How to catch Yukon fish

Learn the secrets of catching fish in Yukon by species.

Fishing on Yukon Time brochure

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Information on where to fish in Yukon, including maps of fishing locations and where species can be found.

Fishing on Yukon Time icon image - this is a pdf file 3 MB


Lake Trout

Lake Trout

A beautiful fish. We manage this one carefully because it is popular with anglers and reproduces very slowly in cold northern waters. Look for lake trout in nearly all Yukon lakes. Lake trout spend time feeding in shallow water during the two to three week period after ice out, which can occur anytime from early May to early June. During this period you can try large silver spoons and spinners, shallow-diving plugs, and even large streamers and minnow patterns on a fly rod. When the lakes turn over in early July and the trout go deep, it’s time to switch to jigs and heavy jigging spoons. When jigging for lake trout, bring your rod tip up sharply and then let the lure settle, paying careful attention to your line as the lure falls; trout often take the lure as it flutters downward through the water. Another method for catching lake trout in deep water is trolling with lead weights or a downrigger setup. Yukon anglers usually release big lake trout because they’re more valuable as spawners than as wall mounts.


Additional Resources: Lake Trout Species Information

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Arctic Grayling

Arctic GraylingOur classic Yukon fish with the colourful oversize dorsal fin. Found in almost every lake and stream, grayling average about 0.5 kg (1 lb). Look for them in pools, eddies, and below riffles in creeks and rivers. In lakes, look for them at the outlet or near the mouths of streams entering the lake. Small spinners and spoons are commonly used to catch this fish. Grayling are a great fish to take on ultra light gear or with a fly rod. This is also a great fish for kids and those just learning how to fish. On small creeks you can tie a fly on light spin-casting gear, hang your rod tip over the water and drop the fly. On large rivers you can drift fish for grayling bouncing tiny jigs off the bottom. You can also fish for grayling using a fly suspended below a bobber.


Additional Resources: Arctic Grayling Species Information

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Northern Pike

Northern PikeA large fish that’s capable of incredible bursts of speed to catch its prey, northern pike are a popular choice among Yukon anglers. Mature female pike can weigh more than 10 kg (22lbs). Pike are easy to catch, exciting on the line and make a great meal when taken in cold northern waters. You’ll find pike in small, shallow lakes, shallow bays in large lakes and in the sloughs and backwaters of large rivers. Pike are commonly fished with medium-to large-size spoons and spinners. But many local anglers are now fishing pike with surface flies, plugs and other top water lures, which bring the pike out of the water as they take the bait. Try casting around the edge of a weed bed, and hang on to your rod. Be sure to bring pliers with you to use when removing your hook; these fish have sharp teeth!


Additional Resources: Pike Species Information

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Whitefish species

Lake WhitefishWhitefish are one of the most common fish in the north. There are two types of whitefish of interest to Yukon anglers: broad whitefish and lake whitefish, sometimes known as humpies. Average weight is about 1 kg (2lbs.) for both types, but fish in the 1.5-3 kg (3.5-7 lbs.) range are not uncommon. Whitefish have always been an important part of Yukon First Nation diet. Anglers have recently discovered its fine flavour and surprising excitement on the line. Watch for fins breakingthe water as whitefish patrol shallow mud and sand flats throughout the summer. In streams, fish at the mouthsBroad Whitefish of tributaries and below rapids. Small spoons and spinners, light jigs (1/32 or 1/64 oz) and beadhead flies all work well. This fish has a soft mouth so set your hook gently.


Additional Resources: Lake (Humpback) White Fish Species Information

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Dolly Varden

Dolly VardenThis colourful fish is found in two areas of the Yukon: the Tatshenshini River drainage in the southwest and the Peel River drainage in the far north. Dempster Highway travelers can fish in the Ogilvie and Blackstone Rivers. Haines Road travelers can fish in the Tatshenshini River and its tributaries. Good fishing begins in early June and runs through to late October. At this time of year they are feeding on salmon eggs so imitation fish roe is the bait to use. Put it on a snell hook with a bobber and let the stream carry it. A pixie spoon with its bright orange centre is another good choice. Dollies can reach up to 1.5 kg (3 lbs).


