May 18, 2017 Duane Foerter4

Enjoy Miracle On Hali-Hill…  this wonderful fishing story from FJ Hurtak, one of our long time friends and a Driftwood guest.

In June of each year, I look forward to my salmon fishing trip to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). For about ten years now I have been booking with the Queen Charlotte Lodge. I have tried other lodges in the area and some are very good, but QCL offers me exactly what I want, that being a converted tugboat called the MV Driftwood, which is anchored right on the fishing grounds in one of the quiet bays. This boat accommodates up to 12 guests on board, and all of us who are fortunate enough to stay there, enjoy the longest fishing day on the coast. Like the QCL 5-Star main lodge it also features a private chef, but the Driftwood has a crew that are such characters, they remind me at times of the cast on the old tv series Gilligan’s Island. Always friendly, always helpful, but just a tad bit off the wall. The fact they are like that is probably why I, and so many others who stay there actually fit right in. It’s the perfect place for the keenest of anglers with a sense of humour, who just can’t bear to leave the water after a great day’s fishing.

The fishing is always good but depending on the various runs of salmon and when they are passing through, some years have been better than others. It’s never ever boring though, even on days when the fish are not biting very well, because on any given day you are going to likely have up close and personal visits from killer whales, Humpback whales, eagles, sea lions, and a myriad of different kinds of sea birds. Some days the sunsets are spectacular as well. For me, every day spent there is an adventure and I have acquired many fond memories over the years, one of which would be impossible to forget, because the chances of it happening again are pretty much 0 and none. This is the story of the Miracle on Hali-Hill.

On a dead flat calm morning, my fishing guide, Lance Mercer, suggested we try for halibut at a place the locals call Halibut-Hill. It’s quite a distance from the preferred salmon fishing grounds, but on days when the water is calm and the weather is nice, it is usually only a 25-30 minute boat ride from where the Driftwood is anchored. Fish 75 to 150 lbs are not uncommon, and according to Lance, this was THE place we had our best chance to hook a monster. Water depths range from 250 to 300+ feet so when fishing with a heavy weight and a spreader bar set-up it can be quite tiring just to reel the line up from the bottom repeatedly. The guides here back-troll and drift this spot trying to avoid snags on the bottom, but the bottom and subsequent structure, is where large halibut spend much of their time feeding, so it’s worth taking the chance. The possession limit in this region for halibut is 2 and only one of the two halibut in your possession may be over 83cm in length, and the maximum length for retainment of a fish is 133cm. The previous day in another location I had already boated my ‘under 83’ so today we were looking specifically for the ‘over’. We had plenty of action almost immediately and I caught a beautiful 11 lb. red snapper (delicious eating fish) and we hooked several smaller halibut in the first hour. We were using two heavy halibut rods and had one out on each side of the boat. We had just elected to drop the baits close to the bottom, and put the rods in the rod holders to give us a break from constantly holding the rod and jigging. Suddenly, the front rod right behind Lance was hit with a solid bite. “Fish on Lance… Grab the rod!” I shouted. Lance had just set the hook and said it felt like a heavy fish. Without warning, I almost instantly heard a loud crack on the back rod right beside me. I turned quickly, just in time to see my rod and reel leaving the boat as the apparent bite was so hard it had snapped the rod right out of the holder and tilted it downwards. In an effort to save the tackle, I dipped my arm into the water and took a wild swipe at the rod, narrowly missing it, as it plunged to the ocean bottom.

