Sunday, 23 February 2014

Wire-rigging a Teaserhead - Feb 23, 2014

I am often asked to rerun my column on wire-rigging teaserheads for saltwater salmon trolling with bait, typically anchovy. You might want to save this, or remember it will be on

Wire rigging is standard practice in the CRD area. You can fish a teaser out of the box with the treble hook inserted high behind the dorsal fin, but wire rigging helps maintain bait spiral longer and more consistently. We commonly use the O’Ki Juan de Fuca (JDF) heads and the Rhys Davis teaserheads.

Both types hold bait in the same way unlike other types, typified by Roller Baiters from Hotspot. Crimp the eyeballs of the bait, insert it into the teaser head and use an inline pin or toothpick to hold the bait. Sit down and rig 25 at a time, starting with a single treble on six feet of 25- to 30-pound mono (not too-stiff fluorocarbon) leader, with an Octopus-style, Kirbed single three inches behind, on the tag end. Do one after the other and wrap each around a tackle box leader board, so you have enough for a year.

Next, cut stucco wire (for securing chicken wire) in 6-inch lengths (not piano, spring or stainless as they won’t hold curves). ‘Drill’ two holes in the side of the trailing wing. JDF heads cause bait to spiral because the trailing wing has a curve in it and the leader exit is above the centre mark of the head; teaserheads have a flange that sticks out on the trailing edge for spiral and the leader exit hole is off-centred on the top leading edge. (You can make both spin like bullets, if you wish, by drilling holes at the centre point).

A large, long-pointed Siwash hook drills the wire holes. These two holes are parallel to head axis either right below the JDF blister or just in front of the teaser flange, 3/16th of an inch apart, one in front of the other. Speed the ‘drill’ step by heating the Siwash point over a lighter. It will eat through plastic like butter. Or, leave three straightened hooks, points on a stove element; or large, long, heavy-duty sewing needles; a very light fid would work, too.

Make sure the holes are only wide enough to pass the wire or toothpicks – loose wire or toothpicks don’t work properly. The toothpick holes you drill on the top edge of the head behind the leader exit hole and also on the bottom. Also a pair from side to side on heads without an inline pin. Scrape extra scrim off all holes with your thumbnail.

Bend the short wire pieces with needle nose pliers. Bend 3/16th of an inch to a right angle, then 1/8th to 3/16th to a right angle. This will put make a small ‘hook’ on one end. Insert the other end into the head’s trailing hole from the outside to the inside. Pull the wire through, so the leading ‘hook’ point goes through the other hole and sticks out on the inside of the head.

The care you take in the next step is the most important to ensuring a solid rig. Squash the bit of wire that is left on the outside of the head with needle nose pliers. At the same time, bend back the trailing wire parallel from the head with your thumb nail as close to the exit hole as possible. Then, holding the head between thumb and forefinger, turn the head over, and use the pliers to first bend the ‘hook’ on the inside. Then, pressing hard on the trailing wire, take the bent leading wire end and head wing in your pliers and firmly press it right into the plastic. It should not wriggle at all.

Also use four ball bearing swivels: top end of the leader, bottom end of the flasher, top end of flasher and bottom end of main line. This enhances bait spiral and gives fail-safe bearings so the always-spiraling rig does not just simply tangle the leader and/or mainline into a fritz. As you will be fishing 20 minutes between checking bait action and condition, you could be towing a tangle the entire time.

For the hook rig, I use a brass #3 or #4 treble (actually a freshwater hook), barbs flattened, for a leading hook, with a sliding knot, followed by a 4/0 to 6/0 single, nickel (rusts out of the fish in a break off), Octopus-style hook, with a sliding knot, as the trailer, three inches below the treble. Fix a ball bearing swivel to the leader, with a Palomar knot. Add a 3-mm eye to the outside of the teaser, as it is the side the fish sees. Put a toothpick in the blister to snugly hold the leader.

If using a non-glow JDF head, say jelly-fish, use a fluorescent pin on the head as an attractant. When using a glow-head, use a red pin, which perhaps imitates a gill opening. Finally, trim the wire to the bait size on the water, remembering that no wire should stick out of the bait. Gently insert the trailing wire into one side of the gills, then back through the body until the anchovy head snugs into the teaser.

