Lake Nipissing is the focus of so much of the area’s fishing and boating activity that it’s safe to say it’s Lake Nipissing that defines much of the character, historic and otherwise, of the entire region’s fishery. This rich, fertile lake has a history of human settlement going back into the mists of time, back to days when the sturgeon of Lake Nipissing were known throughout North America as a trade item of the mysterious and mystical people who populated the area. The Jesuit Fathers in their recollections of the 16th century described the native inhabitants of Nipissing as sorcerers and magicians. Whatever the history, one thing is evident— these people knew and understood the wealth of this vast fishing ground.
Lake Nipissing is roughly 67 km long and 26 km wide, covering about 85,470 hectares (130 km of shoreline), with the west end of the lake a virtual paradise of uninhabited islands, waterways, fishing grounds and inlets, dotted with lodges and camps.
Lake Nipissing is a relatively shallow lake, with it’s deepest points around the estuaries and tributaries. The mix provides for a healthy balance throughout the year of shallow weed beds (harboring fantastic fighters like the Great Northern Pike), and the cooler, deeper waters required as summer heat comes on (providing for vibrant pickerel/walleye populations). Other important sporting species include smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and muskellunge. As well, because Lake Nipissing is not too deep (4.5 meters average), and it provides the drainage area for a vast region of inland lakes and rivers from Temagami south, the lake waters are clean and unpolluted, clearing out of the lake basin on an annual basis. The lake drains through the headwaters of the French River system into Georgian Bay.
The Ministry of Natural Resources conducted a survey of fish catches in the summer of 1995, between May 20 and August 31, interviewing a total of 3367 angler parties on Lake Nipissing. An estimated 177,324 walleye were harvested in 1995, compared to 101,346 in 1994; an increase of 75%. Angling hours were estimated at 445,092 in 1995. The perch harvest of 33,802 was more than double that of 1994. Pike harvests declined by 6% to 10,040 fish. On the average it took anglers 1.9 hours to catch a walleye, 2.9 hours to catch a pike and 1.1 hours to catch a perch.
The entire area of West Nipissing is home to more than 40 different species of fish — from the tiny smelt which runs in the spring to the mighty muskellunge, the furious warrior of the waters. Myriad lakes and streams dot the area, creating an angler’s delight from Marten River to Crystal Falls. The lakes and rivers give up such beauties as the ever-popular pickerel/walleye, speckled, brook and rainbow trout. The youngest of anglers can enjoy bringing in sweet tasting perch or the colorful sunfish. There are bullheads and catfish, ling, cisco, northern and gar-pike, herring, white fish, lake trout, carp, drum suckers and sheepshead. The local bass families include rock, white, silver, small and largemouth. Fish can be caught from shore, from boat, and from docks within easy walking distance of camps. They can be caught in every season too, when the boats disappear and snowmobiles take over.
Although most people are aware of spring fishing, one time of year which is often neglected is the fall. West Nipissing offers excellent fall fishing, in September and October, especially for walleye and muskellunge.
River Valley area right over to Marten River and down to Crystal Falls, with the lakes such as Emerald, Manitou, Red Cedar, Tomiko and Chebogan, and their tributaries, offer wonderful opportunities for brook trout, lake trout and walleye. Bass is also very common in Lake Nipissing and the inland lakes, while pike fishing is another major draw. The whole waterway system is very well coordinated to enhance the fishery. In fact, when it comes to managing water levels, the fishery is just below flooding in terms of priority.
Lake Nipissing and all the other West Nipissing lakes enjoy an extremely active winter fishery. It’s quite exciting to see the small towns develop on the lakes as the winter ice forms. In fact, Lake Nipissing is considered to be the finest ice fishing lake in all of Ontario by many experienced anglers.
Yes, the winter ice fishery in West Nipissing is exceptional. Locally, people wait with anticipation for that first solid crust of ice to form. Roads and snowmobile trails line the surface of the area lakes like spider webs as people drive everything from half-ton trucks to snowmobiles, spending entire weekends in their ice huts. And the ice-huts! Some are like mini-mansions with all the comforts away from home, while others are more basic.
Whatever your style, fishing is what you’re there for. Local lodge and resort operators do generally have ice hut rentals, and will support travel to and from those strategic and well known fishing locations. They are also in the habit of moving the ice huts rather frequently so that no one area is over fished. The area’s all-season fishery comes complete with full lodge and camp support, with everything from travel to bait.