Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Q and As – May 24, 2014

Big Spring Thing: The Albion chinook fishery for Fraser chinook began operating April 22. The catch for May 5 to 17 was zero, same as the past two years. Based on this, the number for Spring/Summer 5-2 Frasers is less than 25,000. So, we can expect protection measures to continue. 

DFO’s current chinook regulations are: March 1 to June 13, in Victoria areas 19 and 20, the daily limit is 2 chinook which may be wild or hatchery-marked, between 45- and 67-cm or hatchery-marked greater than 67 cm. The subareas are: 19-1 to 19-4 and 20-5, from Cadboro to Sheringham points.

Dave Blackburn: When with DFO and IPSFC, I made predictions of returning Johnstone St. diversion rates for Fraser sockeye and pinks, and am still very interested in migration routes of all species and populations of salmon. So, I was very taken by your recent comment on the Johnstone St. migration of some US Chinook stocks. I’ve not heard of this before, and presume that it’s mostly based on catches of coded wire tagged fish.

Can you refer me to any articles/papers which discuss the topic, and especially those which include any annual percentages for various routes for Chinook pops – or would they be buried in massive Chinook CWT reports?

A: Er, um, I am not aware of any research documents. I made my suggestion based on my own fishing results over the years. Sometimes there are odd migration patterns for some stocks. Let me give an example of variability for the Puget Sound, Nooksack/Samish spring springs.

I learned to fish in Saanich Inlet. After a decade, large springs showed up in April/May. We caught them several years before DFO closed retention based on our catches – not popular. But then, after several years, those fish did not reappear again, in a place where catch patterns are highly specific. For example, on the Bamberton run, there are several spots of high specificity.  I and the real old-timers, who were better than I, could predict within 30 seconds when we would get a bite.

The Nooksack/Samish fish were almost invariably caught, motoring across from McCurdy to MacKenzie Bight, and then along the wall to the Pink Lady. And one very specific spot in Coles Bay. They were all 15- to 25-pounds. Then we stopped catching them for some years and I moved my boat to the Victoria waterfront. I never caught one of those fish again, even though we had measures to protect them on the waterfront.

One would expect 100% diversion down Juan de Fuca, but some came Johnstone, but only so many years, then stopped. And another bit of variability: sockeye, pink and coho tend to cross from Race Rocks to directly south of Trial Island by several miles. They are caught at the Quarantine Buoy some years, but once a few miles across from Pedder Bay they tend to beetle across, leaving ‘blank’ water in between until becoming bity again by the third tide line south of Trial. Virtually none of these are caught close to Clover and I have never caught a pink on the Oak Bay Flats.

The big run of American fish is 2.4 million, and without doubt the offshore ‘highway’ will prevail all summer on the west coast, and be the best place to fish. But, if we get only a 5% diversion down Johnstone, that puts 120,000 big springs down east coast Van Isle. All these fish have to turn the corner at 10 Mile Point and swim against the prevailing Fraser chinook pattern coming east, and then exit at Cape Flattery, meaning a lot of fish going in the ‘wrong’ direction.

What I will do is put lots of time this summer into fishing flood tide back eddies from 10 Mile – which is the best spot because all the fish have to turn the corner here, or off Discovery Island, which can rip even on a mid-tide speed. In the area are also the Golf Course to Enterprise Channel back eddy, the eddy off south Trial Island, east Clover Point or ‘Lanceville’ as the Clover tin boaters call it, Constance Bank, and the CND Blasting eddy on Bentinck Island near Pedder Bay, as well as the east side of Otter Point.

If I catch some big chinook, I’ll let you know. Even a 5% Johnstone diversion would put more big fish in our area than all the Frasers, etc. combined, except, maybe, the Thompsons.

BC Wildlife Federation: The BCWF applauds the Government of Canada's recent announcement of a $252 million investment in the new National Conservation Plan... a significant step towards conserving and restoring marine and terrestrial habitats and connecting Canadians to nature.

“The purpose… is to maintain and restore the natural capital of Canada by protecting, enhancing, and restoring the sustainability and resilience of natural systems… the effectiveness of the plan and how the funds are invested should be measured directly against these outcomes.”

