Well, once again it is winter spring time. Six months of two and three year old ‘nursing’ chinook, feeding and fattening up before heading to the open ocean. Now is the time for the most consistent fishing of our season for 5- to 15-pound fish.
As with all springs, winter ones are structure related, meaning you won’t find one 100 feet deep in 700 feet of water. Instead, you will find them on the bottom, in back eddies behind islands or points of land or keeping close to lunch. Off the Victoria waterfront, for example, the fish are staying close to adult herring that stage in 200 feet of water for January and February before passing up the Inner Harbour to spawn in March and April.
Find the bait, and you find the springs. While fishing the 110- to 120- foot contour from the breakwater to east of Clover point is usually the best choice for trolling, the other pattern is fishing in 180- to 200-feet of ocean for fish as deep as 140 on the downrigger. These fish are not on the bottom, but herring are usually mid-water swimmers, so this influences these structure related predators.
One of the patterns off Sooke to Otter Point, is, again, to fish bottom contours, as this is also a flat, from Secretary Island west, though more quickly descending than in Victoria. Alternatively, on Constance Bank, it is the edges where most fish are caught. The flat gently slopes up from 150 feet over a mile or so from the east, and ends in several bumps of 60 feet, before dropping off the west end. Fish the 140-foot lip and the bumps extending west from the south west corner, too.
On the Oak Bay Flats and some of Sidney waters, the bottom is flat and so tackle is fished on the bottom. Both areas have predominantly needlefish that usually inhabit the bottom, or within several dozen feet of it.
In herring areas, medium anchovy is the ticket, while in needlefish areas, small anchovy or Tiny Strip from Rhys Davis is the more common bait; this rod should be fished on the bottom and set up on the opposite side of the boat so the captain can see and attend to it first. It is the deepest rod of the spread, with others ten feet above bottom or higher.
Typically, bait catches more fish than artificial lures, so it makes sense to make it the port side rod, most easily seen by the boat handler. Since it is fished on the bottom, where possible, it is the one that most frequently needs adjusting as the level, bumps and points rise and fall under the boat. Bait is also the one most frequently brought up for a check – every twenty minutes – because it shreds or becomes misaligned much more frequently than other types of terminal tackle.
Go and check my column on wire-rigging teaserheads for bait: http://onfishingdcreid.blogspot.ca/2014/02/wire-rigging-teaserhead-feb-23-2014.html. Take a Saturday and rig up 25 of these, along with 6 foot leaders with a size 3 or 4 treble and trailing 3/0 to 5/0 single kirbed Octopus hook and, after assembling, add a ball bearing swivel, three to four feet above that attaches to the ball-bearing swivel on the bottom of the flasher. If the flasher does not have ball bearing swivels on both ends, add them.
As we fish deeper in winter, teasers with glow or UV properties are favoured. Some common ones are glow-green, my favourite, Pearl (aka, 602), Blood and Bones and so on. Purple Haze comes in more than one background, either silver or with clear Jellyfish colouring that changes to a cool light purple once it hits the water – this is an enticing colour for anglers because we all know that chinook have a purple tinge to their dorsal and shoulder regions.
In flashers, the Lemon Lime, Purple Onion, and Madi have been good the past year. But don’t throw out the old flashers and tackle. What caught fish for you in the past will catch fish today. An example of this is Army Truck in a plastic bait. We tend to forget this as Purple Haze and other hootchy colours came in and became more popular.
Some old colours that work well in Oak Bay are Mint Tulip, Irish Mist and J-79 squirts. And I throw out the old Hotspot glow green sometimes, along with the newer flashers, and it still catches fish in deep dark waters. And I have some flashers that came over on the Lusitania.
More next week.