Lance looked at me and said, “Don’t know what might have hit that bait but whatever it was it had to be huge, but let’s not cry over spilled milk. Take this rod and reel this one in.”  I was still in a state of shock from losing some very expensive tackle but I complied and was soon battling another fish. Several times the reel’s drag screamed out line and as every fisherman knows that’s music to the ears because it’s very likely of the large variety. The standoff continued for several minutes but I was gradually making progress and I knew I was winning and tiring this fish out.  As the minutes ticked by it became basically a dead weight with not much fight left in it.  As is so often the case though, the really big fish do a final run for freedom once they spot the boat so I was careful.  Slowly but surely I continued reeling with the rod tip up and I allowed no slack in the line. Then we finally saw it! It was over 5 feet long! Both our jaws dropped in amazement! BUT it was NOT a fish, it was none other than the rod and reel I had lost 15 minutes earlier, and I had it hooked on the line just below the rod tip.  Both fish had somehow gotten off, and even though we had drifted at least 1 to 2 km across the open ocean I had managed to somehow snag the line in the process and get all my tackle back. Both of the rod’s baits were stripped clean. Lance ‘high fived’ me and chuckled “You got your over today F.J.”

Just another day on the magic waters of Haida Gwaii.



F.J. Hurtak is the author of the books ‘Elk Hunting in the Kootenays’, and ‘Hunting the Antlered Big Game of the Kootenays’, and is also a very avid fisherman.


September 6, 2016 Duane Foerter0

Well, this morning we said goodbye to our last group of guests for the 2016 season.  It’s been a whirlwind for sure!  Our busiest season ever and it was fantastic!  Sure we had to work a little harder for the fish at times this summer but our guests and guides made the most of it.  At the end of the day there were lots of fish to go around.  On Sunday, our final fishing day was one for the books; greasy flat water with just a hint of breeze, bright overcast skies and fish catching opportunities all over the place.

QCL Lingcod catchThe bulk of the action recently has been offshore and we’ve enjoyed exploring the tidelines and contours in the 200 to 500-foot zone.  We’re finding loads of beautiful 10 – 15 pound Coho and the occasional Chinook out there, from the surface down 60 feet or so.  And while we’re out there, we get lots of little surprises like random feeding humpbacks popping up alongside the boat or pods of Dall’s Porpoise zipping around below.  We’re always discovering great underwater structure that harbours awesome lingcod, halibut and cod fishing opportunities.  We set a new record for the number halibut over 100 pounds this season and with a little help from some enthusiastic jig anglers we’ve established a very healthy lingcod fishery.  Even in this past week we saw halibut released scoring 102, 102, 115, 134, and 160 pounds with several nice ones in the 30 to 60 pound “keeper” class.

Coho fever at QCL!

Inshore fishing for Chinook salmon turned on nicely this weekend with some snap bites coming on with the morning tide changes at Cape Naden and Parker Point.  There weren’t a ton of them but certainly enough to get everybody interested, even a couple of nice Tyees in the mix!   Now we crunch the numbers and we’ll be back with a bit of a summary very soon!  Stay tuned.

Tyee Chinook at QCL


August 25, 2016 Duane Foerter0
Group Salmon fishing

While the fishing grounds have been mostly wide open for the past week it seems that much of the effort has been focused on the productive water from Cape Naden to Yatze.  The large mass of baitfish that have provided exciting offshore action have moved through but we’re now seeing more Coho inshore with the traditional Chinook fishery.

salmon fishing close up

But those Coho that are still being found up top and offshore are real beauties – 13-14-15 pounders with a couple of 16-17’s in the mix.  These traditional “Northerns” are always a highlight when they arrive!

salmon fishing

With less than 2 weeks remaining in the season, the salmon fishing requires a bit more work but we’re pleased to see the catch board filling up nicely by the end of every trip!  The Tyee bell still rings brightly each evening, whether it’s for big Chinooks, big halibut or those gorgeous Northerns!


August 19, 2016 Duane Foerter0

Rounding the dolphin I knew today was going to be a great day.  The sun was shining and the water was as calm as a lake, just the kind of day we dream about when we head out to go fishing.