A: The BCWF is also happy the Natural Areas Conservation Program is being extended for another five years, with $100 million in new fed funding. Funds will be matched by private donations and other sources, including the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, for the purchase of important conservation land in B.C.

This sounds good, and I may be too cynical, but I just can’t see Stephen as a fish hugger. Sounds more like – and by all means let’s take the cash – the last good thing before the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines are speared through BC.

The Sport Fishing Institute and BCWF: laud the recent Court of Appeal decision to uphold the BC Supreme Court’s decision on recreational halibut allocation. The Court affirmed the  Fisheries Minister’s ability to set halibut quota levels, and upheld former Minister Ashfield’s 2012 decision to increase recreational halibut fisheries by three per cent [to 15].

“By effectively dismissing the appeal and awarding costs to the respondents, the court sent a strong message that commercial halibut quota holders do not “own” halibut”, said BCWF President, George Wilson, “This is clearly a victory for the over 100,000 recreational anglers who go halibut fishing in BC every year.”

SFI President, Robert Alcock, added: “It means sport fishers can look forward to predictable, sustainable public fishing opportunities every year.”

A: Along with the BCWF and SFI, DFO was a respondent, as represented by the Attorney General of Canada. Good for us. The public owns the halibut.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Q and As May - 2014

Darren Wright, Island Outfitters: Thanks to sponsors and those who bought tickets for the 18th Just for the Halibut Derby, May 10-11. We raised $2,500 for the TLC kids’ fund.

DCR: Returns were a huge 174 halibut from local waters. First went to Adam West, with a fatty flatty of 70.9 lbs, from Zero Rock, Saturday. Second went to Tom Schmidbauer for a 67.7 pound halibut, near Race Rocks, Sunday. Third went to Allen Lacharity for a 65.7 lb halibut, caught Saturday in Oak Bay. Ten year old Brock Heppell also caught a 65.7 lb halibut in Oak Bay, but arrived at the weigh-in moments after Lacharity. The first fish weighed gets the higher spot so Brock got 4th. First won $7,500 cash; second, $2,500; third, $1,000; and, 4th, a Lowrance sounder/GPS.

The Nature Trust BC: The purpose of the trust [not related to the Land Conservancy] is to purchase and protect important land and water areas in BC. On Van Isle donors supplied funds to the Salmon River estuary project near Sayward. In the Ash River, an important tributary of the Stamp, just upstream from Money’s, BC Hydro is also helping fund DNA studies of wild and enhanced fish so enhancement strategies can be adjusted for wild steelhead.

In addition to the Salmon estuary purchase, there are projects to assess coho, steelhead and trout populations regarding the upcoming Salmon Diversion dam; this includes inserting 18 sections of woody debris for over-wintering and fry protection on Grilse Creek. In addition, on the Salmon, unimpeded access to the upper watershed is critical to long-term salmon sustainability.

Closer to home, the lower Jordan River now has capacity to support salmonids and a strategic plan is needed to guide recovery of once abundant stocks. The study will identify habitat and enhancement options and address factors currently limiting fish production in the lower reaches.

In the Puntledge River near Courtenay, DFO considers the summer Chinook – distinct from fall Chinook – a population of high conservation concern. While both have different run timing, they spawn at the same time – early October to early November. One factor is Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD), also a problem in fish farms, particularly in Scotland.

The goal is: long-term viability of summers by reducing occurrence of BKD; and understanding genetics controlling summers’ run-timing. Results will alter hatchery practices to maintain productivity and sustainability.

Another project in the Puntledge is: year four in a five-year project to evaluate whether juvenile summer Chinook, imprinted in Comox Lake, will migrate to the lake as adults, in greater abundance than adults reared and released as juveniles in the river below the diversion dam.

And, of course, what would Puntledge projects be without looking at seals that plunder salmon on the way in. Using seal scat, the purpose is to determine whether seals prefer females loaded with eggs, as the river has a much higher ratio of males on spawning beds. There is significant funding from BC Hydro, the BC government and DFO for all these projects.

