Sunday, 24 April 2016

A Very Hungry Chinook

I received this very interesting picture of a chinook salmon from Ken Street this week:

Here is his story: “Thought you may enjoy this picture taken yesterday of a 12 lb marked Chinook caught drift-jigging in the OB flats, 75 ft of water, using a 6 oz (6 in long) Dart Sandlance lure.  With a very full stomach, it is doubtful the fish was hungry! Or it had poor eyesight.”

Yes, the most striking thing is the huge amount of feed this salmon had in it – and sucked down whole. Almost the size of its head, in its stomach. Stuffed. And such large needlefish. We are used to seeing much smaller sandlance. A month or so from now, the newly hatched fish will be seen in schools among the boats at the Oak Bay Marina, perhaps an inch and a half long.

So, these are big by any standard, and nice to see as mature fish so close to our urban shores. Sandlances grow to eight inches in BC, with these appearing to be about six. These are the feed you pick up on your depthsounder as patches on the bottom. Herring, on the other hand, tend to be mid-water or higher fish. So if the bait is on the bottom, it is needlefish.

Needlefish are the predominate baitfish on the Oak Bay Flats, and are long and slim, compared with herring. That is why, in plastic baits, a squirt is preferred over the larger hootchy in this location. Plastics with lines down their flanks will often outperform those without. The local favourites are the Mint Tulip, J-49, and the Irish Mist, although a Purple Haze should be a back up. 

Think slim spoons as well. Coyote style, as in 4 inches. Also the Coho Killers which are very slim, in Green Splatterback, White Lightning and Gold Nugget - in that order. Do note though that they rust, and you should change hooks to standard saltwater hooks because the ‘diamond’ shaped black hook they come with, rusts faster than the lure. And be careful not to lift a fish by the spoon as they bend.

Fish with a glow flasher, as you are on the bottom, in Ken’s case, 75 feet. Typically, though, the Flats is trolled in the 90- to 130-foot depths, on the bottom, hence why glow properties are useful in the deep, dark water. If things don’t go as planned, come right into the 60 bottom in front of the Great Chain Islets. Halibut are taken on there as well – usually on bait. The Flats fish prefer Tiny Strip or small Anchovies – to match the bait.

Lure size and shape no doubt played a role in Ken’s catch – a six inch Dart. The right silhouette, as is said about flies in fly fishing. It is surprising that the fish, a female, whacked the lure. Perhaps it was still actively feeding and hadn’t registered yet that the stomach was full. Probably the lure action played a role as well. 

All drift fishing lures are made to be lifted slowly and dropped much quicker. The point is not to lift the lure out of the fish’s sight line, and then to let it fall so the crippled bait fish action makes it flutter and dart here and there, with no drag from the rod. A nice, elemental style of fishing. Simple gear, direct connection to fish. And also nice for it to be caught in April, for resident nursing chinook, as we often think of drift fishing as a late summer sport for coho and chinook returning to natal rivers.

One more thing: please go sign the federal Petition e-270 asking the federal government to get fish farms out of our pristine oceans. While it is sponsored in Nova Scotia, it applies to all of Canada: And pass the link on to other anglers. Thanks.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Of Sport Fishers Now and Then

Now: 2016 Alpine Group Juan de Fuca Fishing Tournament. This year’s derby takes place on Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19, and it is time to buy your tickets. See:

As before, there are only 500 tickets, so get them now or there won’t be any left. Those who were in the derby last year have their ticket held for them until April 30 after which those tickets are open to the public for purchase. Price is $200 per person and $150 for SVIAC members.

Buy tickets on the web site or pick them up at Island Outfitters, Wise-Buys Fishing Supplies, Eagle Eye Outfitters and Alpine Marine Centre.

The SVIAC has this to say:
  • The big cash prize in 2016 is: $20,000 for the biggest salmon. But there is more: We anticipate our total prize pool to exceed $100,000 in value
  • The awards banquet will be held on Sunday 19th June at 3:00 p.m. at location TBA
  • There will be prizes awarded for the top 10 largest salmon weighed in
  • Those weighing in fish will be eligible for special draw prizes
  • Additional draw prizes will be available for entrants with no fish weighed in
  • We will be awarding the popular You da’ Man Banana Challenge award again in 2016
And there’s more… but you can go and read it on the site. Do buy a ticket as it goes toward salmon projects in the Capital Region District, meaning for us.

Then: Writing to the Minister in 1964 – (from the Tom Cole files, and maintaining the style of the original letter, more than 50 years ago).
1176 Bewdley Av
Victoria, BC
September 21, 1964

Dear Sir:

            It is with regret that the Royal Canadian Navy Anglers Association must complain about the unfair distribution of Coho Salmon to the Sports Fisherman.

            Since the commencement of net fishing in August 1964, in the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca, in the area known as the “Blue Line”, the Coho catch by Sports Fishermen, in the protected waters (Sooke to Sidney) behind this line, has been far below what could be considered adequate.

            We, of the RCN Anglers believe that, the management of Coho stocks on the basis of escapement alone should be reconsidered. As this species of Salmon is a prime sports fish, we as sportsfishermen, further believe that adequate numbers of these fish should be provided to sports fishing areas – early in the season, when the weather conditions are more apt to be conducive to small craft operation.

            It may well be that, the ultimate answer to the satisfaction of the Sports Fishing “INDUSTRY” will be the complete curtailment of net fishing on “the Blue Line” after the passage of the major portion of Sockeye and Pink runs. Regardless of what the future answer is, it is obvious, that the present circumstance is untenable to sports fishermen. In any case, there is a definite need for the re-evaluation of the place of Sports fishing, in the overall fishing picture and that its true importance and value be recognized.

