Sunday, 27 September 2015

Shore Angler Time

It is now time for shore and river anglers to get out and get your salmon. This week is peak coho season in Port Renfrew. See my article on this from a few weeks ago: Coho can also be angled from shore at Point No Point, Tugwell and Muir creeks, among other places on Juan de Fuca.

Do remember that the salt water boundary in Sooke Basin is the silver bridge. Above is deemed freshwater, but below, salt water regs prevail – and do check them before fishing. The most common places to fish are Whiffen Spit and Billings Spit. A flood tide can be particularly good at Billings. Gear guys using red/pink spinners and wool flies catch a good number of fish that they can take home. And it is exciting to watch the schools come closer and closer until people start hitting them.

Fly guys can be welcomed into the line provided you perform back and out casting, eliminating false casting and fouling everyone’s lines. Last year, when I wandered down to see how the gear guys were doing, I was instructed to go back to my car and get my fly rod. They were accommodating and I did the same. You lay the line on the water, lift the line off and back and cast on the forward stroke. In this way, looking only for a 50 foot cast, everyone is in synch for a good fish.

There are several other places where shore angling on salt water beaches will yield fish. These include, Cherry point, earlier for pinks, now for coho and chum. The same can be said for Cowichan Bay, just off the parking lot. Up Island there are many beaches with fish, Nanaimo before Millstream River, Nile Creek, the Big and Little Q beaches, and so on, all the way to Campbell River where river angling also produces ten minutes from the spit. The same can be said for a half dozen river mouths north to Port Hardy.

Get out and fish. There is nothing more instructive than actually doing the deed. Think of it as educating yourself over the years. More fish come with more time spent understanding your fishery, the structure of the beach or river, and the behaviour of the fish. If you are not doing that well, but someone beside you is, congratulate them and ask a few questions. People who are catching fish obviously know something that those not catching them don’t.

When you get home, keep a log of what worked, even if it wasn’t your catch. If you have a record, for instance, a silver Blue Fox No. 5 spinner with a red body, you will know something for next and succeeding years. If you are fishing rivers, the Stamp and Nitinat both offer up big chinook for those who don’t have boats to catch them in salt water.

I went out last week to see whether I could bring home a coho of less than 10 pounds for dinner. Anything bigger than that becomes a problem for fileting, and divvying up fresh fish, then delivering it to family and neighbours. I’ll deal with coho more thoroughly in coming weeks, but the gist is that because they have far more curiosity than the other four species, you put flash in front of their faces.

Typically spinners are far and away the best lure for coho. And as the season progresses there is a progression in colour patterns fished.  Red is an earlier colour and pink a bit later. So I Palomared a red Blue Fox, No 5 silver blade and tossed it into a place I have caught coho on many occasions.

Five minutes later a large mouth tugged against the lure and the fight ensued. When it was 70 yards downstream and my limber Rapala rod was some stressed, the fish left the water – a thirty pound spring. Sometime later the doe lay gasping in my hands, and I relieved her of the hook and subterfuge. I tailed her into the current for breath and serpentine release.  It is very uncommon to land a chinook on a spinner, although less so on spoons – the Gibbs Ironhead, Kit-A-mat, Illusion, etc. are ones that will do the deed – and far more success can be gained from a yarn fly below a float and horizontal presentation at nose level for a passive bite.

But as the day progressed, I neither saw nor touched a coho – evidence that they just weren’t in the system yet. But I fished a half dozen spots where past records show many coho have come to my lures. In each of these the pattern repeated: have one bit from a very large fish, and then release a chinook. Of all the fish I caught, the lightest was 17 pounds, all chinook. So I went home fishless because, wait for it, all the fish were too big. A problem that virtually never happens.

And a tale: while I was standing at a pool watching big fish shadow the depths, a guy told me he had been pulled off the rock by a big fish he caught the day before. When he finally landed it, it was so large they had a Swiss tourist put his head in the mouth. He assured me he could fish in the closed pool, implying he was aboriginal and thus had status rights. I don’t know about you, but I see more blonde haired, blue-eyed aboriginals in salmon season than the entire rest of the year combined.

Finally, during the early coho time, the Gun Club run on the Stamp, up to the Bucket, can be a glorious day under the sun. Lucky indeed, it is to stumble home with a 15 pound coho, while perfecting your suntan. The Stamp is best for new coho in September.

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