Sunday, 14 May 2017

Summertime and the Fishing Is Easy

Were Gershwin alive today, and living in Victoria, he would have written the classic Porgy and Bess tune about lolling on his deck, feet up, singing: “The fish are jumping, and anticipation is high.” As it is, we can all change the words to his fine blues tune, and enjoy fishing just the same.

And the first thing you should do before consigning your bait – bait is the best – to the shallow waters big fish find themselves in, is change the line on your reels, so you don’t lose the big one when it gives you a chance at immortality.

This past winter, I had a gear problem with flasher spin, resulting in mainline spin, and a great big tangle on the downrigger, that I solved by biting the line, holding both ends and tying several granny knots 80 feet from the tackle end, still clipped into the downrigger. But now, with the bigger fish of summer, it’s time to reload all reels. And get those one-way drags serviced as well. You might even consider a classy Islander or other quality single action reel, for ‘Father’s’ day, or your own day. 

I should add that spin transmitted up the mainline is the result of having no, not enough, or faulty, ball bearing swivels between it and the lure at the tag end. So, change those swivels as well, with quality ones. You might try taking the salt-encrusted ones home and soaking in oil, or WS 40. Don’t do so on the boat, as the smell simply drifts back to the tackle end where Mr. Big is inspecting. 
Vaseline has the least smell of all the greases, and serves double purpose in your canvas snaps on the female side.

When I moved to the coast in 1975, Alec Merriman was writing the fishing column at the TC and the King Fisherman Contest list was stacked with more big springs than you could shake a Shimano trolling rod at. These days, we are fishing rationed-out Fraser 4-2s and 5-2s in the early days of summer.

Summer fishing does begin in May with the first of the Columbians through local approach waters west of Sheringham Point. As June progresses, the fish begin moving past Otter Point, the Trap Shack, Beechey Head, Aldridge Point and Creyke inside the bay, then found at the Bedford Islands, Church Rock, and so on. Some years ago, a young lad caught a 50-pound spring off the Turkey Head and actually landed it without a net. He staggered up, slimed from head to toe, but who cares, to Oak Bay Marina to weigh a fish that weighed the better part of what he did.

The reason chinook on their spawning route are close to shore is that they taste the water as they zero in on their natal streams – and of course, being closer to shore grants a greater chance at swimming directly into an estuary. Always structure conscious, spawning-bound chinook present themselves in shallower, and thus easier to reach, water. One of the rules of fishing is: the shallower the water the greater your chances of finding the fish zone.

On the other hand, the Fraser, with its huge alluvial plume can be seen from space to curl south and across to Active Pass. The water floats on top of the greater specific gravity saltwater and thus, swimming in the surface layer, allows chinook to pick up the Fraser scent and follow it across the deeper Salish Sea, to once-again pick up the shallows near Lulu Island.

See the BC Ferries photo that shows how pronounced the plume is: 

Seldom found in more than 75 feet of water, chinook, move along at their idling speed of 1.5 knots per hour. That constant low speed is why they end up in back eddies on the ebb – they are swimming slower than the ebb tide flow, and thus can make no head way around the point. In our area, they are also moving east, then north toward the Fraser, a few to Georgia Strait and the rest then south to Puget Sound. Fishing through the ebb in back eddies is a greater percentage tactic. Along Victoria, this includes the Ogden Point Breakwater, Brotchie Ledge, Clover Point and so on. In fact, the entire area between Clover and the Breakwater is a back eddy on the ebb.

I should add that in some waters, it is the end of the flood that grants the greater number of chinook. Two examples are Owen Point in Port Renfrew, and Creyke/Aldridge Points, closer to Victoria. In Port Renfrew, that pattern is so pronounced that you don’t really have to get up early to put yourself on the water at the crack of dawn; your chances are greater at the end of the flood. In other words, do ask for information before going out, as you can have the general drift down, but the specific location, may be different from the rule.

But do note in the location you fish - before you fish - what areas have the most distinct structural features. Structure makes the tide flow around, or above the structure, in the case of banks, like Constance, that do not break the surface. And Constance has several bumps on the south west side to get to know, as well as the lip on the west end. 

The other thing is that returning salmon also stage in areas as they ripen. They tend to circle an area for a week or two and then move on. This behaviour is more pronounced in the other four species of salmon. In the case of chum, they can give the appearance of staging when in fact they are moving through constantly, until terminal, where they once again stage; this is the case north of Campbell River off Brown’s Bay. Here, as many as 2,000,000 chum pass through giving the impression of staging. Along with this Fraser cohort, east side rivers are home to many chum runs, which typically comprise the highest number of salmon per species. 

A 100,000-chinook run is rare indeed, but with chum, it is common. As chum are big fish, they are the ones that most benefit the forest when toted up by obliging bears in fall, after they’ve been leaning back enjoying a brewsky and pining about summer never ending, and waiting for those fish to be jumping. I can almost hear them sing.
Next week, lures. Do look at the wire-rigging column: Blow up the images to see how the wire is rigged. I have turned some of the teaser heads over in one of the images so that you can see how the wire is mounted from both sides of the head. All the teasers featured will catch fish, some summer and some winter.

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