Pacific Salmon Foundation: The PSF is beginning an ecosystem-based group of projects aimed at bringing back chinook and coho in the Salish Sea – Georgia, Puget and Juan de Fuca. CEO Brian Riddell has estimated catches, now one-tenth of historical numbers, if brought back to ‘80s level, would result in additional $400- to $500-million sport revenue, above the current $1 billion from salt- and fresh-water fishing.

Vancouver philanthropist Rudy North, president and CEO of North Growth Management, has pledged $250,000 for this research. The five-year project will cost $10 million and North’s donation brings the total raised to $7.25 million.

Scientists believe changes in the Salish Sea have significantly affected salmon abundance. Losses are well noted in local communities, yet understanding causes remains elusive. Oddly, other species have had huge variability. For example, Fraser River sockeye returned at the lowest (2009) and highest (2010) levels in a century. Pink salmon, on the other hand, have consistently returned at historically high levels in the North Pacific in recent years – 26 million in 2013.

“The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project is an ambitious project that will look at the entire… ecosystem to determine the most significant factors that affect survival of juvenile salmon, particularly as they enter the saltwater phase of their lives.” Dr. Brian Riddell is scientific leader of the project.

The project has a multidisciplinary group of 20 federal, state and provincial agencies, First Nations, academia and non-profit organizations on both sides of the border. The project will improve knowledge about the relationship between salmon and marine waters through development of a comprehensive framework, coordinated data collection and standardization, along with improved information sharing. The PSF is partnering with Seattle-based Long Live the Kings on the project that also includes Puget Sound steelhead. See: http://psf.ca/files/2014/PSF-Salish-Sea-Case-Statement.pdf.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Big Spring Thing

The past winter’s CRD chinook catches suggest we are witnessing an improvement in fish numbers and stock composition. There have been more fish in the teens and early twenties, something uncommon for more than twenty years. And, of course, in the past decade our winter fish have been mostly two- and three-year Puget Sound chinook, because Cowichan and Fraser numbers – other than obvious components like the Thompson that are doing well – have been so depleted.

These larger fish, many clipped, represent both three- and four-year feeder chinook. In the past, the winter fishery was two-year feeders with the occasional three-year fish to 15 pounds. But for feeders of three- and four-years to be here – a 25 pound chinook in January is a feeder as it is not on a spawning run – that implies more fish, including a distribution into local waters because there are more fish and thus they use more area to nurse. A statistical thing.

In Alaska they experience winter feeders of 30- to 40-pounds, even though these are five- and six-year fish. Also, west off Langara Island in Haida Gwaii, represents a fishery for feeders into the 25 lb range, as you catch them on cutplugs at 80 pulls in water of 250 feet or more. They are feeding or coming onto shore from the open Pacific for the first time.

Locally, the first big springs of summer are here. We have regs to protect Fraser 4-2s and 5-2s: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/tidal-maree/a-s19-eng.html#chinook. March 1, to June 13, Subareas 19-1 to 19-4 and 20-5, Cadboro Point to Sheringham Point, the daily limit is two (2) chinook salmon per day which may be wild or hatchery marked between 45 cm and 67 cm or hatchery marked greater than 67 cm in length.  

It is time to switch from fishing deep structure. Change the mono on your reels to new 25- to 30-pound test, or try a braided line of 35 – using a figure eight knot because braid is slippery. Now is the time to fish 40- to 80-feet, and closer to shore and rock, rather than mud/sand structures.

While the ebb is the best chance to catch springs in a back eddy before the flood pushes them on – the west side of Clover Point being an example because it has several miles of ‘dead’ water that the fish swim through to Clover and wait, meaning more fish in the back eddy than where there are back eddies one after the other, say the Bedfords to Christopher Point in Sooke – this year it makes sense to fish the back eddies on the flood, too.

