Sunday, 3 December 2017


Hootchies are one of saltwater trolling’s most common tackle. They resemble squid which salmon eat, particularly chum. And the Wya Bay, Ucluelet, June fishery for big springs is spine-tingling stuff when the squid come on-shore to spawn. The reason it’s so good is that you may be fishing in as little as 30 feet of water, and your guide is rigging up squid that you have just jigged from the water. You float around, or slowly move in and out of gear, so the squid is presented properly, with a four- to six-ounce weight six feet in front of it. Similarly, Browns Bay north of Campbell River is largely a hootchy/squirt trolling bonanza for chum, particularly of the smaller commercial sizes and patterns, trolled behind a flasher.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of hootchy patterns available at tackle shops. Since only a small fraction work, you want to know from your records, from fellow anglers and from weekly reports such as the Island Outfitters link put together by Tom Vaida what the current hotties are. 

Here is an example: one of the great patterns for the Campbell River area is the Jack Frost, based in yellowy-green. I had never seen one before or since, but darned if it isn’t sworn by in those waters. 

And darned if a Purple Haze with a gold, not silver, Mylar skirt doesn’t just catch one after the other in Nootka Sound’s Gillam Channel and seaward on the banks. If you are towing your boat anywhere, phone ahead for the current good gear. I guarantee you that in hootchies, you will have to pick up a few and rig them up.

Some of the original colours still work quite well: white, glow white, clover leaf, glow green and Angel Wing. Then along came UV and glow in a broader line up. The Army Truck pattern influenced every type of gear it was so popular. Then along came Purple Haze that comes in two patterns: a silver based hootchy, and a translucent lure that gets a sexy purple tinge to it once it has cooled down to water temperature. 

Look in my Vancouver Island Fishing Guide for the go-to colours all around Van Island where you might want to fish. In Quatsino Sound, for instance, we were advised that anything green/blue would work. I searched the dreg-ends of my tackle box and came up with a few I thought didn’t have a chance. These hootchies caught all our fish, surprisingly, and nothing else worked. 

On the downside I broke off my best, ‘fished-in’ Mint Tulip on a screamer of a spring. Fished in means a lure that you haveused, over the years, and caught more fish on than other, seemingly identical lures. Pay attention to its properties and seek to reproduce them in another lure of the same colour, size and so on. It is better to lose a fished in lure, than change its leader and ruin its action. Fishing in a new lure is the answer.

Other good current colours in Oak Bay waters include squirts (it is a needle fish area, so  squirts which re smaller, catch more fish) in J49, Jellyfish and the ageless green and white. Squirts are also the plastic gear of choice when fishing for coho, pinks (though a Day-glo orange hootchy is a standard) and sockeye. If you don’t have any squirts in the right colour, look to hootchies that have lines running down the length of the lure, as that resembles the slimmer needlefish. In fishing, explanations are found for gear that works, and I think this one qualifies.

As for rigging, use a double single Octopus style hook set up, 3/0 to 5/0 tied with nailless nail knots, or sliding knots. Leader dimensions are critical. Use the length that fits with your boat. In mine, the speed goes along with a 34-inch leader from the swivel to the tail end of the trailing hook – that makes it about 36-inches when including the ball bearing swivel on the flasher. And do put in spacer beads between the top end of the leading hook and the inside top of the hootchy as you rig the leader through it. This prevents hang-ups of the hooks in the fronds.

And the rule with hootchies is that you never, never let anything impede the fronds, whether a scrap of weed, hook, Mylar, etc. Fronds must hang loosely to appear natural. And always check every hootchy/squirt that you put in the water to be sure nothing is impeding the fronds. Other wise you will catch nothing.

As hootchies have no natural action, they are matched with a flasher that makes them do a figure eight or circle, depending on the flashers action at the speed you are trolling. For this reason, you don’t use a ball bearing swivel with the lure because that makes it spiral. You want the flasher snap to make the hootchy dart around in the water.

Leader test is a critical issue. Some use up to 40 pounds when fishing for big summer chinook. This makes a great deal of sense to hold the fish with flasher sheer so that it doesn’t pop the leader. The lightest you want for winter fishing is 25- to 30-pounds. The simplest rig is to tie a loop- or figure eight-knot in the top end of the leader and attach it to the snap. It takes some repetition to get the proper length from knot/swivel to trailing hook, but do take the time, as leader length is just as important as leader test. 

You want action, and after you have caught a fish, cleaned and straightened the fronds, untangling them from one another, hook and so on, and checked, once in the water, that the lure is not fouled, attach to the downrigger and lower it (needs to be less than 10 feet between release clip and flasher), check action at trolling speed, and make a mental note of the leader length of the hootchy you have used (then reattach to the release clip, at its regular length). You want that for future reference, and over time, you will arrive at the best length for your boat’s trolling speed. Do note that speeding up makes the hootchy action wilder and that can excite a chinook into biting it.

So, if fishing is slow, speed up, for more lure action, particularly for winter fish, or migrating fish offshore. Along with this, troll across- or down-current. You don’t want to sit in one spot by trolling upstream. Move around and find the fish, something that is much easier going downstream. In the winter, schools could be several miles apart and you need to find them. As they are in deeper water than in the summer, it is far less likely for you to be fishing in a back eddy. Summer is about stick and stay and make it pay. Winter is about find the fish. Once I trolled with the current for several hours, then found the fish and took limits for two of us in less than an hour.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Laws and Policies to do with Pacific Salmon

This article brings together many strands of law and policy to do with Pacific salmon. Consider it a source when you are looking for information.

You may find the Wild Salmon Policy, 2005 here on DFO’s site. We all want DFO to be doing this policy, something they have been remiss about for a very long time: And the Cohen Commission also called for getting on with the habitat policy extant even longer, since 1986, in his recommendation 41:

Curtail Chinook Fisheries

Right off the top, let me say that I think it is not that far fetched that DFO will curtail the sport fishery for chinook on the grounds they feed orcas and there are not enough of them. Brian Riddell, PSF, may have a more informed opinion on this as he led a recent several-day meeting on orca issues.

I would say two things: DFO has consistently over the decades not done enough freshwater habitat restoration and salmon numbers have been declining to the point where the commercial harvest was pretty much non-existent in 2017. By comparison, Alaska, that forbids fish farms, and does ocean ‘ranching’ had a huge commercial haul of 243 million salmon.

In my opinion the big areas of decline are the Fraser, Broughton Archipelago with Kingcome Inlet and Clayoquot Sound.

Second, with science backing the argument, a half dozen environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) are telling DFO to stop the fishery. I give donations to about a dozen such bodies in BC. An example is the Georgian Strait Alliance. Here is my response to ED Christianne Wilhelmson text to me on the orca/chinook issue. I have left out her original comments to save space:

  1. Net pens would put current chinook eggs already in hatcheries, like the Nitinat, Quinsam and Cowichan, into saltwater net pens in spring, where after three weeks of feeding, they are sent off. This is six months, not five years. Followed up by more eggs produced next year. Net pens are not difficult to make, use or maintain. I suggest you do one.
  2. I have watched killer whales thrash kelp beds to feed on the fish that flee, and watched a sealion tossed into the air in Brentwood Bay. I would say that a preference for chinook is more about their being present 12 months of the year than other reasons. If the other four species, currently present for 2 months a year or every two years, were present year-round, I doubt that chinook would be seen to be 90% of their diet.
  3. The real problem here is DFO – in Ottawa. I have watched them dwindle salmon away for 40 years and have lots of correspondence and stats from earlier decades on the issues. The fault is directly theirs. Even if chinook fishing were terminated, DFO would dwindle them to zero, just as they did east coast cod – and it would be far easier without the complaining commercial and sport sectors. We really need $100 million in freshwater habit restoration every year for a decade to turn things around. At least we have the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Note that one particularly good project is the coho channels put in the Taylor River above Sproat lake. There should be more of such projects, and they depend on flat land, tree protection and consistent water.
  4. Climate change is now a factor, and thinking needs to include solar power, water pumps, cooling and oxygen. Cabling logs will help many watersheds shed logging damage gravel. I have rejected dams high in watersheds on several grounds: they are costly to build and maintain, are destructive of wild land, could be commandeered for run of river power and have a limited life.
  5. Terminating sport chinook fishing would cause a steep decline in revenues/employment from this source. I went through the stats and came out that the fish resource, including freshwater, is far higher than the $1B figure we always use. I calculate it at $2.52 Billion and can show you how I calculated the figure – it was published in the PSF’s quarterly magazine. A huge decline can be expected from the saltwater portion, resulting in job losses, and below-value boat sales. No one needs a boat if you can’t fish. My current annual servicing bill, for example, is $4000, only a portion of my annual expenditure. Moorage is $3000, and so on.
  6. Thanks for the names of the scientists. Note that the PSF’s Salish Sea project may return coho and chinook numbers to 1990s levels – but, yes, a long-term outcome, when we need an immediate answer.
  7. We need to feed killer whales now, by actually giving them fish – hake, pollack, sablefish – or injecting nutrition into their veins, if possible.
  8. There are no genetic issues with diploid or triploid chinook as they are sterile, and I don’t buy the argument that they would eat the food of wild fish, because there are no wild fish, and thus the feed is not being eaten.
  9. I would say that chum are far more important to our forests than any other species – their large size, and large numbers. 30 years of river fishing in the fall has shown me their carcasses.
  10. By all means reach out to the sport sector, and do it soon. Consider them an ally not an enemy.
Just so you know, my first degree is in biochemistry, my third degree in public administration followed by finance and heavy-duty number crunching in Treasury Board Staff, BC Min of Finance. That’s where I get the abilities to come up with figures that don’t exist. For example, fish farm sewage in BC can be conservatively estimated at $10.4B, and they kill 5.76 billion forage fish to bring in one harvest in a BC sized industry – they don’t save fish, they kill fish. Both figures took me a long time to figure out.

Fix Fish Protection Laws

Here is an article I wrote that brings together much about laws that needs change to improve things for salmon. It is slanted toward fish farms, as that is the blog I put it on:

Do read the Hakai magazine on weakening of laws, followed by a discussion of the HADD (harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat) provisions, Section 35 of the Fisheries Act. 

Here is DFO’s take on HADD before and after 2012, when Harper weakened the law for his business buddies: The downside on this one is that after LeBlanc came to be minister, it came out that DFO didn’t want to go back to the original laws, as its interest is business, not fish.

And do remember that changing the laws makes no difference if there is no enforcement presence or willingness to charge infringers. DFO does not have enough Conservation and Protection (C&P) presence in BC. This is from former director, Randy Nelson, whose book Poachers, P9olluters and Politics should be on your winter reading list: It is very entertaining for anyone who fishes and also shows just how difficult a job being a CO is. If your wife is not willing to go along with your zeal for catching bad guys, because of its inherent danger, you had better look for another occupation.

Returning to the article I wrote, included is a stand alone document, that takes a major portion of attention as it is the individuals, taken collectively, that should be number one on our list, the Royal Society:

Note the ecojustice list of problems with HADD provisions and taking DFO to court over putting PRV farmed salmon in the water. And West Coast Environmental Law, item 12, has good legal argument:

And item 10 is Jeff Mathews’ take on 17 ways our fish laws have been weakened, written for the Huffington Post:

There is a lot more there, but you can peruse it at your leisure. You will find links to every document.

Elizabeth May and Fin Donnelly

Both of these BC MPs have contributed to the call for changes to laws that protect salmon and other fish species.

In December, 2016, Fin put together Bill 228 for bringing fish farms out of the water. The Liberals voted it down, although, in BC, 70% voted for it, with just the ministers voting negative. BC Liberals realize that if they don’t stand with salmon, they won’t get re-elected.

Here is Fin’s bill, and commentary on his text: The gist of this is that actual jobs in the fish farm industry are about 10% of what they claim. 

This past week the fish farm associations came out with the recommendation that Canada triple fish farms to bring employment to ’19,000'. My usual rule of thumb is that if you multiply such estimates by 10%, you will have the realistic number, in this case, 1900 jobs across Canada. Both east and west coast are against the negative effects on wild salmonids represented by fish farms.

Just yesterday, Elizabeth May came out with her recommendations on what to do to revamp the Fisheries Act to bring with it proper protection for salmon/habitat. You may find her text here: And she has a PDF near the beginning.

These are her November 30, 2017 recommendations on HADD and so on, made to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on the ‘gutted’ Act.

And on Harper’s rewriting of the Fisheries Act in 2012, she says this: “It is not based on evidence or sound public policy analysis. In fact, it came from industry lobbying – word for word. To my knowledge in the last forty years of evolving environmental law, this is the first time in Canadian history that laws have been literally dictated to government by industry.”

Read the rest of her note. I pass now to her bullets to wrap this up:
  • Repeal changes to the federal Fisheries Act found in spring 2012’s omnibus budget bill C-38.
  • Remove the exemption of the Fisheries Act in the C-38 changes to the National Energy Board Act when pipelines are involved, as well as removal of the Species at Risk Act and Navigable Waters Act.
  • Strengthen the Fisheries Act to:
    • Require evaluation of threats to fish stocks and include provisions to protect fish stocks and the marine environment;
    • Make protection of critical stocks and habitat mandatory;
    • Require that the management and conservation of wild fisheries take precedence over aquaculture, wherever there are conflicts;
    • Increase penalties for contravening the Fisheries Act;
    • Improve public participation in decision making, under the principles of the Oceans Act, in particular engaging coastal communities in local fisheries management;
    • Implement the Wild Salmon policy;
    • Transfer the promotion of aquaculture to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and restore DFO’s role in protecting coastal eco-systems from the threat posed by open-pen aquaculture; and,
    • Make fish-friendly flood control an aspect of climate adaptation.
The only thing I would add to May’s list is that we need adequate C&P funding and the department’s willingness to charge and follow through to conviction. Otherwise, there is no point changing the law, other than to affect the front end which is when projects get vetted for environmental reasons.