Sunday, 26 August 2018

Sockeye Tracking and Fishing

One part of DFO’s science activities is monitoring Fraser River sockeye sub-components in salt- and fresh-water. It makes estimates based on brood years and then authorizes fisheries with in-season test seine and gillnet fisheries in Johnstone and Juan de Fuca straits, as well as in-river. As below, you can request to be put on the list, which runs all season long, twice per week.

Here is the beginning of the Friday August 25, 2018 Panel review:

Gill net test fishery catches in the Fraser River have increased the last 2
days with daily catches being around 180 for Cottonwood and 170 for Whonnock.
Daily Mission escapement estimates have declined from 164,200 on August 20 to
70,700 on August 22 followed by an increase to 125,500 on August 23. The
estimated total Sockeye escapement past Mission to August 23 is 3,072,100. This is
comprised of 121,400 Early Stuarts, 1,002,000 Early Summers, 1,646,800 Summers and
301,900 Late run fish. Stock identification analyses from recent samples taken in
the lower Fraser River indicate that Early Summers are making up from 11% to 15%
of the stock composition while Summers make up about 80% and Lates are ranging
between 6 and 11%. Within the Early Summer run group, the later timed South Thompson
Early Summer stocks continue to be the dominant stock with very low levels of Nadina
continuing to be present. The Summer Run run timing group are primarily
Chilko/Quesnel with lower proportions of Late Stuart/Stellako and Raft/North
Thompson. The current estimate for holding Late Run fish is approximately 770,000.

While most sockeye have passed through our area, with the exception of Harrisons, here is how to
fish for them:

In the sixties, it was figured out that a red Krippled K and a red Gibbs flasher would take sockeye and thus the sport fishery got off the ground. Both sport and commercial troll fishers used the same tactics: slow, straight and short. In other words, sport guys would troll as slow as possible, tossing out a pail on a line to slow the boat down below its normal trolling speed.

Short referred to leaders, in the 23- to 25-inch length. Straight meant to troll in straight lines. The other characteristics of sockeye is that they are good followers, as in, once locked on a lure, they will follow it for some time, before committing to a bite or moving on. Further, they like flash.

Over time, the rig that developed paid attention to the following/flash behaviour. Put down three flashers on each downrigger. The upper and lower ones, with five to ten feet of 25-pound test to a release clip, do not have lures and are simply there to draw in the sockeye to the flash. The middle flasher typically trailed an orange squirt or a tin spoon. In addition, scent was put on this lure. So once following, the rig kept the fish there until they spotted the lure and whacked it.
See this Butch McPherson site for a history of ‘Krippled’ products: 
In the nineties, things evolved further. We found that instead of being in the top 50 feet, coho, began returning as deep as 125 feet in Juan de Fuca Strait. Surprisingly, sockeye seemed to migrate with them, so also deeper. In addition, in the odd years, the Fraser pink salmon could be spread down the water column just as deep.

And, good for us anglers, the presence of up to 3 species, and a growing USA coho load, had the effect that all the fish competed with one another for lures. I would guess that more fish with the same amount of feed lead to the competition.

Another useful feature became apparent. I noticed one day fishing Sooke, while deep in my forward compartment, that when I popped my head back up, I was almost on the rocks and cranked a hard 90-degree turn. In that instant, I received a bite and shortly landed a nice sockeye.

Another thing also came clear. One could increase trolling speed because one target was coho which like a faster lure, and pinks are opportunistic. The coho part also meant for increasing leader length to as much as 35 inches, and fishing tide lines, particularly their leading edge (as in where the bait were coming from, to then be sandwiched in the tide line). This also has the advantage of covering more territory in the same amount of time, and so presenting before more fish in shorter time.

Every now and then crank a 90-degree turn, and darned if you didn’t get a sockeye that may have been following for some time. So, straight, slow and short became, not so straight, faster and longer.

Contact DFO with questions and request to be put on their list for receiving the Sockeye Panel emails  that go on all summer long:

Sunday, 19 August 2018

North Van Isle Pink Salmon Flies – 2018

The flies that took pink salmon in the estuaries this summer included ones coloured pink, blue, green, purple and combinations of these colours. Purple handle bar flies were good, followed by pink handle bar flies, however, handle bar flies, which are usually sparse, in other colours were also used.

Here is a shot of my small box for pink salmon on beaches/in estuaries:
It features my take on a Fuzzy Pink with irregular, long tails, among other flies. The variety of other flies are there to try when the fish won’t take anything, and I’m searching for answers. Some years a pink Muddler is the answer, but not this year.

Next is several flies close up. The top fly is Jerry’s fly. Note that it is a small streamer, with a silver body, and blue/green/yellow strands on top, as well as an epoxy eye. This fly caught many fish this year. It looks a little less blue than when I first tied it on.

If you blow the shot up a bit, you will find that Jerry’s fly has an Improved Clinch knot that has been pulled away from the hook eye and then tightened down on itself. I use a high quality, thin diameter, 15 lb test leader, and the pull-back is needed to give the fly more natural action. I don’t like losing fish to lighter test leader, and hence accept that the higher pound leader may make a leader-shy fish refuse to bite. In my opinion, this seldom happens. The diameter of this Snowbee leader is thinner than most 10 lb test leader material. So why sacrifice fish to snap-off.

The second fly is a Fuzzy Pink. Note the long, scraggy tail. I think it gives the fish something larger to aim at and thus bite more frequently. If I am not catching fish, or getting bites but no secure hook-ups, or someone is getting more bites on a ‘shorter’ fly, I snip off some of the tail and try again.

The bottom fly has no name. It got so many bites that the pink bead eye, mylar, chartreuse thread and Krystal Flash kept slipping round the bend of the hook, until I took the fly off, opting to coat it with Hard as Hull once I got home, and try again in 2019.

The bottom two flies use a pink mylar tube product that comes in rolls in shops that sell saltwater trolling gear. It is used to slip around the hooks of coho spoons as an added attractant. It makes for a simple fly and does not cause the angst from slicing a slice of pink plastic sheet and winding it around the shank, tying off at both ends. This process leads to flies unraveling and is why I switched. 

Purists will say that the winding process imitates segmentation. I think what matters is whether the fish bite the fly being used and have caught hundreds of pink salmon on this fly over the years, even though it was neither the best fly nor colour in 2018.

The best colour was a fly that had some purple in it. I was sold on Ken’s fly, an epoxy minnow with purple strands in the back, until I lost the two he allowed me to filch from his fly box. Having said purple, some purple flies did not work. I tried a purple Muddler and it received nary a tap and went back into the box for another year.

The final contender was Vince’s fly. As simple as it is, it was a killer the morning we were out on the bar alone. The first day I was not in the zone, but changed to an intermediate sink, 32-foot head, with running line that followed the head down. Then I was in the zone with his simple, but effective fly.