60818242_wWe started the day fishing Bird 2. You could really cut the kelp hard in water conditions like today, and after a few passes by the west bay kelp bed we had our first Chinook on, and what a scrapper!  After a 5 minute fight it was in the net. A few more passes and a couple of pinks later we decided to go bottom fishing. It was slack tide so it was perfect time to jig up some lingcod and halibut. We went to the pinnacles off of Green Point where the bottom fishing has been spectacular, producing very good numbers of lingcod as well as some very large halibut. It wasn’t long before we had our first halibut on the line. Within an hour we had all 3 of our halibut and a lingcod in the boat… a perfect morning. Everyone was in great spirits going to the Driftwood at lunch. The day was filled with laughter, amazing weather, good fishing, good times with Reggie the eagle, sea lions, killer whales, and humpbacks.  I’m always looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Randy “The Hitman” Zinck


August 16, 2016 Duane Foerter0

60814334_wAugust has proven to be a jackpot on the fishing grounds!  The arrival – maybe a little later than “normal” – of large numbers of salmon feeding on an abundance of baitfish just slightly offshore, has treated QCL anglers to more fantastic fishing.  While it’s still fishing, and not always “catching”, the opportunities out there are keeping guests pretty busy!  The makeup of this fishery includes all five species – with Chinook dominating, Coho and Pinks filling in, plus some random Chum and even Sockeye showing up!  Here’s hoping that they don’t move through to quickly!

60814039_wMeanwhile, back near the rocks and all the usual fishing holes, we’re still getting a good supply of Tyee-class Chinooks that keeps the party going at the Bell Ringer every night.  Twelve-year old Jake L was the rockstar last week with two 31-pounders and he released a massive Chinook that taped out to 67 pounds!  Congratulations Jake!  That’s our largest salmon so far this season!  These fish and a number of other nice Tyees were caught over at Cape Edenshaw, a most productive destination after a week of prolonged northwesterly winds pushed so much bait onto that shore!  Luke “Skywalker” and his guest Ron R found a nice 44-pounder over there, Bill G released a beauty that taped out to 43 lb., Kevin H sent back a 32 and his Dad Tom released a 37 just 2 hours before!

60814371_wBack on the west side of the grounds, Parker Point, Bird One and Cape Naden continued to produce big Chinook action on the weekend.  Several nice Tyees in the 30’s were taken and a number were released.  Conrad H was back up for the annual fishing derby with his brothers Willy and Gerhart, and they all got some very nice fish.  These guys always release their Tyees but for the first time, 60814378_wout of more than 200 Tyees caught over the years, they were unable to revive a nice 39-pounder.  We’re sure this salmon will be enjoyed by many friends and family this winter! Congrats!  Fishing with guide Kingsley, Emery B did manage to release his 39-pounder, caught out in 170 feet of water on a small 2 ½ inch spoon!  You just never know where the big ones are going to turn up!  Fantastic fishing guys!

The big salmon of the weekend was a stunning 44-pounder caught by Leanne R with guide Gaelan off Bird Rock.  The Tyee bell was ringing mightily on Saturday night when that one came to the scale.   However it may have been slightly overshadowed by the 20 clangs of the bell when James J showed up to declare his monster Halibut that was taped out to 203 pounds by his guide Matt Burr!  Not far behind was Willy H who released a 34 lb Chinook and a 185 lb. Halibut on the same day!  So many great memories shared up here at the Lodge!


August 12, 2016 Duane Foerter0

The northwest winds have subsided and have left us with an abundant supply of Chinook. The schools of herring have been moving inshore as well. With this the salmon have showed up in large numbers.  Deeper waters have been producing steady 14-25 pounder Chinook action as well as big Coho. The Chinook fishing these past 3 days has been unreal!

Tyee time for John!With the Northwest winds you will usually have an influx of baitfish and salmon being blown into Cape Edenshaw. Because of this, we decided to go there today. It is always a gamble going to Edenshaw as it’s a little far from our western fishing grounds and If the fishing is not good it is a long run back to our western grounds. This proved to be a successful morning at Edenshaw as several large Chinooks were hooked throughout the fleet.