There are so many chinook bound for the States – 2.4 million chinook to the Columbia, Klamath and Sacramento – some will divert down Johnstone, meaning they will be migrating the opposite direction through Sidney to Sheringham, as in out to the open ocean, and thus be waiting in back eddies caused by the flood tide. The Sooke side of Otter Point for example or off the Oak Bay golf course, a place we seldom fish, but because the current rockets through Enterprise Channel on the flood the whole area from the Yellow Can Buoy to the Tee box will likely hold big US springs.

As the summer wears on, it makes more and more sense to put scent on lures because Chinook bite index falls the closer they get to their natal rivers. And, of course, this behavior also is what makes the crack of dawn the best time to fish, the chinook having not eaten all night, the only gap in the 24 hour day. Large anchovy and even the much larger large herring make sense for larger fish that are migrating – they don’t know the local bait size as they are just passing through, unlike feeders that do key in on bait size as they reside in an area for several months.

The Betsy is the best flasher for Sooke, rigged in the Farr Better Flasher method, so the fish is not pulling out the hook because flasher shear slowed the tackle. While we expect big springs to follow the shoreline all around, say, Pedder Bay to William Head, Albert Head, to Esquimalt Harbour, to the Breakwater, and thence to Clover Point, do consider that the US fish – not those for Puget Sound – have a higher bite index and a thousand miles before lining up on shore structure. This implies that Constance Bank should have more big springs this summer, and ditto for other off-shore structure. Swiftsure, for instance, would get big Chinook both coming into Juan de Fuca and going out of the Strait aimed for Cape Flattery.

When fishing 50 feet or less on the downrigger, play out 25 feet of mainline before clipping-in; this places tackle farther from motor noise and hull shadow. As we troll slower for big springs, make sure your bait spiral works at fishing speed beside the boat, before sending it down. And haul out those old Pal 3 Dodgers, putting bait six feet behind.

The SFAB is on Our Side

Gerry Kristianson, one of our sport fishery’s brains trust, is the Chair of the Sport Fish Advisory Board. The SFAB is celebrating its 50th year of advocating on behalf of sport interests with DFO. Our ‘good’ buddy, Minister Gail Shea, gave a special award to the SFAB for its contribution to sport fishing in Canada. Her staffers thought it should go elsewhere, but apparently, she is finally starting to understand that sport fishing puts $8 billion into the Canadian economy annually – $1 Billion in BC – which can only be a good thing.

The BC government has been negotiating a draft deal in Haida Gwaii, regarding drawing great green swatches of ocean that our aboriginal friends want hived off from commercial and recreational fishing, so they can do their food and ceremonial thing, as well as for economic purposes – read commercial harvest. There are three such plans slowly progressing, and you will recall the WCVI judgment earlier this year, accepting aboriginal right to commercial fishing here.

Two of the areas the Haida want are west off Langara, where there are both sport and commercial fisheries, as well as Denham Shoal off Englefied Bay. But the process has not included sport, commercial, nor DFO (admittedly, DFO backed out as the process funding was from the American Moore Foundation, so BC is not at fault for not asking).

In a five page letter, Gerry has this to say: “Although the Sport Fishing Advisory Board was not invited to play a role in development of the Haida Gwaii Draft Marine Plan, and has never received a formal request with respect to consultation on the Plan, the Executive members of the SFAB have decided to offer the following observations with respect to Version 2.1. Many parts of the document refer to management areas over which neither of the authoring governments has jurisdiction and we feel it would be dangerous if we did not make clear our position clear on issues that affect recreational anglers, if only to avoid future misunderstandings. We think it essential that discussion of tidal fisheries management issues not proceed further in the absence of federal government representation [nothing can be done without DFO as they have the power] supported with respect to recreational fishing issues by participation of the Sport Fishing Advisory Board.”

And there is another issue. More aboriginals now make their living from both the commercial and sport fishing sectors. So the MAPP process goes against some of their own jobs. For example, the Haida now own West Coast Resorts – Hippa, Englefield and Whale Channel – which are high-quality, high-income, fly-in sport fisheries. Englefield’s fishery is Denham Shoal, so the losers in this area are, well, aboriginals.

And BC seems to have forgotten – probably the Deputy Minister changed – that it is a signatory to the Vision for Recreational Fisheries along with the SFAB and DFO, which is about access to fish and more fish.

