Sunday, 24 May 2015

Big Spring Fishing

A month ago, a slug of big chinook moved through Sooke and guide boats were coming back with happy clients. When the chinook, heading home to spawn, moved on, guide boats moved across to Victoria/Oak Bay waters. They picked up the springs that had moved the 30 miles from Sooke on their way to the Fraser and other rivers.

Guided boats continued bringing in good catches of big chinook and also halibut limits for many clients. Last week I went out after the guides had moved back to Sooke and had the good fortune to pick up a 20 pound white chinook female, presumably an early, smallish Harrison River fish.

It seems pretty early for getting a fish from a run we see most frequently in August and into September. These fish don’t have far up river to swim, and so are late entries but on the spawning beds at the same time as fish that swim hundreds of clicks up the Fraser; those 5(2)s for instance, that enter the Fraser earlier in the season. Most of those are from the Merritt/Nicola area and ones from the Spius, Deadman, Birkenhead and a few other streams.

You will see the Harrisons, many more than 40 pounds, on the Island Outfitters leader board in September, taken as far out as Port Renfrew on the Owen Point ledge that runs west to Camper Creek. Last year, Lance Foreman took second with, as I recall, a 32 pound, 10 ounce spring taken on the Waterfront in July.

We chatted about whether the fish I picked up was a small, early Harrison, or from another drainage. He said he picks up the white Harrisons in July on the Victoria Waterfront, earlier than I would have thought.

The fish I caught was taken on a medium anchovy in a wire-rigged 602, white-glow teaser, 5 feet behind a green Farr Better flasher, at 25 feet in 60 feet of water. What needs mentioning here is that while there are new hotties on the market every few years, for example, Army Truck, then Cop Car, and then Purple Haze and Betsey’s, you should always record what you get bites on. You pick up the new stuff, but also the old stuff, as it will continue catching fish, year in, year out. The pin on the flasher trailing edge  was pulled out on the bite, so there was no shear force on the single 6/0 Kirbed single in the fish’ jaw.

And the drill was fishing an ebb tide back eddy. In Victoria, you look at both the tide tables for the area you want to fish, and the current tables, in this case, for Race Rocks. It is the current tables that are a more reliable indication of which way the water will be running than the tide tables. Oak Bay is one example of this and anyone who fishes it can tell you that you can have conflicted water caused by the tide and current running in different directions on different parts of the Flats at the same time.

When you want to fish an ebbing back eddy, make sure you are there at least two hours before the Race current turns from ebb to flood. And pay attention to current tables for Juan de Fuca, Active Pass, Porlier, Dodd Narrows, and so on, in the areas you fish.

Ebb tide back eddies fill up with chinook over the six hour period that they are set up. The chinook, moving through water of lower speed, and because they are only going in one direction and swimming at perhaps 1.5 knots, bunch in the back eddy close to the leading edge of the ‘pool’ because the current is running faster into their face. The day I was out, the current was falling at 5.9 knots, so the back eddy will fill with fish that swim in but, in essence, can’t move forward until the current changes, when they continue swimming at the same speed and the flood carries the m forward out of the former back eddy.

The fish bit 15 minutes after I put the first rod’s gear in the water. I had not gotten to putting out the second rod because the wind was moving in the opposite direction from the ebb and the occasional wave was 4 to 5 feet high, just enough to toss things around the cabin, without being dangerous. Once I had decided to take the fish, there was no reason to stay on the water when the fish was larger than the fish bucket I had that day, and slithering around the restricted deck on my boat, making things slippery.

The next time I will take my foam container that transports more than 50 pounds of fish. As my freezer has several meals in it now (and lucky people on the block got their share) there is no need to retain a chinook. The purpose will be to continue fishing the back eddy and see how many fish it contains through ‘sticking and staying and making it pay’, and letting biters go.

Give it a try some time.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Salmon Season – The Small Things

Finally, summer fishing on the west coast. May brings big chinook, most en route to the Fraser, and among them the 4(2) and 5(2) chinook. DFO estimates 45,000 of the latter will reach the river mouth, not as many as it would like. In the Victoria area we may retain 2 chinook. The shorter must exceed 48 cm (62 cm in Sidney waters) with the larger, and only one, may exceed 67 cm. The management plan will be re-evaluated for the period after midnight, June 12.

In fishing for larger summer fish, we fish closer to shore, in shallower water and find those nooks and crannies having the least tidal flow or an ebb tide back eddy. Having said this, it is also true that some areas have better fishing on the end of the flood. Port Renfrew is one of these waters. And in Sooke, Aldridge Point is best on the flood. Memorize summer contours because, with shallower water, typically less than 75 feet, and  with rocks jutting out and up, there is less margin for error – your gear hits the grabby bottom and rips, rather than sliding along deeper, winter, mud/sand bottoms.

