Nipigon Chinook

Nipigon River Adventures in Northwestern Ontario is a great angling destination, and it is all about the Chinook Salmon.

Chinook salmon are not our target species but with fall in the air and agreeable silvery fish in the river, the last day of our stay at Nipigon River Adventures is all about salmon.

A Trio of Gords

My friend and colleague Gord Ellis and I met here a few days ago, and are fortunate enough to be joined by our fathers – Gord Ellis Sr. and Gord Smedley. The Ellis boys are Nipigon veterans, but my dad has never been on this fabled river. The Nipigon does not disappoint on the brook trout and lake trout front. She is also generous when we narrow our focus on salmon.

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James and company enjoying breakfast at Nipigon River adventures in Northwestern Ontario.

From the end of August through September, the river is busy with anglers vying for chinook, coho, and pink. Popular spots include the lower river at the Nipigon Marina and upstream to the Alexander Dam. The Alexander is the first barrier to the upstream movement of migratory fish and receives the bulk of the attention. Anglers typically troll large diving crankbaits by boat or even cast plugs and spoons from shore.

An Early Run of Chinook

We launch into the lower river at the Nipigon Marina and start trolling long and slender crankbaits over the undulating bottom. It isn’t long before the first salmon hits. I know it’s a salmon because of the savage aggression telegraphed up the line. But it isn’t long before I feel the telltale shimmy of my J13 Rapala.

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Launching at the Nipigon River Marina in Northwestern Ontario.

It seems the chinook are toying with us. I glance over at the Ellis boat and see Gord Jr. leaning back against a well-arced rod. Moments later he is seated, shoulders slumped.

Dad is the next to lose a salmon. A hard smash and lively battle ensue. I’m alarmed by the amount of line being paid out to the aggressive fish. I decided to assist my father by cranking up the drag on his reel. A few violent headshakes later and Dad’s slackline is wallowing in the breeze.

I sheepishly relay the incident to the Ellises as they troll by. When I finally hook into another salmon, Gord Sr. calls out with a grin, “Tighten up your drag.”

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Nipigon River Adventures in Northwestern Ontario is a great angling destination.

I elect not to. Instead, Dad gets behind the wheel and we follow the fish downstream as I gain on it. It’s not a huge salmon, maybe 12 pounds, but it’s been airborne six times since being hooked. When I finally angle the vivacious fish to the net, I’m already daydreaming about its performance on the grill. Dad’s next fish is a four-pound lake trout he decides to bring home to my mother. We eventually leave the river, with a feed of fish and more than our limit of Nipigon memories.

About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.

 

Visit James at www.jamessmedleyoutdoors.com

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