Lake Mistassini, Quebec, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Quebec -

Also known as:  Lac Mistassini

Lake Mistassini in Quebec’s James Bay region is the stuff fishing legends are made of. Located 220 miles east of James Bay and over 400 miles north of Montreal, Lake Mistassini is the largest natural lake in Quebec. This is fly-in country; getting to the lake by road takes considerable effort, not to mention a stout and reliable vehicle and valuable travel time. Most visitors fly to the region via float-plane, so as not to miss a minute of fishing action. Speckled trout, lake trout, northern pike, and walleye are the main species sought by visiting anglers. They are richly rewarded for their efforts, if they know where to fish. The long, narrow lake covers over 575,000 acres and is about 100 miles long; a knowledgeable guide is a must on such a huge body of water. Fortunately. the local outfitters at Lake Mistassini have many years of experience in fishing the big lake and know the best fishing spots.

Besides the usual cold water species which grow to trophy size in the deep lake, scientists have recently discovered that Lake Mistassini holds a special variety of lake trout other than those found in the shallow near-shore waters. The deep-water lake trout appear to be the same species once common across the northern part of the continent and now found in only a couple of lakes outside of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Unlike the shallow-water lake trout, the deep-water species lives in dark, cold, high-pressure environments.

Lake Mistassini has been home to the Cree Nation for hundreds of years. When French explorers came to the area of the lake in the early 1600s, the lake was called ‘mista assini’ in Cree, meaning large rock. This could have referred to the large rock located near the outlet to the Rupert River. A series of rocky island ridges virtually divide it into two separate lakes. Early French trappers reached the lake by paddling up the tributaries to the large lake and exiting through the out-flowing Rupert River on their way to James Bay. Eventually the local Cree aborigines ended up handling the fur trade locally for the fur trading companies that followed. From this early experience in commerce with the immigrant Europeans comes a long tradition of providing services to fishermen, hunters and outdoor adventurers that they continue today.

The wilderness area around Lake Mistassini is primarily used for logging. Between the forested areas are marshes that produce a bumper crop of blueberries, a well-known product of the area. Caribou, moose and black bear are common here as are a variety of smaller animals. Hundreds of small and large lakes and a network of rivers and streams offer great trout fishing and scenic vistas. The entire area is primarily uninhabited except for a few Cree villages and the occasional hunting cabin. In winter, the snow is usually deep and early, making travel by snowshoe or cross-country ski the only alternative to snowmobiles. The rocky countryside clothed in winter white is an inviting landscape for snowmobile treks along the old logging roads. It is easy to get lost in this wilderness, and there are few detailed maps, necessitating a good guide and adequate preparation.

Subsistence hunting and fishing have long been a way of life for the local Cree who have turned their native knowledge and business skills into a thriving industry based on tourism. The Cree nation applied for and received recognition and funding as a Regional Tourism Association from the province in 2007. Headquartered in the one local Cree town along the shore, Mistissini Village is home to a number of fishing and hunting adventure enterprises located near the lake. Some have built large modern lodges on islands for fishing excursions, while others focus on hunting packages and often include snowmobile trekking and camping packages. With a population of 3500 people, the town of Mistissini has erected a modern 20-room lodge, and the town has geared up for an influx of tourists with several restaurants and cultural festivals open to visitors.

Cultural tourism is encouraged, with visitors allowed to respectfully experience facets of native cultural life. Visitors to Lake Mistassini and the Village of Mistissini are invited to join selected families around the fire for traditional storytelling and meals. Bhaadhaagoosh’shoon, Chiiwetaau, and Mamoweedow Minstukch are traditional ceremonial events featuring songs, dance, rituals and crafts. Several shops selling native crafts such as carvings and leatherwork offer exciting one-of-a-kind items for the collector or for home decor. In a land far from the highways, cell phones and constant traffic noise, the Cree offer a glimpse of a simple way of life colored by complex ritual and intriguing history.

Lodging at Lake Mistassini is mostly limited to the hunting and fishing camps and lodges operated by local businessmen. Hunting and fishing licenses from the Province of Quebec are required, and certain activities may require a separate permit from the Reserve itself. Most lodges can make provision for travel and can arrange to handle passengers arriving via float-plane. A trip to Lake Mistassini is the kind of event avid outdoorsmen dream about and plan for a lifetime. Lake Mistassini awaits, deep and mysterious and teaming with fish.

Things to do at Lake Mistassini

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Lake Mistassini

  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Lake Mistassini Photo Gallery

    Lake Mistassini Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 576,991 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,220 feet

    Maximum Depth: 600 feet

    Water Volume: 121,606,979 acre-feet

    Drainage Area: 700 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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