Sunday, 13 April 2014

Halibut Time - April 13, 2014

Halibut fishing has been good in the Victoria area recently. Forty flatties were weighed in at Pedder Bay two weekends ago, which is terrific. Look at Island Outfitters images to find Phillip and Steven Chang who, on Constance Bank, April 5, caught bookend halibut. Phillip’s was 131 cm and 53.4 lbs; Steven’s was 126 and 52.4. They lead the leader board, and with 133 cm the current upper length, they may stay there for some time.

Anglers have been using large herring, salmon slices with octopus added, for a tough bait that keeps the halibut there once it has inhaled the herring. Berkley Gulp and Powerbait on lead head jigs also work well. Halibut have legendary nasal abilities and that scent trail is a powerful stimulant, particularly if you are anchored, with the scent passing downstream and the halibut following it up.

Spires or edges where depth drops rapidly make good spots to fish as these bottom features concentrate halibut for several different reasons: they rest in the downstream vertical eddy for baitfish swept off the edge; they ascend from deep water up gullies which accumulate halibut from a great wide flat space to a very small space. An edge, almost by definition, accumulates fish, because on a flat they can spread out anywhere, but once they hit an edge, they cannot go any farther without going down, staying on the edge or going back where they came from. This takes time.

Upstream eddies also hold halibut because there is a small spot of slow water for them to rest. Upstream eddies are commonly found in river fishing. Steelhead and trout lie beside, behind and in front of bottom obstacles like rocks. Upstream, water piles into itself and divides, flowing down each side and over top; this creates slow water in front of the rock and fish hang there. Edge considerations help explain Constance Bank, Race Rock ledges, and Swiftsure Bank canyons.

If you fish on strong current days, it makes sense to let the current move you into deep water before picking up your gear and going back. Anchoring up on windy or strong current days can be dangerous – always tie your boat to a large buoy that is tied to the line to the anchor. Otherwise your bow gets tilted down and waves can swamp the boat. The last time I was out, water temperature was 43.5 degrees Fahrenheit – you will be dead in no time, if you go in.

In fast current or wind the anchor drags until it catches. The faster you move the farther it drags. That can fish your tackle in deeper water than you intend, necessitating a time-eating motor back upstream to set the anchor again. Also, the faster you are moving, the harder the anchor sticks; this can be a real drag as you may have difficulty lifting your anchor when you motor upstream and heave away. While there is extra cost and faddle in a two line system, if you lose an anchor, chain and line once, with the new finer, cheaper line from chain to buoy, it doesn’t cost much to get that second line that attaches to the other end of the anchor, so you have a much better chance of lifting it.

It makes sense to drift a bank on a high speed tide – you find the fish. Once, fishing the Rat’s Nose, 40 clicks off Ucluelet, we drifted a mile off, from 250 feet into 500. Looking back, we saw not much action and heard not much chatter. The strong current pushed the springs and halibut straight sideways. They were 250 feet off the bottom. We took limits of both. But no one else.

Finally, if you fish a spreader bar, the weight goes on the short arm. You attach leader and lure to the long arm. The reason is: in letting down your line, if the tackle is on the short arm, it tangles in your rod’s main line, and you are presenting a mess to the fish. You only find your tangle, after wasting half an hour, thinking it was fishing.

When you get a bite, hit a waypoint on your GPS, not where you land the fish. Then motor back up stream and set up to pass the spot again. It is also recorded for future days. You will find anglers anchored up from Darcy Island, to Helm and Border Banks and to spires all the way to Constance Bank. The 310 foot water off the Quarantine Buoy sometimes produces as well. Then there is Albert Point and all the way out to Jordan River. Don’t overlook the Oak Bay Flats – it’s easy.

Prepare in advance, with a gaff, large cooler and a line, in case you have to tie the halibut and tow it. Consider adding a raw water pump to your boat, to sluice the deck of slime and blood. Both are very slippery, and you don’t want anyone going off the boat. If that happens, throw a life jacket immediately, then turn and motor back. You should have a rope ladder of steps, or at the least, trim tabs for the person to climb back in.

The Just for the Halibut derby is May 11 and 12. Both are good tide days, meaning two or more tides within a foot or so of one another, hence, water speed is slow. Friday, May 10 also presents a good tide pattern. Get your ticket and fish in advance to prove your spot.

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