Additional Resources: Dolly Varden Species Information

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Bull Trout

Bull TroutBull trout are very similar in appearance to Dolly Varden. Distinguishing features are that Bull trout have a larger, more flattened head than Dollies, and their distribution in Yukon does not overlap. An aggressive fish, the bull trout is found in the Liard River drainage in the southeast Yukon, in lakes as well as rivers. In rivers, look for it above and below rapids, in holes, and at the mouths of tributary streams. In lakes, look near inlets, outlets and narrow spots. Bull trout will take medium-size spinners and spoons as well as flies. Shallow trolling near the shore works well in lakes. Bull trout average about 1 kg (2 lbs).


Additional Resources: Bull Trout Species Information

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Rainbow Trout

Rainbow TroutOne of the world’s most popular game fish, wild populations of rainbow trout are found only in the Kathleen and Aishihik river systems in the Haines Junction area. In McIntyre Creek and McLean Lakes near Whitehorse, rainbows stocked in the 1950s are now naturally reproducing populations. Only the rainbows from McIntyre Creek, and stocked rainbows found in pothole lakes near many Yukon communities, may be harvested. Small spinners are effective for Rainbows and so are traditional trout flies. Flies imitating leeches are a good bet as well. In stocked lakes, power bait is very popular with local anglers. In spring, cast your lure onto the ice then drag it off into the water. Shallow trolling behind a canoe or belly boat can also be effective. Fishing from shore works just as well in many of the stocked lakes.


Additional Resources: Rainbow Trout / Steelhead Species Information

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BurbotThe only freshwater member of the cod family, burbot are found in most lakes and large rivers in Yukon, and can weigh more than 8 kg (18 lbs), but are more commonly 1 to 3 kg (2 to 7 lbs). With their white, flaky meat, burbot are a popular choice for winter anglers, who catch them through the ice with jigs or jigging spoons. Burbot can be caught in summer as well, but are less often encountered. It’s a little difficult to skin this unusual fish with a knife. After killing it quickly and humanely, you can pull the skin off with a pair of pliers. Boil the meat in salted water, or fry it in garlic butter for a taste comparable to lobster.

Catch Burbot Using Set Lines

Burbot can also be caught through the ice using set lines. To use set lines to catch burbot, anglers must obtain a free special permit (Sport Fishing Licence to Fish for Burbot Using Set Lines), available from any Environment Yukon office.

Download our guide: How to Catch Burbot Using Set Lines icon image - this is a pdf file 61 KB

Additional Resources: Burbot Species Information

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InconnuInconnu means “unknown” in French, an appropriate name for this large member of the whitefish family. Not much is known about their life history in Yukon waters. Inconnu have a white, oily flesh, which some people dislike but others find delicious. Inconnu are scrappy fighters on the end of a line, and grow to weights of 10 kg (22 lbs). Unlike other whitefish, inconnu have a large, forward-pointed mouth, and feed mainly on fish. Inconnu are found in the Yukon and Peel River drainages, and anglers pursuing them usually fish in large rivers and at the mouths of tributary streams and in back eddies. Inconnu are sometimes fished with gold and silver spoons about 4 cm (1 1/2 in.) long. Others drift fish with rubber tailed jigs. Inconnu are easier to find when the rivers are low in August or September. If you plan to release this fish, handle it very gently as its scales come off easily.


Additional Resources: Inconnu Species Information

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Chinook Salmon Coho Salmon Sockeye Salmon Chum Salmon


Four types of salmon enter the Tatshenshini and Yukon River systems in late summer, early fall: Chinook, Coho, Sockeye and Chum. Salmon fishing requires special gear including a heavy rod and reel. This fishery has detailed seasonal closures, and short-notice closures can occur anytime if the runs are lower than expected. For more informationabout salmon, contact Fisheries and Oceans, Canada(DFO) in Whitehorse at (867) 393-6722 or1-866-676-6722.


Additional Resources

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Contact Fish and Wildlife, Fisheries

Phone: 867-667-5721
Toll free (in Yukon, NWT & Nunavut):
1-800-661-0408 ext. 5721
Fax: 867-393-6263

Email: fisheries@gov.yk.ca
Address: Box 2703 (V-5A) Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C6