Swim for the Salmon
Dec 13th, 2011
To fish is a privilege that should be understood by all who decide to hold a pole.
Fishing is a responsibility.
To fish is a privilege that should be understood by all who decide to hold a pole.
I grew up on the Sunshine Coast and have had a fishing pole close at hand for as long as I can remember. Today, I would consider myself lucky to catch one salmon in an entire day spent on the water. When I was a young boy, twenty years ago, I would expect to catch at least two. My Opa would tell me stories of times before I was born when it was not a question of if you would catch a fish in a day, but how long it would take you to fill the boat. I can only imagine the stories my Opa’s Opa would have shared with him had he grown up fishing this same area.
I look back at the generations before me with awe, simply because the fishing would have been so much better. I get extremely frustrated when I think of the angling opportunities that have been stolen from my grasp. I dread to think of what will be available to future anglers.
To understand the base-line shift that has occurred during the last 100 years, we must ask the question: “what makes a place a good fishing spot?” Well, it should be understood that the best angling opportunities are provided by the ecosystems that boast the most biologically diverse and dense populations of aquatic species such as fish. Whether it is salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, lingcod, rockfish, halibut, herring, dog fish, flounder, eulachon, perch, tuna, sailfish, bass or the elusive leopard shark, they all depend on a healthy diverse ecosystem. Where these ecosystems are thriving we can expect to find dense populations of these incredible animals. Where we find dense populations of these incredible animals we find the most tremendously exciting angling opportunities. Unfortunately, these places are becoming few and far between.
It is easy to get down and out when you care so much about something that is constantly being assaulted by the ideals of present day society—economics before environment. However, even in the darkest times we must have hope. Anything is possible. We can change ourselves and we can change the world we live in.
So what can we do?
I asked myself the same question long ago and could not come up with a good answer. Then I took a trip up Salmon Inlet and the land gave me the answer.
This summer we coordinated the first ever “Swim for the Salmon” as part of an initiative to restore a run of pacific salmon that was destroyed in the 1950’s by a hydro-dam. The dam that harmed this ecosystem was erected with the same mentality driving the construction of much of the Independent Private Power Projects today. Short-term economic gains can be expected with long-term losses of all kinds.
The swim aimed to bring attention to the issue at hand and put pressure on corporations, as well as provincial and federal governments to exercise greater environmental responsibility. By swimming the length of the Sechelt inlet, 32 kilometers in 14 hours, we hoped to raise awareness and explore possibilities for re-opening the passage between Salmon Inlet and the Clowhom reservoir. It was an incredible thing to be a part of and propelled the community into caring about something that many people knew nothing about.
It is difficult to discern what we can do as individuals, but one thing is for certain, it is time to move from the realm of concerned citizen to engaged activists.
What can you do?
Whatever you think you can.
If we all do what we can, we will get to where we need to be.
Founder and Chair of Tenuk Environmental Group
Captain Quinn & The Adventurers
The following is a link to a documentary that we just produced which aims to show in a funny entertaining and informative fashion how fishing can be used as a medium through which we can re-connect with our environment and our friends.
It can be viewed for free on youtube:
Photos compliments of Paul Hodgson, www.phodgson.com.
WFN Ultimate Fishing Town-Port Alberni
Aug 12th, 2011
As many of you will recall, Port Alberni, British Columbia was named as the World Fishing Network's "Ultimate Fishing Town” last year! It was cause for great celebration around this town and a debt of gratitude is owed to the many people that helped secure this award. We've all been right looking forward to their return to capture the spirit this little town can offer. That all came together, as Mariko Izumi and her sidekick producer "BJ" rolled in for a week of fine hospitality here.
I was lucky enough to be chosen as their guide for the salt-water fishing component of their excursion, so madly raced home from my buddy “Fishaholic's” most excellent wedding, then up to Ucluelet to launch the new and beautiful rig I'll be running for charter work this year.
Here's a quick shot of the new Grady White Sailfish upon arrival in Port Alberni.
This one is a real sweetie at 28 feet long, with twin 225 four-strokes, and all of the latest and greatest as far as electronics and gear go. She is so stable out there it is just like fishing from your living room sofa, and certainly cuts the water in style. Very much a Cadillac ride!
Along the way we passed a couple hundred boats fishing the famous Alberni Sockeye run, and a great many of them were engaged in fish proving this year's run is once again in most excellent numbers.
Upon arrival at our chosen spot, we dropped the gear and began our search. The sounder noted that the bait was very much still there, and so were the Springs collected just below those baits balls. After a pass or two though it was obvious that the “feed bag” wasn't quite on as of yet, so we took advantage of that to collect a handful of pictures of a nearby Humpback Whale that was feeding in the same area. Shortly thereafter, the first rod of the day went off, and Mariko handled that fish like a pro! Certainly can tell that gal has been around a fish or two.