It is time to take that annual look at gear and update what needs to be new, for big fish. Consider braided line for your single-action reels, with 20 feet of 25- to 30-pound monofilament in front. I use figure eight knots, then martingale the two together. I switched my freshwater bait-casters to braided line some years ago, and it has some distinct advantages. I thought it would shred, leading to breaks, but have found this not to be the case. In comparison with mono, braid breaks fewer times, and there is no need to cut-off 10 feet and reattach your swivel and snap each time out. Use a Palomar knot to attach mainline snaps.

The second advantage for bait-casting and other casting reels is that braid is more slippery than mono and so lures are cast more easily and longer cast distances result. Another braid advantage is that mono is stiffer, and scuffs to a translucent, visible finish over time. You will have more line twist in mono because it is stiffer than braid.

I now use braid for my downriggers, and have been surprised that it has less tendency to shred than one would think. It ‘sings’ a bit when the harmonics of line and water are right, but there is no electrical potential, pushing fish from the lure end of the tackle. So, a black box is not needed with downrigger braid – as opposed to stainless cable. On the other hand, I have noticed in quicker, swirling tides, there is a greater tendency to get downrigger lines wrapped around one another, along with mainlines, making for annoying messes to be untangled.

Cannonballs with fins on their trailing edge can be set to move farther out from the side of the boat. Simply bend the fin toward the boat and the ball tracks farther out. Note that all downrigger cables should have a ball clip on their end. Do not tie a cable/braid directly to the ball as you are looking to lose your downrigger on a hang-up. And, clips swivel, reducing line twist. There is nothing more annoying than line twist getting around your rod tip or line guides leading to broken mainline and loss of tackle and fish. Not to mention the rod tip. Grr.

Probably the most important small tackle item is ball-bearing swivels. Check these each spring, clipping a flasher to the clip and giving it a spin. If it spins freely, you are ready to go. If not, replace the swivel, or use an oil-based commercial scent. Don’t use WD-40 as it will stream off the clip directly into your tackle.

Get in the habit of using more ball-bearing swivels rather than fewer. We fish bait, and larger bait more frequently, and fish slower in summer for chinook. Four ball bearings are required: end of mainline; both ends of a flasher; and the top of the leader. The purpose is to make bait spiral (not spin) easily with the head spiraling in the same diameter as the tail – most easily set up with wire-rigged heads and the bend on the wire, behind the dorsal fin of the bait. See:

Fewer ball-bearing swivels may be used with: plugs, Apexes; spoons; and hootchies. All of these lures sway side to side rather than spiral, hence, fewer ball-bearings are needed. A simple figure eight knot on the leader, as the commercial guys do it, is sufficient, and the trailing clip on flashers and dodgers, needs no ball bearing either. You will recall Pal No. 3 shiny dodgers. The trailing edge simply sways from side to side and is used in summer because of the slower, more deliberate nature of big chinook. No need for bearings other than the leading edge of the bait leader.

One more small thing: get release clips with 30- to 48-inches of stout mono. The purpose is to hang the clip from the cable over the gunwhale, making it far easier, once you have tested gear action by the boat, and let out 25 feet, to pick up the clip and set the mainline within it. Then lower away. Clips that won’t reach the gunwhale will have you reaching farther out, every time to bring the clip to mainline – with the risk of falling out.

And one final thing: use Farr Better flashers in summer for big fish. They come with a pin you insert in the trailing edge. When the fish bites, the pin pops out and the flasher, attached at its leading edge only, no longer causes shear on the line, resulting in losing big fish, particularly when they hit the surface. Nothing worse than watching a trophy swimming away because shear has ripped the hooks from its mouth.

And buy yourself a better quality rod because you are a better quality guy. Fish like better gear, too.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Q and As – May

Salmon Steward, PSF: I have some copies of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s current Salmon Steward magazine and if you would like one, send me your address, and I’ll shoot you a copy.

One of their large, interesting projects is figuring out why the ‘Salish Sea’ coho and chinook numbers nose-dived in the ‘90s and not come back. These days juvenile salmon can have implanted tags that can be read by acoustic arrays, hand held wands and even seal ‘beanies’ making it a reality that they can be found anywhere from stream to open ocean and back again – without killing the fish, and thus getting time series data for the same fish thousands of miles apart.

If you want to be part of the citizen science program conducting oceanographic sampling, get in touch with the PSF. Also see:

It appears that algal blooms that cause increased levels of toxins kill juvenile salmonids. It has also been demonstrated that smolts have more microbes than in the past, the source of which is at this time unknown.