            We feel that the Saltwater Sports Fishing Advisory Board, is our voice in Salmon management and is obligated to do all it can, to influence the Federal Fisheries Department to institute a program of fish propagation, to assure Sports Fishermen good fishing and reasonable catches.

            With more than a month of excessively poor Coho fishing behind them, the general attitude of the experienced sports fisherman in the area from Sooke to Sidney, can best be described as angry. There also exists the opinion that the Federal Fisheries Department is devoted to catering to net fishermen, to the exclusion of all others. The thinly veiled threat of a possible complete closure on salmon fishery, including sportsfishing during the months of November and December coupled with closures in Bays and imposition of two fish limits to chosen areas, plus the close scrutiny of grilse sizes as caught by sportsfishermen, gripes the sportsman when he feels that if the Fisheries Department assured a good availability of fish by restricting net fishing, then Sportfishing restrictions would be needless. The logic being that if you went fishing and could expect to catch your limit, or somewhere near it, why would it be necessary to keep undersized fish, or go over your limit when fishing is particularly good at all times?

            It would therefore seem, that logically, the Federal Fisheries Department would concentrate in an area where success is assured, that is provide sufficient fish for Sports Fishermen and stop threatening to impose further restrictions.
                                                                                                Yours truly,

                                                                                                (R. Burkmar)
                                                                                                Royal Canadian Navy Anglers
Mr. WR Hourston
Chairman, Sports Fishing Advisory Board

Mr. Howard English
Pay Bay Highway

Mr. Jim Gilbert
Brentwood Bay

Mr. Robert Wright
Oak Bay Marina

Comment: doesn’t this remind you of the current phrase ‘reasonable expectation’ of catching a fish we now use; the coming Salmon Enhancement Program; and how things have changed - not fish numbers, as we all know there are fewer fish today, but - that the commercial industry is in serious decline and coho and chinook have been reserved for sport fishers… and our good buddies, the First Nations.

And the industry figures have drastically changed: commercial only 1400 jobs, sport fishing, 8400, and processing, 2400.

And now, after ferreting out the figures, I put together stats for the Salmon Steward, Pacific Salmon Foundation magazine, that today, for all fishing (fresh and salt, in all of BC, including commercial, processing, sport and sport for inland, non-anadromous fish and updated for inflation) that the current total revenue is $2.52 Billion, far higher than the $1 billion figure we tend to use. If you want the text that details how I figured this out, just ask for it.

And if the PSF Salish Sea project brings coho and chinook back in the Strait of Georgia, you can add another $200 million to revenue.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Q and As – April, 2016

Just for the Halibut Derby: Time to roll into Island Outfitters to pick up your tickets – $60 each –  for the halibut derby, April 30 and May 1. First prize is $7500; 2nd - $2500; and 3rd - $1000; along with other prizes for fish of any weight.

Remember that halibut are cued by smell so whether you fish bait or not, it is best to have a scent or natural bait on your offering to sweeten it up. And if you are thinking of fishing herring, do add some tougher bait to it such as octopus so that if the softer herring gets sniffed off the hook, you still have something solid for that second chomp.

Pinnacles, benches, canyons and edges naturally concentrate halibut as they are structure where a change occurs. This makes fish stop rather than keep moving. On a flat fish can spread out and be anywhere, but where an edge occurs they can’t spread out anymore and this simple difference concentrates the fish. There is also the factor of an edge having a vertical eddy, and the halibut lie just out of the current waiting for food carried by the current off the edge.

Do be looking for scratchy patches shown by our depth sounder on the bottom, which will likely be needlefish, as herring are mid-water fish not associated with the bottom. If you are using a spreader bar, the short arm gets the weight, the long arm the bait. This is counter intuitive, but the point is to separate the leader from the mainline for the trip to the bottom and the longer the arm, the better this can be accomplished.

In our area there is lots of good structure, including Albert Head, the several benches off Race Rocks, Constance Bank, Border Bank, Darcy and so on. Yes, you can catch halibut on the Oak Bay Flats, but, as noted, the fish can be pretty much anywhere because the Flats have no edge.

And your anchor system should have a buoy on top, which you clip your boat to. The purpose is to avoid a taut connection between bow and anchor which can pull the bow under water, and be a serious career change for anyone so attached.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that you should not bring a sizeable halibut on board unless you have a hold you can open the door on and slip the fish in and close. That’s because halibut, whether bonked or not, will thrash about the boat, destroying everything including people. And clean up the slime promptly to avoid people slipping and ending up in the drink.

Also keep a line with a ‘needle’ on one end that can be slipped through the halibut’s gill and mouth, with a preformed loop at the tag end to slip around the fish’s tail. The hogtied fish can be towed in the water for awhile rather than be breaking things in your boat. Good luck.

The current regs for halibut in our area are: Maximum length, 133 cm; Daily limit, one; 
Possession limit, two, only one greater than 83 cm; and Annual limit of six halibut per licence.

E-petition 2-270: Nova Scotia has started a petition to get the federal government to take fish farms out of their pristine ocean and put them on land. You will find the province with the most signatures is BC. Please go sign it:

Lingcod: In areas 19, and 20-5 to 20-7, meaning our area, lingcod are open for retention from May 1 
to September 30, 2016. The rules are: Daily limit, one; Possession limit, two; Size limit, 65 cm; and 
Annual limit, ten. 
As for rockfish and red snapper: Daily limit, one; Possession limit, two; no size limit or annual limit.
Rockfish Conservation Areas, as in areas you don’t want to fish in, may 
be found at: