The time has arrived for all anglers to get out and catch those pink salmon that muscle through Victoria in ‘odd’ years, bound for the Fraser. The run is predicted at the highest level: 4; meaning a run of 15,000,000 or more. These are eager fish and the most fumble-fingered and persecuted by the gods angler can catch his/her limit. If not it is time to give up fishing.
Tom Vaida’s Island Outfitters area report notes pinks have been in Sooke for the past two weeks. It is early for them to show in June and as early fish normally mean a bigger run, it looks like a good year. He points out it is time not to use bait, unless you are right on shore for chinook, because the pinks just keep shredding it. Best to use plastics. Closer to Victoria, I found the same to be true yesterday. My boat is moored at Oak Bay Marina.
I motored out, noting 25 boats working the Flats for chinook, and kept going south until I was several miles south of Trial Island. My logbook records show pinks as early as July 3 in this spot. When a tide line presented itself, I put out one rod, and before being able to put out the second, I had a pink on the first rod, ball at 65 feet.
My intention was to motor to Constance and give it a try tolling east, as tide lines south of Trial have not really been a hotspot over the decades. It was a slow flood all day with about a six foot difference from early morning low to mid-afternoon high.
My progress toward Constance was slow, as I was motoring into the tide, so I raised my engine rpm to 800. Fishing into a tide is the poorest way to fish because you cover so much less territory than running ‘upstream’, putting your gear in and fishing with the tide until you find fish. I intended to lift the rods and move, but found myself in the middle of a school.
While I tried my second rod at 90 feet, it became clear that 65 for the ball, five feet up for the release clip, was the zone. Over the next hour and a half, I retained three, released a dozen by turning the hook at the boat, had another half dozen on, and finally quit, to avoid harassing the fish anymore.
The short blank periods occurred when I was not in or crossing a tide line. And all the fish releasing, and going in circles meant the tide was carrying me east and I finished several miles south of Discovery Island rather than Trial. Hence I ended up fishing with or across the tide rather than into it.
There is nothing like so much action to put a smile on your face for the rest of the day. But there is more: useful fishing information for records – you should have a logbook to record all catches and other information – and to consider over the years in planning other outings. The best plastic was a Bubblegum squirt on a 34 inch leader. I tried a Fireplug which is pink with silver sprinkles in both a hootchy and squirt, catching nothing. A Bubblegum hootchy received a few bites, but the squirt of the same colour took 80% of the fish.
It is my practice to have two of every lure because, if you lose the hot one, your luck may be over for the day. Of course, I found I did not have another of the same squirt, hence, moving to the hootchy of the same pattern.
On the last hook turn of the morning, the hook broke and the squirt slid off the leader and I waved goodbye to an old friend. It is good practice to remember that you will find certain lures, particularly bait heads and plastics that out-fish others of apparently identical pattern and rigging.
It is best practice not to change these special lures, but t5o keep them as is, thank them for the hundred fish they catch for you over the years, and just accept you are going to lose them some day. The alternative – rerigging for hooks and sound leader – should be avoided. I have found that rerigged lures of these types invariably lose their magic and become just another also ran in the box. Best to keep them as best bets for as long as they stay attached to you.
The other thing to remember is that you will find other lures that catch fish at higher percentages and that they improve with age. It is good strategy to bring these lures along, as they improve with age. I know they are inanimate objects and what I have just said should not be true, but, darned if it isn’t. Pay attention to bringing your ‘team’ along and you will catch many more fish in the long run.
I also mentioned speeding up the engine. You pay attention to the RPM, not the speed-over-ground as read on your GPS. It is water speed you want to know. Speeding up allows you to fish more territory in less time, and find the fish.
The other thing, is that in summer, when coho, sockeye and pinks may intermingle, each species will take faster trolled lures, than on their own because there is more competition for food. And we all know that tide lines are two currents coming together. In the middle is where all the weed and baitfish get carried and kept. Find the food and find the fish.
Fish the moving side of the tide line as that is where the fish are coming from. If that doesn’t work, criss-cross the tide line because the fish will be in contact with food. Doing so, results in more work taking weed off the lines, but it also results, in much higher numbers of bites. You don’t have to jump to the lines on the first piece of weed. That is because with release clips attached to downrigger cable (rather than slip weights on the mainline), much of the weed that goes down the mainline, comes to rest on the clip at the cable, and so the lure is still working properly for some time, unfouled.
I then made a trip to Trotac to pick up some Radiant Bubblegum squirts, only to find they did not stock them anymore. According to them, Radiant is out of business – so I put an email into Radiant, as their website is still up. The closest alternative from Golden Bait, made by Yamashita, is the N224R Hopefully one of these will become my next hot baby.
The other useful item that got picked up is a split ring tool from P-Line. You may have noticed that these days, stainless steel from China, Korea and so on is anything but stainless. The split rings you use on flashers are heavy duty, along with quick-changers, and you must use a tool with a good quality alligator tooth on the tip end, particularly when these items have been in saltwater for awhile and need extra strength to open.
One final thing: the best flasher was a Glow Metallic Super Betsy from O’Ki. Check out their ‘green’ line on their site, as I am told the 925 Lemon Lime has been the ticket this summer. The thing about the Betsy, is that this is one of O’Ki’s flashers with built in electrical potential. The flasher sets up an electric charge with saltwater, set to a voltage, like a Black Box, that fish find appealing. You will find this useful, particularly if you have made the switch to braided line that does not have the electrical potential of stainless cable, to which you must add a Black Box to sweeten the electrical aura around the cable and tackle.
One final thing: every time you put out a hootchy or squirt, check to make sure the fronds are not fouled in the hook, slid up inside the plastic or whatever. Hold the lure in the air and inspect every single frond, unfouling every single one. Once you assign the lure to the water, check its action at the side of the boat. It regularly happens that the hooks rotate inside the lure head and thus the hooks foul the fronds. Rejig until you are satisfied the fronds are unfouled. This trick will catch you scores more fish in your fishing ‘career’.
Catch many pinks.