You may know that other research, by Sean Godwin from SFU has demonstrated that sea lice, even in small numbers, affect sockeye fry ability to consume food and thus survive. This year the lice load in the Broughton Archipelago from fish farms is far higher than it has been. In fact, globally, sea lice are the worst problem reported by industry. Last year, Alf Helge Aarskog, CEO of Marine Harvest, said that anyone with a solution should get in touch. They have 90 scientific studies going world wide to solve the issue of lice being resistant to all the chemicals they use.

BC Federation of Drift Fishers, Rod Clapton, President: “The proponent, Aevitis is withdrawing its proposal for a hazardous waste facility on the Fraser River in Chilliwack. Over the past 18 months the combined efforts of many is responsible for this decision & demonstrates that when a potential threat of this magnitude rears its ugly head ALL sectors can work together.”

“Galvanizing the sport fishery, First Nations and environmental sectors shows that local, province-wide and international support has ‘protected the world’s number 1 salmon river.”

Sport Fishing Institute: The CTAG challenge for experienced guides will take place on May 20, 2015. This is free and a useful certification and training credit along with other industry benefits. Guides who want to participate need to submit an application ahead of time:

If you are looking to become a member of the SFI, the following link lists the benefits to your business:

Fishers are also asked to comply with requirements for accurate catch data in creel and guide log-books. “Providing fisheries managers with quality data can provide a strong argument against detractors who may claim that our fisheries are not adequately monitored. Over a number of years, and by the review of a number of test programs, DFO has determined that guide logbooks are a valuable component of recreational fisheries data and are working to increase their use particularly in areas where creel survey data is limited.”
South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition: Just in is an economic evaluation for the PSF, in GDP terms, of sport and other fishing on the BC economy. See:

This is a useful document to refer to when gross domestic product economic figures are needed. Do note that the figures I put together for salmon/fishing revenue – not GDP stats – came in far in excess of the Billion dollars that we commonly refer to for sport fresh- and salt-water. Revenue is $2.72Billion, so don’t forget to use this figure. Last week’s post gave the references. See:

Chinook Corridors – DFO: In areas 18 and 19, (Race Rocks to Active Pass) to protect Fraser early summer chinook, DFO has introduced protection methods that will include chinook corridors.

May 4 until 23:59 June 12, the daily limit is two chinook of which only one may be greater than 67 cm. In 19-5 and Sidney waters, the minimum size is 62 cm, not the 48 that prevails in area 19.

DFO is expecting less than 45,000 chinook 5(2)s at the Fraser estuary. Further action should be expected and will be out in early June, and likely continue after June 13.

Do remember to send in those chinook heads from fin-clipped fish, as they provide critical information for coast-wide stock assessment. Contact the Salmon Sport Head Recovery Program at (866) 483-9994 for info.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) – Editorial – DC Reid

The PSF asked me to do an editorial on the value of salmon/fishing to BC and what needs to be done to bring salmon back. Below is the text that ran in the Salmon Steward on April 6, 2015. You can get a PDF for the entire document from Elayne Sun, esun@PSF.CA.

Below the text is backup for revenue and salmon numbers.

Examining the massive impact B.C. salmon have on Canada’s economy


DC Reid is a B.C. poet, novelist and angling  writer

British Columbia’s calendar begins when salmon come back, and resident and non-residents alike eagerly take to the waters. Salmon are more than just fish to British Columbians. They compose a socio-economic backbone for aboriginal and non-aboriginals alike. Even BC vegetation responds. Fifteen percent of carbon in cedar trees 1000 years old comes from salmon toted into the woods by bears, wolves and eagles. With almost a million square kilometres, less than a tenth of the country, British Columbia has 99.8% of the salmon (that’s 42,900% more than the rest of Canada). In turn, we issue 300,000 freshwater licenses, 300,000 salt-water licences, and 200 First Nations licenses, comprising almost a third of all Canadian licenses.

Expenditures on salmon capture and freshwater fishing topped $1.716 Billion in 2014. If we add the commercial and processing sectors, the value is: $2.52 billion. We need to protect our fish because, for example, in the Strait of Georgia, there has been no commercial fishery for more than 20 years, and the sport fleet is a spectre of what it once was. Fixing the Salish Sea’s Georgia Strait could add $200 million in additional revenue, more than $2.72 billion in total, and that is only part of our 25,000 km shoreline. Salmon are that important.

Need for Change

But there are problems to solve on the way to prosperity. We need to accelerate the use of land-based fish farms. The Namgis First Nations are proving that closed-containment land-based aquaculture can be an economically viable option through their Kuterra farmed salmon brand. Additionally, our science must adapt to climate change which results in dry hot water in summer and floods in winter. We need to know the genetics of fish that can stand extremes.

A century’s logging damage must be addressed along with 77,000 culverts that prevent fish movement and spawning. Habitat work costs millions. Passing the responsibility to B.C. from Ottawa could help strengthen support for provincial salmon needs.— Last year Ottawa’s total B.C. program was $0.9 million, when one clay bank project on the Cowichan cost at $1.5 million a few years ago. Not enough.

