The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

“Isaiah Jacob has lived his entire life on the Winisk River and in a freighter canoe!”

Since moving to Nova Scotia in 2014, I now know the thing I miss most about living in northwestern Ontario. The fishing trips… I had many great fishing trips with the “boys from up north,” as I call them, the Ojibwe.

I’ve been to many of the fly-in reserves or “communities,” as we call them north of Thunder Bay and whenever I go, I make sure I plan ahead and line up a killer fishing trip (or two) while I’m there. My favourite trip is what I call a “river trip.” And, the guides from Webequie FN are some of the best in the business. Their 18 foot freighter canoes are always at the ready. Powered often by a 15 HP outboard, there is no better way to cruise the rivers.

The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

“Elijah ‘Eli’ Jacob steadies the canoe (and smiles and waves!) while Matt Popowich from Westfort Films gets the shot.”

The freighter canoe is the best choice for navigating the fast water and rapids of rivers like the Winisk. They are slender and squeeze in between the swift flows and rocks. Sometimes, along with one guide at the stern running the motor, they’ll have a second guide at the bow. He is the lookout man and also does his fair share of steering and guiding the craft through the really rough spots. Some of the rivers up north are challenging enough that they do require two guides per boat.

Most of the freighter canoes are made by using cedar strips to build the ribs and main frame and then they are glassed over with fibreglass. I have seen quite a few traditional birch bark canoes up north as well, and believe me, to see such a well constructed craft, all made by hand, is worth the price of admission all on its own.

The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

“RD with a chunky speck from the cool waters of the Winisk River.”

Sure, these boats are great… but, they need people to run them. And, the Ojibwe guides of the north country are those people. I’ve been on many fishing trips using a freighter canoe to traverse the northern rivers and it’s a real thrill going up and down the rapids in such a boat. I can recall many times hearing one of the guides yell out, “Hang on, Rugged Dude!”

Both Elijah Jacob and Isaiah Jacob have been using freighter canoes since they were kids. Very few people know the Winisk River as well as they do. I recall on a trip back 2012, when Elijah told me to cast my fly right beyond a rock that was sticking out a bit above the surface. So, I laid my #12 Humpy dry fly right there… and two seconds later, it was drifting by that rock and then… well, you guessed it. Smash! Another nice Winisk River speckled trout. “Thanks, Eli!”

Using a freighter canoe to get to your fishing grounds – Rugged!

The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

“The cedar strip freighter canoe will lead the way to all the hot spots!”

The Freighter Canoes of Webequie First Nation

“I knew I shoulda’ brought my damn cheater glasses!”

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