Fall Fishing Festival In Nipigon

It is the longest continuously running event of its kind along the north shore of Lake Superior.

Labour Day signals the end of summer, but the September long weekend is one to celebrate here in Northwest Ontario especially if you are heading to Nipigon, Ontario.

The Northwest Ontario town at  the junction of Highway 11 and 17 east of Thunder Bay is famous for its fall fishing starting with the Nipigon Fall Fishing Festival on the Labour Day weekend. This event has a long history celebrating 53 years in 2017.

Nipigon Fall Fishing Festival

This annual event attracts local and out-of-town anglers who are looking to get out and enjoy the beginning of the fall fishing season. This historic event was started in the mid 1960's by the Nipigon Legion and was always imagined as a family friendly event. That hasn’t changed, although the fishing festival continues to see the number of activities grow. The Nipigon Fall Fishing Festival is the longest continuously running event of its kind along the north shore of Lake Superior, attracting many anglers from Thunder Bay for the weekend event.

Great Memories at the Derby

There are few places more delightful for fishing than the lakes and rivers on the Lake Superior north shore around Nipigon.

Gord Ellis big Nipigon River salmon
Gord Ellis holds up a prize catch of a big Nipigon River Salmon

As a kid, I remember the fall derby focused on catching the legendary speckled trout of the Nipigon River. In the 1980s, due to concerns about conservation, the event moved away from brook trout and began to focus on chinook salmon. The Nipigon River has one of the very best salmon fisheries on the Canadian side of Lake Superior, and big chinook start rolling into the river as early as July. By the end of August, salmon are everywhere in the river, and there are some tackle busters. It can make for a truly great fishing experience on an incredible body of water. One memorable afternoon at the derby happened a few years back on the last day of the event. There were only a couple of hours to go and we had yet to catch a fish. My partner and I began trolling a deep hole with #9 silver Shad Raps. As we dropped the boat back towards  the lip of the pool, something grabbed my lure and started running. The big chinook used the impressive current in the river to peel nearly all my line off.  After about ten minutes, I regained the line back and the big fish tired. It finally surfaced, flashed a wide silver side and was netted. Our jaws dropped. At the weigh in scales, the salmon pulled the pin to 19 pounds. We had top spot at the derby for a while, until some guy came in with a 23 pounder. There are big salmon to be had, although the average Nipigon fish is between 8 and 11 pounds.

Many Prizes at Family Fun Event

Happy angler her Nipigon river salmon
Happy angler display a silvery salmon caught from the famed Nipigon River.... 

Needless to say, fishing derbies remain the core of the Fishing Festival and there are two to enjoy. The two-day family derby runs Saturday and Sunday, while Monday features a Huck Finn derby.

Tickets for the Family Derby are $25 and must be purchased before noon on Saturday. Tickets are available at Mannila's Home Hardware, the Nipigon LCBO and D&R Sporting Goods in Thunder Bay. Prizes are awarded for the top three in each category plus mystery prizes Sunday at 5:00pm in the Arena.

FISH CATEGORIES:  (1) Salmon (2) Brook Trout (minimum 22 inch length), (3) Lake Trout, (4) Pike and (5) Pickerel.

Big Nipigon River salmon

Monday's Huck Finn is open to any child 12 and under  for a $3 entry, payable upon entering a fish. There is one entry per child allowed. Weigh in is at the curling club on Sunday afternoon.  The Huck Finn is open to all species, but only the largest perch entered wins the annual trophy plaque and bragging rights.

A Weekend of Great Fishing and Entertainment 

If you just want to relax or party, Nipigon is the place to be on the Labour Day weekend. You can enjoy fireworks Friday, take in a dance Saturday, watch a movie outdoors Sunday and wrap things up with draws and prizes on Monday.

The Fall Fishing Festival website provides a listing of all events during the festival. You can also call toll free at 1-877-596-1359 for more information. The Fall Fishing Festival in is a great event. Check it out this September long weekend with a visit to Nipigon and learn why fall fishing can be a lot of fun.

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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