Add the top and bottom toothpicks, and from side to side in a head without an inline pin. Snap all ends flush to the teaser. Keep all toothpicks dry – and use flat ones not round ones – in a plastic pill bottle on the boat, with a hole in the top, so that you can turn it upside down and a single toothpick will drop in your palm.

Now, insert one point of the treble halfway between the lateral line and dorsal surface and halfway between the dorsal fin and tail. Now the important part: curve the bait from teaserhead, making the curve greater curve toward the tail – for that killer spiral (not a roll). Be assured your bait will fish true the entire time between letting down and bite, or other bump in the dark. The curve makes the tail follow the head within the diameter of its spiral – crucial in Victoria.

Finally, note that treble placement puts the trailing single directly behind the tail so hook is the first thing the salmon closes on – much better than the original, single-treble version. In my two-hook version, the treble has no other purpose, making it easier to get the single hook from the fish’ mouth.

Note: I have been asked to put some photos of wire-rigged bait heads here. Two shots are below. You can zoom them in to take a look at how the wires look once inserted. I give you both the front and the back side of the rigged heads. And there is a sample of the wire that you can get where they stock stucco products. To these you add the double tandem hook rig mentioned above and finally trim the wire shorter before inserting it in the gill plate of the bait.

Questions to:

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Q and As – February 2 – Feb16, 2014

Halibut: The new size limits for halibut are: 133 cm and 93 cm, the first about 70 pounds, the latter, 20. So says Brad Beaith, one of the good guys at DFO. And, to clarify, my previous mention of the Swiftsure Closure, I was simply restating the longstanding closed area that we are all familiar with, not that there is any new closed area.

And also, it needs to be said that all sport fishers know good people in DFO. Many on the coast are high on our list, particularly enhancement people. When we, and I include me, criticize DFO it is not the good people here, but the moribund department, mostly in Ottawa, that don’t get salmon in BC.

Circle Hooks: I attended the Esquimalt Anglers meeting recently, and we talked about circle hooks. These are better for bottom fishing for halibut. Once they meet the scissors of the jaw, they seldom come out and you land more flatties from their chewy bites.

But I would not fish circles trolling for salmon. The reason is: the bent-back point tip is the first thing the grab and run winter chinook bite hits, meaning the point is not naturally penetrating, and thus you lose fish.

Circle hooks meet their best use in freshwater fishing salmon, particularly chum. The schools are so large and dense a straight point simply buries in whatever flesh it hits and a day of wrestling 20, 20-pounders to the beach and removing the hook is a lot of wasted energy for fish and fisher. With  circle hooks, you feel the various bodies and fins it slides over, but days chum are ‘snappy’ you miss no biters.

Seals: Seals in winter can be so thick you lose most chinook. I have chased many, many seals to keep them underwater, hoping they will release the fish to get some air.

The Esquimalt guys passed along a tip from Scott Craven. Seals have gotten so good at separating fish from line it makes sense to, as he does: loosen the drag and put the rod back in the rod holder. The seal will separate the fish, or bite it off behind the head so quickly you will be back fishing in no time.

Done this way, you can continue using 25- to 30-lb leaders between flashers and lures, rather than going to 15-pound test; that approach leaves you the expensive part of the set up - flasher and anything above - important because it is difficult to know, if mainline breaks, where stretching may have weakened it above the missing ball-bearing swivel. The down side is you need to shorten leaders to transmit flasher kick to lure, particularly hootchies and squirts.

Lower test on leaders leads to another problem: keeping lower and higher test leaders separate in your tackle box. Instead of the usual inch of plastic drinking straw most fishers use (after wrapping-up the leader around your fingers), use twist ties for the lower number of lower test leader/lure combinations. Ties need to be replaced annually for corrosion reasons; they discolour leaders and, more importantly, plastic lures.

Habitat Restoration: Apparently, DFO added money to the original $10 Million across Canada over two years for habitat restoration, perhaps as much as $15 M.