“We urge the provincial government, as a signatory to the Vision… to honor its commitment to the principles… and especially to the promise: “Prior to making decisions on recreational fisheries management, governments will seek advice through appropriate inclusive, transparent and accountable consultation processes.” The Haida Gwaii MAPP process has not met this requirement.”

I can forward Kristianson’s PDF if you want to read it, and will keep you posted on developments as they occur.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Maintaining your Trailer - May 4, 2014

With 2.4 million US chinook, 1.6 million Alberni sockeye, 1 million coho for the Columbia alone, and those abundant wild WCVI coho, and Conuma, Robertson Creek, and Nitinat springs this summer, you may be – and should be – planning a trip to the west coast of the island.

To get there and back safely take time with your boat trailer so you are confident it will do the deed of carrying you and boat both ways. Trailers get left out in the rain year round and each spring, do some maintenance to make sure they continue working safely and soundly. Nothing worse than being on the highway in a break down. While it may seem obvious, the first thing is pay your insurance. Make the due date the same as your car so you see to both at the same time.

Sitting out in the rain, boat on the trailer puts strain on the axles and so repacking bearings should be an annual chore, when the boat is being serviced.  Manufacturers recommend twice per year, but, of course we don’t get to things that quickly, and their warranties are only 12 months, hence the reason for their caution. Warranties typically extend to corrosion of frame metal components for five years.

Grease the winch and jack regularly. Shoot WD 40 into the bearings and other moving parts. When lifting the boat, pick up that block of wood you put under the jack wheel and put it on the boat. Also, when storing the boat, leave one of those concrete blocks for setting fence posts – a good 25 pounds – behind one wheel, and another in front of it, on a single axle trailer, and between the wheels for a double axle trailer.

Make sure your tongue weight at the jack end is compatible with your tongue and vehicle. The ball on the tongue must be the right size for your jack, as well. Mine are 310 lbs and 1 and 7/8ths of an inch. Also check with your manufacturer to make sure your vehicle can adequately pull the fully-loaded weight of boat and trailer. By the time you are fuelled up and gear stowed, you can have added 500 pounds more than the rated weight of trailer and boat. Remember to lift the jack wheel once the boat is attached to the tongue.

Check lights, blinkers and brake lights each time out, and wash the trailer with freshwater after each saltwater launch. Disconnect the lights before each launch. When the boat is not on the trailer, walk around and check u-bolts, wheels and so on for corrosion.

When reloading, make sure you have tilted the leg or engine up so neither will hit the pavement – do so after the boat is attached to trailer. Bring the boat straight in onto the bunks, attach the line and hook and winch the boat right up to the block. Pull the boat out and then attach your chains to both boat and vehicle. If the boat has not sat down square on the trailer, back it into the water and adjust.

Once you are satisfied with the load, attach your tie downs to the transom. The more secure the boat, the less likely it will shift during the tow. On gravel roads, it makes good practice to stop after a few bumpy kilometres and reassure yourself that your boat is good and tight. A tight boat cannot move, and this is good practice for all loads you carry; if they shift, you can have an accident.

Check tires for proper inflation and adjust at a gas station before your trip. A cigarette lighter tire inflater should be left under the back seat of your car at all times. If it does not have a gauge, leave a ‘pen’ style gauge in your glove box. If you are going on a gravel road, make sure you have completely closed down the boat – windows, hatches, soft tops. Otherwise you will arrive with a very dusty boat that will have to be cleaned out before you can use it.

And if you are stowing extra gas containers, make them mid-ship to bow – they are heavy – on the centreline, and wedged in place so they cannot shift. Air-out the boat promptly at your destination to dispel fumes. Also have at least one large funnel for emptying fuel into boat tanks.

Large is the important word because adding fuel in waves is a sloppy process. The world’s largest cooler – for all the big fish you will catch – is a must. Again, strap it down inside the boat. Ditto for bicycles, chainsaws and etcetera. Stow fenders between objects to wedge them tight. Now, catch more than your share of the fish.