The $25 million Salmon Enhancement Program needs to be taken out of the Conservation and Protection standard object — where it is whittled down as a freebie for the West — and placed in its own budget along with the new announcement of $4 million for salmon enhancement in the east.

A drastic interim need is widespread netpens for sterilized Chinook to address food needs for imperiled killer whale populations that now only consist of 78 individuals, with the residual adding to winter fisheries and adult returnees. There is little genetic issue with fish that cannot reproduce and there is little competition for food with wild fish, because there are so few wild Salish Sea Chinook. Ending the herring roe harvest would improve salmon numbers, too, allowing us to slowly replace netpens with wild Pacific Chinook in Georgia Strait.

Salmon Need Habitat and Money

The Pacific Salmon Foundation has a vital role in bringing back wild Pacific salmon. The most important role is improving habitat for salmon. Additionally, the Freshwater Fisheries Society that puts out 8 million freshwater trout, and has a well-developed marketing program that could be adapted to salt water, too.

In terms of funding, the $1.8 Million Salmon Conservation Stamp revenue was dedicated to the Foundation recently. I think the Salmon Conservation Stamp should quadruple to $24 per licence, making the amount $7.2 million per year. At the same time, the federal and B.C. governments could make matching contributions making available $21.6 million for habitat reconstruction. This annual amount would comprise a sound base given the community groups that the Foundation funds ability to leverage dollars some seven-times, through donations and in-kind contributions in for work and equipment used. Let’s bring them back one at a time and let’s do it in British Columbia.

Now, let me show you how I derived the financial figures and fish number figures.

1.      Revenue

The financial numbers were derived from several reports. We normally say it is a billion for angling, but when I looked deeper into the reports, and accounted for processing and commercial, updated for inflation, found separate figures for fresh and salt angling, the figure came in much higher. Note that my purpose was saying what the total value of salmon/fishing is to BC, not simply sport revenue.

My estimate should be conservative, as I made no inflation adjustment for the BCFFSBC figure, and used $200 M for Salish Sea potential, rather than the high end of $400M or higher.

1.      BC Stats Report: $344.8M Commercial + 427.5M Processing  = $772.3 for Commercial and Processing = $806.4M updated for inflation.
(See my site for the table and link to the BC Stats report:

2.      The BC Freshwater Fishing Society document says freshwater alone is: $957M.
(Freshwater Angling and the B.C. Economy –  Megan Bailey (Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen, UR) and U. Rashid Sumaila (Fisheries Centre, UBC), 2012). I made no adjustment for CPI.

3.      From a DFO report I found for tidal waters direct sport expenditures on investments: $706.0M, updated for inflation = $758.7M.
 Total: $806.4M + $957M + $758.7 = $2.52Billion.
4.    Then I added the mid-range value from the stats on the Salish Sea derived for the PSF: $200M 
Grand total: $2.52B + $.2B = $2.72 Billion
2.      Fish Numbers

A.    Atlantic Salmon

I was simply stunned to find out that all Atlantic salmon, in six provinces, half the country (and you can add Maine in, too) was only 170,000 adult salmon at sea. I think that this alone explains why DFO in Ottawa does not get BC.

See the graph in this document: You will note that the numbers of Atlantics has been below the lowest threshold for fisheries of 213,000 for more than 20 years.

B.     Wild BC Salmon

As for wild BC salmon, I looked over five DFO and PFRCC reports and settled on three for most of the data:

Riddell on northern BC: QC Sound to Portland Canal.

Mark Johannes: Transboundary rivers in North BC

Marc Labelle, PFRCC Doc, 2009 for southern BC: Can be found on the PSF site.

There were problems with data and methods: data holes, differing methods, for ex, aerial survey versus on foot, flood years, methodological differences, estimated figures, graphs with trends but no current figure, different models and so on. I spent three full days figuring out the numbers of fish from all systems in BC.

Where needed, I made assumptions of what seemed the most reasonable fish figures in comparable years. For escapement in an average year, meaning in-river after all fisheries, the wild BC salmon number is 38.62 million salmon. The number of salmon in the ocean before all fisheries is about twice that size or 72.65 million salmon. To figure out a mega-year in-ocean number of salmon before fisheries, I scoured the documents for peak year numbers, for example, in the Fraser, add 15M for extra sockeye, and 20M for pinks, and this came out to 128.05M wild salmon in BC.

Now, BC’s percent of all Canadian salmon, in an average year, is: 72.65M / .17M + 72.65M = 99.8% of all the salmon in Canada. The six eastern provinces have only .2% of all salmon.

Similarly, BC has 72.82M / .17M = 42,835% more salmon than the rest of Canada.