Skip to content

Knowledge of the land helps find the best fishing holes

Cathy Towtongie takes home three spots in top eight for trout
John Ussak passes a fish to recreation director David Clark for measurement. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Cathy Towtongie tapped into some ancient knowledge to help her reel in three monster trout in the 2023 Rankin Inlet fishing derby.

“I was going to win four times, but one of my big fishes was eaten by a fox,” said Towtongie, adding that another one was lost as she brought it to the surface.

Still, the three she was able to take home earned her second, third and eighth in the contest, totalling $7,250 in winnings. Her biggest fish was 40 and 5/8 inches. The top place trout was Tyeya Subgut’s, coming in at 41 and ¼ inches.

Few went trout fishing this year, as an early spring brought warm temperatures and mushy conditions on the land, so many preferred to stick close to town and cod fish on the bay.

“It’s a June sun,” remarked Towtongie about the weather. “That’s the troubling part.”

She relied on her husband, Harry Towtongie, to navigate the land and find the best fishing spot.

“You have to know how to go,” she said about travelling in those conditions. “You just don’t go in the middle of the snow. You go on the edge where there’s pieces of rock or land. If you go straight into the snow, you’re going to sink into the soft snow.”

Harry, she said, has learned well from brother David Ooloyuk about how to scout the land and lakes, as well as from Lewis Voisey.

When Harry finds a location he likes, he looks around for rocks and markers to determine where the fish might be, explained Towtongie.

“He doesn’t just drill all over the lake,” she said. “He drills where the pointers are telling him to drill and he will measure his steps. It’s like reading a lake.”

She called herself fortunate to have Harry’s guidance.

“I trust my husband and I believe him,” she said. “He’ll tell me, ‘This is not where to drill, this is not the area.’ I’m often amazed.”

Towtongie even revealed one of her top tips: that big trout often swim in pairs.

“So if you get a big one, you should put another hook in right away,” she said. “I wonder if I should be giving you these secrets!”

Among her tackle box was a special gift she had requested for her birthday, May 14 – an ivory hook made by John Tatty. The hook works well because it goes up and down slowly, she said, as well as being single-pronged instead of three – the latter of which can sometimes mean big fish spit them out.

Some cod disposed of

Though the fishing derby is a weekend of family fun and generous prizes, a hiccup in the pleasure is seen in the number of cod that end up being disposed of after measuring.

“I really do not waste fish,” said Towtongie when asked for her thoughts on fish that are thrown in the garbage after measurement.

She said the trout skin can make for fantastic fish bags.

“People can make mitts out of them,” she added. “They’re the best waterproof mitts if done properly.”

In terms of the cod that ended up in the garbage, Towtongie pointed to the town’s sewage heading into the ocean where people fish.

“It’s that open sewage on the ocean,” she said. “We never used to have open sewage before. That’s a factor. We can eat cod, but we’re used to fresh cod. You can fry them, boil them, but not the ones from Johnston Cove. The human debris is too close.”

Martha Hickes, deputy mayor, said cod that are caught farther away from the pump area are put to use, but the ones in the bay are not good for consumption.

“And if they’re caught since Friday, the fish are too soft to eat too, so most will throw them out, but not all,” she added, referencing the fact that measurement doesn’t take place until Monday, meaning some fish go bad in the time between.

Asked if she saw any ethical issues with the fishing derby if fish are being disposed of after measurement, Hickes said, “It’s a yearly event, so we have no problem.”

She added that the winters are long, dark and cold, with spring being the time to enjoy the weather and family.

“We love our families,” she said. “Spring is the time to enjoy each other, and fishing has been part of our lives, whether we win or lost, it will continue for years to come. Like the saying goes, lots of fish in the ocean.”

Final results


1st — Tyeya Subgut, 41 ¼ inches

2nd — Cathy Towtongie, 40 5/8 inches

3rd — Cathy Towtongie, 37 7/8 inches

4th — Michelle Kaludjak, 37 1/8 inches

5th — Hannah Pilakapsi, 37 inches

6th — Noel Kaludjak, 36 ¼ inches

7th — Linday Alogut, 36 inches

8th — Cathy Towtongie, 35 ¼ inches


1st — Arlene Alagalak, 25 3/8 inches

2nd — Hyka Gordon, 24 ½ inches

3rd — Dianna Kaludjak, 24 inches

4th — Catherine Airut, 23 13/16 inches

5th — Robert Tagalik, 23 ¼ inches

6th — Mary Jane Aggark, 23 1/8 inches

7th — Kailee Karlik, 23 1/16 inches

8th (tie) — Monica Pissuk and Iris Tatty Tanuyak, 23 inches

Source: Hamlet of Rankin Inlet

Anna Okalik smiles while having her cod measured Monday, May 16. Stewart Burnett/ NNSL photo