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Marble Island Halibut

By Peter Fibiger, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


If it is common knowledge that time enhances the smallest details of the memory,then it must be doubly true when that fact is applied to the memory of fishermen,who taken as a species are prone to exaggerate events that occur with the passage of the smallest amounts of time.

This is the story of an afternoon´s fishing that took place several years ago as of this of those stories that is retold time and again because the memory refuses to let die both the images of an extraordinary locale,and the recollection of an abundance of fish never experienced since or before.

At the western entrance to Skidegate Channel,a very narrow stretch of water separating the two largest of the Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia´s north coast,sits Chatel Island.The salmon fishing here is as proliferous as anywhere in this legendary sportfishing destination.And so it was that having spent a morning limiting on both chinooks and coho (read kings and silvers south of the border) we decided to set out after halibut.

The fishmaster at our floating resort had regaled us with stories of big halibut along the southeastern shore of Marble Island, while at the same time warning of the difficult waters brought on by the almost daily early afternoon southwesters so common along B.C.´s west coast.

Fuelled by the bravado that is so easily induced by as little as one Canadian beer with lunch,we cheerfully ignored all warnings and set out across what memory suggests must have been about three miles of open Pacific swells that were being whipped into a further frenzy by winds that were steadily increasing.

From a distance,Marble Island appears as little else than a shadow on the horizon. As we rode our 17-foot tender through canyons and over foaming mountains of ocean the shadow began to take on a more detailed definition.Here was an island on the farthest reaches of the west coast that looked as though it had never seen a human footprint.The trees that gripped this pounded crag of land were bent almost sideways to the northeast,the result of interminable exposure to those southwesters.The island revealed itself gradually through the swirling mists,and when we were finally positioned offshore it felt as though we had arrived at a place so far back in time that we were expecting to see pterodactyls riding the wild winds that raked the treetops.

Finding what little protection from the wind that we could,we set about rigging our salmon rods with as much weight and herring as could be expected to get our hooks to the sandy bottom and attract the much vaunted barn doors of Marble Island.It soon became apparent that our greatest challenge was going to be getting the bait to the bottom faster than we were being blown away from our fishing hole.After several attempts we were rewarded with the slack in the line that indicates that bottom has been found.Mere seconds elapsed before the rod tips were slowly tugged into the surface and we knew we had a double-header.

Fighting a halibut can often be like weightlifting in reverse.Until it approaches your boat,it will give you a constant and very heavy resistance to your most exhaustive efforts to bring it up.Once it sees that killer gleam in your eye,and more importantly the glint on your gaff hook,it can turn into a deranged one-eyed great thrashing flat muscle that seems intent on tearing your arms from their sockets.With this kind of activity taking place on two rods in a boat that had become too small for both of us,we began to understand what the stories we had been told had meant.

We were able to get our gear to the bottom twice more,and both times the results were again immediate.It seemed as though the fish were piled one atop the other down there.Each time,the line went slack,then became taught,the rod tips headed for the bottom,and it was "Fish on !" again

The Queen Charlotte Islands are truly a place of magic,and a dream waiting to be realized by those with a need to experience the last real bastion of sportfishing on the wildest edge of North America.There are several magnificent lodges,both floating and land based throughout the islands.Charter boats operate from the major communities as well.And for those of you with the time and inclination to haul your own boats,ferry service to the islands is available from Prince Rupert,B.C.The fish are for real-..the pterodactyls could be eagles--.

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