Earlier this season I was down at the marina tinkering with some maintenance projects on the boat when a buddy stopped by for a visit. Fisherman will grasp at any opportunity to talk shop so it didn’t take long before the tools were put aside and the conversation got around to fishing.
As is often to happen early in the year, we speculated as to what kind of fishing we were likely to expect during the coming season. I lectured on about DFO scientists, assessment formulas and Bering Sea trawl surveys and how it all pointed to an unfavourable scenario for dependable fishing. My friend, a local First Nations fisherman, nodded his head and listened politely.
After about thirty minutes of rambling, I realized that I’d commandeered the conversation entirely and finally asked what my buddy thought of the situation. He looked out to sea, to the sky, and finally towards the snow-capped mountains. In his usual soft spoken and contemplative manner, he explained that the First Nations elders always said that in years with a heavy snow pack the fishing will be good and that the fish will travel close to the beach.
“Interesting” I said. “Why is that do you think?”
“Because the elders said that’s the way it happens” he said.
Needless to say this year the fish have been plentiful and they have in fact been very close to the beach, with perhaps some of the best fishing we’ve seen in decades just a few minutes from the harbour all season long.
I sit through a lot of DFO meetings during the winter listening to allegedly intelligent scientists try and predict what’s best for this coast and our fisheries, but I have to tell you as the years go by its becoming more and more apparent that they have no idea what they’re talking about. That little pearl of wisdom from my buddy about the correlation between snow pack and salmon behaviour rung more true than the decades worth of DFO mumbo-jumbo that I’ve heard over the years.
According to the elders, we have this winters snowpack to thank for the outstanding salmon fishing that we’ve all been enjoying this season. I can’t remember the last time that spots like Tree Island and Wilf or Gowlan Rocks have lit-up with massive schools of salmon which have provided incredible fishing for months on end. Lights out shallow water off-the-rocks fishing for salmon is something from a bygone era these past few years and it has been very enjoyable to revisit some of the glories of yesteryear this season.
With the prevalence of juvenile herring in our local waters this summer the lure of choice has been small 3”- 4” spoons fished one fathom behind a flasher. The Turd has still been producing as well on the tail end of the squid spawn, and some of the bigger fish this season have fallen to the squid imitations fished half a fathom behind flashers.
With the new halibut restrictions calling for the release of any fish over 115 centimetres, it has been a real challenge to find halibut under the legal maximum. That said, it’s still a ton of fun to practice catch and release on the larger fish which offer good sport for anglers looking to tangle with fish up to 150 pounds. Lingcod numbers have been down this season, but the anglers out there working for them have always produced decent catches. Remember that all yellow-eye must be released this season, so please ensure you have a reliable descending device onboard when fishing for halibut or bottom fish to ensure the healthy release of any unintended bycatch.
Be sure to check the regulations for area closures after August 1st. There are numerous regions within Clayoquot Sound that close down to all fishing for fin-fish, that includes Clifford Point, Sidney Inlet, etc. so be sure to keep a close eye on where you are fishing.
As August rolls on I’d expect that we will see a few runs of larger 5 year old chinook in the mix, and the arrival of big Northern coho to our local waters too. But realistically I have no idea what could happen. For the best advice take the time to get to know one of our local First Nation’s elders. If you get lucky they just might give you a pearl or two of wisdom and take it from me – it’s worth listening to.
– Captain Josh Temple