BC Wildlife Federation says: “We are pleased that funding… has been increased and continued for another two years. These funds… support important conservation projects related to recreational fisheries habitat… undertaken by conservation organizations and community groups, including BCWF Member Clubs,” said BCWF President Bill Bosch. The point of the program is to leverage what conservation groups add to the process, a good thing.

You will note this in the DFO Program Objective: “The Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program forms a key component of the Government of Canada’s conservation agenda as outlined in Budget 2013 and aligns with the Government’s commitment to better protect Canada’s fisheries as reflected in the recent changes to the Fisheries Act.” The problem is all BC fishers know the important changes gutted the Act (s35 and s36) of fish habitat protection measures.

These are the FAQs: None address the question of whether the $15 M is across Canada for two years, like the earlier amount. I have asked for clarification and will let you know.

The original announcement of $10 M across Canada is:

Fish Farm Sewage: my preliminary estimate of the sewage cost to BC residents of leaving fish farms in the ocean is a staggering $10.4 Billion. To ground proof the figure, I have dredged up the stats for Scotland, and Norway (where fish farms are from). They are equally staggering, and I’ll release these shortly.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Winter Steelhead Time

A Pineapple Express is forecast this week, so think winter steelhead. Rising water and high tide brings them into rivers like the Cowichan and Stamp. In the latter, new fish hit the Confluence Pool in three hours. Wear your raincoat and fish until water turbidity declines to less than a foot. If you have to fish high, brown rivers, remember biters may be within a foot of shore, and where clear streams enter.

Dry weather moves steelhead into pools and they become skittish in runs. In cold, ice forming in your rod guides, hit them on the nose, running dink float setups down multiple times, before moving on. The best fishing is on dropping water after rain, in straight line runs, 3 to 8 feet deep. Learn the 3-D contours of river bottoms you fish frequently.

Gear fishing, with floats and split shot, or pencil lead and leader off its swivel, gives you the best opportunity to learn run dimensions because you can raise or lower the float, changing mainline distance to the weight. Cast out sequentially, in one foot ‘strips’ and run downstream to learn the bottom.

Steelhead are found near rock more frequently than wood, like logs. In winter, they are on the bottom - rivers can be colder than the ocean, in clear weather associated with low temperatures. Fish sink to the bottom and move only inches for lure or fly. I once plumbed a run forty times before the 14 pound winter whacked the lure on the Gold River one frigid February morning.

Dropping water and knee deep visibility are the highest percentage days. Steelhead are very aggressive and will smack anything. When you catch a hatchery steelhead you will keep, always check its stomach for what it may have been eating. I got one in the Stamp that, when gutted, was stuffed with salmon eggs. I could not see the eggs tumbling by me in the water, and it was December, past all spawning but a few remaining chum, with coho more likely in side-stem streams. But the steelhead was selectively picking up eggs and had nothing else in its stomach.

Little wonder gear guys prefer eggs when regulations allow. I once spotted a steelhead finning in its spot, and put a glob of eggs behind a spoon. It looked more like a golf ball than roe-bag. I cast across and above the fish. As the lure swung into view, the steelhead picked up the scent and began moving forward. From behind and out of sight, as much as 25 feet, a 10 pound coho rocketed from invisibility, passed the steelhead and smacked the roe. So I got to keep a fresh coho.

The point is: salmon eggs leave scent passing downstream. It is a huge stimulant and worth pursuing a very long way. I suspect the smell is a pheromone, and more particularly, to fish about to spawn; hence the coho beat the steelhead to the roe as the latter needed several months of ripening.

One more thing: add different rivers to your repertoire in winter. One example would be the Nimpkish on the north Island. You will have to stay overnight as it takes me four hours from Victoria to hit Sayward Junction, where the Fisherboy Hotel is good value for two, one half hour short of Woss, with the Nimpkish just beyond. There are six to eight miles of highway accessible river before it moves away and drops into its canyon shy of the Zebellos turn off.

