter, it sometimes puts on a spectacular display of jumping. It will take almost anything the angler
offers — flies, streamers, spoons, spinners, plugs,' salmon eggs, live minnows, worms. It prefers cool, clean water. In streams look for the Kamloops in pools below fast water, under logs or undercut banks; in lakes in the deep cold holes. Early morning and twilight are considered the best fishing hours, but don’t ignore them at other times of day.
Arctic grayling (Thymallus signifer) is a delightful fish of the far north, from British Columbia and the Yukon to Manitoba. The grayling’s sides are mauve grey with bright blue spots, fins striped pink and white, and the dominant feature is a large dorsal fin of dark grey edged with a scarlet band and strewn with violet spots. The Latin tag matches its beauty — Thymallus, indicative of the order of thyme supposed to characterize this fish. Signifer, meaning standard bearer, is a poetic reference to the large dorsal. It is a relatively easy fish to catch with small flies or very tiny spoons or spinners. Rarely larger than eighteen inches (the record is five pounds) it is found in the faster-moving waters that feed the Arctic seas and also in clear, cold lakes.
Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), found from Labrador to Alaska and southward into Great Lakes, inhabits deep, cold lakes. Can be taken on streamer, flies and spinning lures near the surface briefly in spring, but goes deep as water warms up. Deep
trolling with wire line and large spoon is customary, although some anglers successfully still-fish in cold spring holes with live minnows or jigging spoons on the light tackle, a stubborn if seldom flashy fighter.
Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum), one of the most widely distributed fish — Quebec to Alberta and north to Hudson Bay. Has a distinctive, opaque eye for vision in low light and, it is believed, sensitive to brightness. Thus walleyes are found in darker, muskeg water or in deep holes. They are mainly nocturnal feeders, best sought from twilight until well after dark, when they forage in shallower water. A slowly trolled june bug with gob of worms is an ideal bait. Gregarious, they school near the bottom, do not move fast or far. Found over reefs, and sandbars, and at the foot of falls and dams — places where natural food is swept by the current. May be taken casting (with a slow retrieve) with fly, streamer, spoon or spinner, or any live bait. Not an exceptional fighter, but of high eating quality.
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), the ruby-eyed pugilist of the St. Lawrence River Valley, and Great Lakes area and here and there in Canada where it has been transplanted. At its best fighting trim from mid-June through September, thus the bread-and-butter fish of summertime. A voracious feeder, the smallmouth accepts almost any live or
artificial bait, frequently leaps spectacularly after being hooked. Deerhair or cork-boiled bass bugs and popping surface plugs make ideal lures on a calm summer’s evening. Smallmouth’s kin, the largemouth black bass, a good scrapper, too, but inhabits warmer and weedier water.
Northern pike (Esox lucius) occupies roughly the same range as lake trout. He’s a toothy gangster with underslung jaw who haunts the edge of weed beds and shoals to prey on minnows and other food. Will take almost any bait. Often a surprisingly good fighter. Can be distinguished from the related maskinonge by bean-shaped white markings; the maskinonge has tiger-like bars.
Brook or speckled trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), while quite widely transplanted is mostly at home in Ontario east through Quebec to Labrador and well into the north. A pretty fish and a tease, a prime quarry of the fly fisherman.
Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), the sea-going trout of Canada’s Arctic rivers; a speedy, hard-hitting, hard-fighting lad who grows to better than twenty pounds. The char can be taken by trolling with spoons, but the few adventurous anglers who venture into the far north usually seek it with flies, streamers, spoons or spinners — or even a chunk of meat.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), found in New-
foundland, the Maritime provinces and Quebec — the silver king among game fish. The Latin name means the leaper — and leap it certainly does. Although thirty and forty pounders are occasionally caught the average would be closer to ten to twenty pounds. While Salmo will take spoons and spinners eagerly, such hardware is frowned upon on most salmon rivers in Canada, where flies are favored.
Striped bass (Roccus saxatilis) is a scrapper of Atlantic coast waters and estuaries, not sought as much as it deserves to be by Canadian anglers. It is found in the St. John River estuary in New Brunswick, and in the Bear River of Nova Scotia. Weight varies greatly — three to forty pounds. Takes many kinds of artificial baits, jigs and heavy spoons, live or frozen herrings or other baitfish. Trolling or casting are the usual methods of angling.
Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) one of the oldest food fishes known to man, and also one of the world’s biggest game fish. The record is a 977pounder caught off Nova Scotia though fish of considerably more than 1,000 pounds are known to exist. Canada's tuna are found in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland’s herring-filled coastal waters.
ROBERT TURNBULL IS THE OUTDOORS COLUMNIST OF THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL.
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