Just after that a good buddy radioed me (thanks Rabbi) to inform us he was tagging a few just around the corner, so we trolled over to the area and began to work between there and where we had seen the fish the day before. Over the course of the next couple of hours, the fish increased their appetite, and the rods began to go off on a regular basis. We released most of the Springs, a few Coho, a few Lingcod, and even a dreaded dogfish (which of course was duly captured on camera!). Most of the fish were handled by either Mariko or her sidekick Shauna, and these two ladies put on a show that would rival the most experienced out there. Certainly was a lot of fun getting them into the Salmon, and watching the antics as they played those fish.
And it wasn't long before a couple others decided to join them.
All too soon our time was getting tight, so we pulled the gear and began the run back towards Port Alberni. Good seeing the many rigs I recognized both on-site and along the way. It was fun for all methinks.
What a Smile, and what a way to wind up a near Perfect Day!
Kinda unfortunate the fish were hanging so far behind us, as that picture really doesn't do them justice. These were all fine Springs of good size, and certainly of great fighting spirit.
So while the crew went off to take in a few more sites around the Alberni Valley, I put the big rig to bed and readied her for the next day’s performance on Sockeye.
Although many insist that the local Sockeye Salmon fishery is a “first light” only show, when the tide comes along a tad later than that, I often find working the tide is even better. So we all gathered at the dock nearly an hour later than the previous day, and set off to chase down a few of the most delicious Salmon we have. This time Carolyn Jasken came along to ensure we did everything right and she was a welcome addition to the crew.
I barely passed China Creek when the sounder started marking “false bottom” between 12 and 18 feet. They’re here I cried, and we dumped the gear in quickly. Didn't make 50 yards before the madness started, and the gals were once again quick to the rods and action. Over and over on the course of that morning singles, doubles, and triples were the rule of the day. The gals were generous and everyone onboard got in on the action, repeated over and over and over again. Very sweet showing and the smiles were huge! In a matter of a little better than 2.5 hours, 20 Sockeye were landed and 9 long-line released. Can you say fun? Awesome actually!
Roomy boat? You betcha. Big smiles, of course!
Again all too soon we had to wander to get the crew in for a few festivities, which later included a rather fine barbeque at one of our local buddy's houses out on the lake. Yet another hit.
And of course our shenanigans hit the local papers, front page in fact!
As I said goodbye to the fine folks from WFN, I did suggest they return a little later in the season, and collect a Tyee or two for their efforts. Sounds now like that may be a distinct possibility, one to which I am right looking forward to.
I simply cannot think of a better way to launch the new company. Spirit Bear Salmon Charters has now started the season with a rather huge bang! I would like to thank my fine crew, and of course, Mariko and BJ for making this a most memorable experience.
For more information about Spirit Bear Salmon Charters click on the link below.
To learn more about the many fishing opportunities in the Port Alberni Valley area as well the other options all around Vancouver Island, check out Alberni Valley and Tourism Vancouver Island links below.
Salmon Summer 2011
Jan 1st, 2011
2011 looks like a good to great fishing summer to me. The slow improvement of a number of stocks last year bodes well for taking to your boat or taking yourself on that vacation of a lifetime to a west coast Van Isle, central coast or Haida Gwaii resort – in short everywhere. You owe it to yourself to experience truly great fishing on the world’s edge where the power of nature is all around you.
South of the border, several signs from last summer point to improvement this year: pink salmon in Puget Sound have odd-season high numbers just like Georgia Strait and Juan de Fuca pinks destined for the Fraser and lower island spots. In 2009, more than 15,000,000 pink salmon came back to the Fraser, and the same can be expected in 2011. Even greater numbers of pinks return to Puget Sound. Try fishing the marine border 10 miles south of Race Rocks in August, on high pressure, rising tide days where you will be able to see the ocean bulge with so many pink salmon.
Spring numbers have been climbing as well with more than 500,000 returning to the Columbia River in 2010 and sport openings along the Neah Bay shores for Puget Sound fish. This suggests a good season in 2011 all along the BC coast. The big springs move north and into the Gulf of Alaska where they fatten up for two- to four-years and then move south down the BC coast on their way to the States. That means sequential waves of fish passing down our outer coast all the way from Langara Island to Bamfield.
The Chinook numbers from the next system toward Port Renfrew were higher in 2010 with a good component of three year old fish, hence, the one-over and one-under 77cm rule that prevailed on Nitinat fish, from the Bar into the river. The higher the number of three year old Chinook means that the next year’s, i.e., 2011, numbers of four year old fish will be even higher. Of course, these springs, like all the other runs move down the coast traveling at about 1000 miles a month, as they contribute fishing memories from the north to south coast. And do remember that the really big slabs over 50 pounds are produced in greatest numbers in Port Renfrew waters in September.
The Fraser River Chinook projections suggest some early season conservation measures in southern BC. Late summer South Thompson Chinook appear to be in the best shape. Mid-coast Chinook destined for the Dean River and Bella Coola will be in good numbers this summer. And Skeena spring numbers will grant some good early summer fishing in northern waters.