Plan a north island trip with a half dozen rivers in mind. The Campbell, itself, is worth a plumb as its summer steelhead run has split into two, with January being a high month now. For fly guys, January can also be good for large cutthroat. Explore the Quinsam from the Campground near the logging bridge at Haig-Brown’s Sandy Pool. Consult your fishing friends for info, or join the local fishing club – there are many on Vancouver Island – they can save a decade of prospecting on your own.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Q and As – February 2014

Halibut: Good news. The sport Total Allowable Catch is 1.057 M pounds. The season opened Feb 1, 2014, with the same regulations: one halibut per day, with two in possession, comprised of: one fish to 126 cm and one to 83 cm.

The new regulations come into effect April 1, 2014 – you can buy a licence on-line - with good news, too: one halibut per day, with two in possession, comprised of: one fish to 133 cm and one to 90 cm. So bigger fish and season opening earlier than last year, likely allowing Victoria-area anglers to fish past Labour Day again in 2014.
Swiftsure is currently closed, but expect change closer to the summer season.
Run of River Power: Such power dams run from small to large and little to enormous environmental damage. Toba Inlet is a moonscape of 15 drainages managed into one power project. Google: Toba Inlet run of river power. The images show pretty much the worst such an operation, by Plutonic Power, can look and that cannot be reconciled with the phrase ‘run of river’. Download the Pacific Salmon Foundation report:

On Vancouver Island, the most recent project is the Kokish River near Port Hardy. This is a canyon gem that like so many Island rivers has to be seen to believed. So, very sad, on a river with all species of salmon, steelhead and other salmonids to be dammed, with roads and hydro lines. At the time, when Gordon Campbell was premier, you may have seen the list of a couple dozen liberal ministers and deputies that got into power development.

On the other hand, with climate change and lower summer river levels, dams high on a river, allow for, providing the company would do so, to release water in August and September, before the rains begin. Chinook, in particular, cannot rise up rivers less than a foot deep. The Campbell River dams, for instance, manage river flow in many seasons.

Read CEO Dr. Brian Riddell’s introduction regarding loss of or compensation for salmon habitat. “It is important to note that it is standard practice under the Fisheries Act to use habitat as a proxy for fish abundance and conclude that compensation has resulted in no net loss if there is no net loss in habitat. However, without estimates of the reduction in salmonid abundance [and no baseline data from before the dam is put in, and no government plan for actually doing such work] as a result of the operation of the facility, and net change in salmon abundance as a result of the compensation habitat, the reviewers could not reach conclusions regarding any actual change in salmonid abundance” This means more research, but is a place to start. Recommendations address monitoring and data acquisition.

One sobering conclusion: add the controversial Site C and all run of river sites in planning, and they would supply only half of the 40% increase in power needed in BC in the next 20 years.

Rob Vann: I read your article regarding compensation payments made to fish farms and noticed you may have missed compansation for the Shelburne and Coffin Island NS outbreaks. I attach the FOIs.

A: For anyone who hasn't read it, you may find my article on our taxpayer dollars given to fish farms for diseased, slaughtered fish by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the Common Sense Canadian website: Posted Feb 1, 2014.

The bottom line in my article is $50 M from the CFIA, in two FOIs, mine and the Telegram, a St. John’s Newspaper. Add $1 M for Rob Vann’s. All three FOIs were for pretty much the same period of time and all three differed. Confusing and annoying.

And with DFO entertaining expansion of 11 farms plus 2 new farms in BC, sadly, this looks like the opening of the floodgates – and no response to Cohen. There are roughly 130 farms in BC. Look at Chile, with roughly 1175, ten times as many, in this article: This may be where BC is headed.

In Chile, $2 Billion was lost to ISA throwing 13,000 people out of jobs in 2008 - and it still has ISA. Farms have taken over three world biosphere parks in Patagonia. Farm escapes run from 1 to 4 million fish per year. Farmed coho and chinook salmon invade the rivers. Like BC, there was no ISA in Chile, until fish farms, Aqua Gen, transported it there. Now Atlantic ISA has been found by 7 different labs in BC. DFO says no.

Ottawa does not get that BC wants fish farms out of the water, and the same $400 Million it gave to the east coast fish farms, for saving wild BC salmon. Do complain: