Fish, wildlife abound in the 'barren lands'
Mike Norris Outdoors - August 7, 2003

It is 1:30 in the morning, but outside it looks more like 8 in the evening. It looks to be the land of the midnight sun, but is more appropriately advertised as the "barren lands" because it lies well north of the treeline in the Canadian province of Nunavet.

What an eerie feeling one gets when one doesn't have standing objects like trees to project distances. Points and rock formations look like they're 300 yards away, yet in reality can be miles away. Chunks of ice floating throughout the lake in mid-July are a stark reminder of how close we are to the Arctic Circle.

Our group of four is headquartered out of Bob Huitikka's Tutko Lodge outpost camp on DuBawnt Lake. Huitikka operates Wilderness Air, a flying service out of Nestor Falls, Ontario, as well as 31 outpost camps and lodges located in Ontario and the Northwest Territories.

Mosquito Lake in the Northwest Territories and DuBawnt Lake in Nunavet are Huitikka's pet projects.

While we have a full-service lodge on Mosquito Lake, we only have two outpost camps on the DuBawnt Lake and because of the short season, our camps at DeBawnt are only open six weeks a year, says Huitikka.

There's a minimum of fishing pressure here, as only 32 anglers fish this massive 350,000-acre lake a year.

The primary gamefish on both Mosquito and DuBawnt lakes are lake trout, followed by arctic grayling.

Though our trip to DuBawnt is in mid-July, the lake trout are still in early spring patterns and can easily be found in 4-15 feet of water and within easy reach of our Dardevle Husky spoons.

My fishing partner, Richard Russell, has brought along a three-digit clicker, and at the end of day one, the clicker reads 120, representing the number of lake trout caught between the two of us that day. My elbow aches that evening, a stark reminder of the jarring hits I took from lake trout measuring from 8 to 25 pounds.

It didn't matter if we cast spoons or trolled spoons. DuBawnt's hungry lake trout devoured anything within their sight. Russell and I often had three to five other lake trout following a hooked fish. The joke of the day became stealing each others fish, an event which took place several times that day whenever one of his would have a lake trout come off the hook during the retrieve. Once off the hook, the trout would swim over to the other angler's spoon and grab it in with the same vicious strike it evoked on the first spoon.

On day two of our fishing excursion, I experimented with different styled lures from my tackle box. I tossed jigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwaters and caught lake trout on the first cast with each lure I used.

DuBawnt Lake is located on the edge of Canada's Thelon Game Sanctuary and teems with caribou, musk ox, arctic wolves, bears, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. The wildlife rivals anything I've ever witnessed on other Canadian expeditions.

Though the average DuBawnt caribou bull weighs 350-400 pounds and the females average 175-225 pounds, the caribou have large, concave hoof that spreads widely to support the animal in the soft, lichen-laden tundra and winter snow. Their feet also function as paddles when they swim across the numerous channels at DuBawnt.

DuBawnt's musk oxen survive the harsh conditions of the arctic tundra because its 24-inch long hair and wooly undercoat ward off frost and provide insulation. Musk oxen can weigh from 400-800 pounds and reach 7 feet in length. The musk oxen get its name from the odor produced by glands beneath the bull's eyes. The male has thick horns that curve down beside its face and out at the ends.

The primary predators of both the caribou and musk oxen are arctic wolves and bears.

While caribou use their antlers to ward off unwelcome visitors, musk oxen form a defensive formation when threatened and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle when threatened. Like early settlers protecting their families and belongings in the old Wild West by rounding out the wagon train, young musk oxen are protected in the center of the circle.

As a writer and photographer, I can recall many outstanding trips to several provinces in Canada. But without a doubt, finding a trip to top this one will be hard to accomplish.

If you would like more information on fishing and wildlife excursions to Mosquito or DuBawnt lakes, call Lewis Cunningham at Reel It Up Fishing Expeditions at 1-866-861-3209, or visit his Web site at

Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at