Vancouver Island pink salmon normally are odd-year fish in southern rivers and by Campbell River turn to being even-year fish. However, recent history has shown good numbers in both even and odd years. The Campbell produced more than 1,000,000 in 2010 and the summer before. This is because an obstacle to upstream spawning grounds was removed and the pinks have done the rest.
If you are looking for an easy fishery to bring the family to, the Campbell can be counted on to introduce your kids to salmon fishing. And with 15 other streams to the south receiving volunteer hatchery help any resort south all the way to Qualicum Beach will have a pink fishery within an easy drive. Salmon Point, one example, has a pub where you can have a pint and then amble across the beach when the fish swim by.
As for sockeye, with the 2009 crash and the 2010 huge return to the Fraser, pegging a number may be a bit more tricky. The Cohen Commission early data suggests that the low 2009 stock was preceded, in 2007, with physical conditions in Georgia St. that killed most of the fry on their way out. And then the volcano, Kasatochi, in Alaska blew, in 2008, spurring the ocean into producing more plankton because of seeding a vast amount of the Pacific with iron; this seems to have been responsible for the huge 34 million return in 2010.
Two factors will buoy sockeye fishing in 2011. Some Fraser River sockeye subcomponents are in fine shape. These include Lower Fraser tributaries, Chilko River fish and South Thompson. And the unfavourable condition that prevailed in the Georgia St. in 2007 seems to be a less prevalent occurrence, and so there should be good sockeye fishing from Port Hardy to Vancouver.
The well subscribed Port Alberni Somass River sockeye run should be ready to go June through September. The run is rated at good and will also have a larger component of five year sockeye which will be larger fish, too. Anglers wishing to fish from Prince Rupert will also have sockeye opportunities. The Nass, Babine and Skeena have some very healthy subcomponents to be targeted.
Coho appear to be the bell-weather salmon species in 2011. Most anglers are not aware that coho are almost as temperature sensitive as sockeye. That means that El Nino warm water conditions are hard on both species – something that occurred in early 2008. Nitinat coho returned in healthy numbers of very large fish in 2010. Although current numbers suggest average coho fishing in southern BC, and west coast Van Isle, I think that the La Nina that started in late 2008 and its cold water will mean higher than anticipated coho numbers. In the north part of coastal BC, the coho picture is good, and the colder water can only improve the fishing.
Chum numbers in Johnstone St. may well be very good this summer. Ocean conditions on out-migration were favourable. Anyone who has done the Browns Bay chum madness derby fishing needs to start earlier in October to the north of Campbell River and then head down to Browns for the mid-month period, when the southern Georgia St. chum get bunched together in the choke point above Seymour Narrows.
In summary, if you liked the salmon fishing in 2010, you will be very happy with 2011. The added feature that will make the numbers better than early predictions is the weather. La Nina brisk winds turn the ocean over and up from the depths comes cold water bearing nutrients that starts the entire food chain with a bloom of algae. The algae is eaten by plankton, and this increases bait fish stocks and that means more and fatter salmon.
About DC Reid
I catch – and carefully release – as many as 500 salmon every year. Come along and let me pass along what I know to you. I have fished and guided for 50 years in salt- and fresh-water.
My articles on fishing have been published in more than 50 magazines, including: Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Sun, Macleans’, BC Fishing Saltwater Directory & Atlas, BC Fishing Freshwater Directory & Atlas, Outdoor Life, Beautiful British Columbia, Island Angler, Vancouver Herald and Times, B.C. Outdoors, Sports Fishing British Columbia, Western Sportsman, Salmon Trout Steelheader, In-Fisherman, Canadian Fly Fisher, Outdoor Canada, Sport Fish Institute, Outdoor Edge, Real Outdoors, Northwest Fly Fisher, Saltwater Sportsman, Fly Fishing In Saltwaters, Great Lakes Angler, The Reel News, Fly Fishing In Saltwater (Japan), Reel Angler Magazine, Salmon & Steelhead, Dream House, Inflight, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, American Angler, North American Sportsman, Coastlines, Canadian Aviator and North American Fisherman. My internet writing includes a column – Salmon On Line – for the BC Adventure Network and articles for the All Outdoors, Cabelas, Guideoutdoor, Sportsmansguide and eOutdoors.com websites.I am the sport fishing columnist for the Victoria, Times Colonist and a Field Editor for Dream House magazine.
My flies appear in BCOutdoors, The Ultimate Fly Box and in A Compendium of Canadian Fly Patterns. My articles detail strategy, tactics, gear and behaviour for all five species of salmon, steelhead (both summer and winter), rainbow and cutthroat trout, halibut, lingcod (including fly fishing for ling), 35 species of Sebastes and Sebastolobus bottom fish and 27 species of sole and flounder. I travel extensively at the request of lodges to fish and write about my experiences. My four fishing books are: Saltwater Salmon Fishing; Vancouver Island Fishing Guide; Fishing for Dreams; and, Maximum Salmon.