Frequently Asked Questions

How do I obtain a fishing licence?

Fishing licences are available online or at some lodges.  You must carry your signed fishing licence with you while fishing.  (

What is the reason for using barbless hooks?

Barbless hooks can usually be removed from the fish you catch without a lot of damage, before you release them. Barbless hooks are mandatory when sport fishing in the Northwest Territories. Simply pinch or strip the barbs with pliers.

What is catch and release?

Our fish grow slowly and mature late. We want to maintain the incredible resource we have in the NWT, so we practice catch and release, returning most fish quickly to the river or lake they came from, alive and healthy. One or two small fish can be saved for the day’s shore lunch. Trophy sized fish should be measured, photographed and returned as soon as possible, alive, to the water.

Do you stock your lakes?

Generally, no. The fish in our lakes and rivers have evolved naturally from the time at the end of the last ice age.

How crowded are the fishing areas?

There are hundreds of lakes and rivers in the Northwest Territories, and only a very few host more than fifty anglers in a year.  Catch and release fishing and possession limits are designed to prevent over-fishing of our NWT lakes and rivers.

What are the rules about daily catch limits and possession limits?

Daily catch and possession limits vary somewhat from one region to another. Where no special fishing restrictions apply

  • The daily catch and possession limits for Arctic Char, Dolly Varden and Walleye (in season) are 4 and 7 fish
  • The daily catch and possession limits for Arctic Grayling, Lake Trout and Northern Pike are 3 and 5 fish 
  • The daily catch and possession limits for Burbot, Inconnu and Whitefish are 5 and 10 fish
  • The daily catch and possession limits for Bull Trout are 2 and 3 fish

Special limits apply in the Mackenzie River Management Area, the Great Bear Lake Special Management Area, and certain areas on Great Slave Lake, including the East Arm. Special restrictions may also apply in the Gwichin, Inuvialuit and Sahtu Settlement areas. For more complete details, see the Fishing Regulations (

Seasonal catch and possession limits and size restrictions may also apply in a number of areas. For example, Lake Trout catch and possession is closed from September 1 to October 31 on popular fishing lakes near Yellowknife, while only one Lake Trout over 28 inches may be in your possession at any time on Great Slave Lake and its tributaries. There are several regional restrictions on Walleye catches from April 1 through June 6.

Can I use live bait?

Live bait is illegal. Ciscos can be used for bait, but must be dead before use.

What penalties can be imposed?

For a first offence under the Fisheries Act you may be liable to a fine of up to $100,000.

Can I take my fish home?

If you wish to remove fish from the Northwest Territories, your fish can be filleted, but must retain the skin for identification. Two filets equal one fish. Each fish should be wrapped individually and labeled with your licence number and where it was caught. The possession limit applies.

Where can I buy some fresh fish?

Commercial fishers sell fresh-caught fish on the dock in Hay River and Yellowknife. Fish caught for sport may not be sold.

Can I bring alcohol?

Please check with your host in the NWT to find out whether alcohol is permitted. Some communities have alcohol restrictions. In that case, alcoholic beverages will be seized at the community airport by the RCMP.  Fishing lodges may have a licenced bar, or you may be asked to bring your own supplies. Please don't mix boating and alcohol. Our waters are extremely cold and dangerous if you are not fully alert.  

Will my cell phone work there?

Wireless coverage is confined to the larger communities and you might need to check if your phone will actually work with our networks, however our hotels and many wilderness lodges are connected to the Internet.

Bring along extra power and storage for your camera, our long daylight in midsummer and the spectacular Auroras in autumn provide terrific photo opportunities.

What about Safety?

Guides and outfitters in the Northwest Territories have safety and emergency survival training as well as contact systems to call for assistance. If you decide to travel on your own, please leave a message with the RCMP or friends, so we know where to look for you, if you do not return as planned.  A Spot personal satellite tracker is an inexpensive and valuable tool to let your friends know you are safe, or to call for help if necessary.

Wilderness rescue and air ambulance service can be expensive, so it is wise to purchase insurance coverage before you leave home.