C&R Tyee ChinookWe were doing laps by “Slab Rock” all morning, waiting for the Tyee bite. We had caught several fish in the high teens but were patiently waiting for the big one. It finally hit and the bite was so big the fish visibly moved the downrigger line as we heard a powerful “thud.”  It was on, and we quickly cleared our lines and chased after this beast. After a nice fight that took us offshore we landed a beautiful fish. What a battle! But it yielded a stunning 44 LB Chinook – ALRIGHT!  There were a couple other large catches within the area we were fishing as well.  What a day!

C&R ChinookTomorrow, I think we’ll be back to Cape Naden where the action has been consistent.  We want to fill up the Coho tags and the Coho bite has been consistent there.

It’s great to see the fish showing up in large numbers and I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow morning! There is going to be calm waters with plenty of fish being caught by everybody.



August 11, 2016 Duane Foerter0

The steady northwesterlies that we fished through last week have slackened off nicely and our guests are enjoying the bounty of the full fishing grounds once again!  We’ve discovered masses of salmon just slightly offshore from our “normal” fishing haunts along the rocky shoreline. Eager anglers are quick to move out a little further into water depths of 150 to 200 feet.  Tons of baitfish are attracting schools of both Chinook and Coho salmon to the grounds between the Mazzaredos and Bird 2.

It’s nice to see the Coho numbers up again after a bit of a slow period; typical catches are in the 8-11 pound class right now with some stunning 12-14 pounders in the mix.  While we are getting them in the upper reaches of the water column (where we expect to find them) anglers are also hooking up at depths from 45 – 75 feet!  (where we don’t expect them!)

Big Tyee at QCLThose “perfect for keeping,” 18-22 pound Chinooks are turning up in numbers as well in the offshore zone.  We’re generally getting them down 25-35 feet on anchovies, herring and spoons.  They don’t seem to be too fussy!  But the BIG fish are still found in the traditional spots around our favourite structure.  Cape Naden was the place to be for a number of anglers last week.

Big Tyees at QCLLong time QCL fan Tom R and his wife Sydney were fishing the Cape with Roger Baker when Tom hooked up with a big fish.  Tom’s version of the story is fantastic to hear but the short story was of a terrific 41 pounder in the boat!  Nice fish Tom, well done!

Aaron B boated a beautiful 43 pound Tyee, Axel K lit up the Bell Ringer with a 43 and out on the Driftwood Big Tyees at QCLPaul F put a 44 on the scale!  The ladies at the lodge were proving a force to be reckoned with as well.  Liz M was just beaming after she landed a striking 42 lb Chinook with her husband Phil and guide Isaiah Dahl.  Sheila B proudly displayed her chrome-bright 40-pounder alongside her husband Bruce and guide Coady Delesalle.  Fantastic catches all around!


August 9, 2016 Duane Foerter0

Catch & Release Tyee at QCLHard to believe it’s already August and the 2016 season is going strong!  Cape Naden continues to be a steady producer of Chinook and has shown to hold some Tyees on every trip.  Jeanne D, “fishing Grandma,” was absolutely thrilled to be back to QCL with her family but even more thrilled to have released a 34 lb Chinook on the first day. Well done Fishing Grandma!  Catch & Release Tyee at QCLThen on Tuesday she shared the thrill when her daughter-in-law Terry also released a 34 of her own!  Kudos to QCL guide Jackson Jane with his awesome C&R skills!  On the 99 with Robbie C, Bill M returned the fish of a lifetime to the water after landing an amazing 63 pound Tyee at Cape Naden on Tuesday.  That’s an incredible catch Bill!  And thanks for sending her back!  Congratulations!

63 pounder C&R Among a number of flashy Tyees caught last week were a pair of 37’s that were released as well – by Claude B and Chris L – Well done guys!  We’re seeing greater numbers of Chinooks overall these days and the average size has bumped up measurably too.  Several of those 40-plus beauties came to the boat last week with a number of them carefully turned back. Carson's 48 Pounder

On his first visit to QCL, 14-year-old Carson B tangled with a huge Chinook that gave him quite a tussle but he played it perfectly and his guide Ryan Winger was able to release it easily after taping it out to 48 pounds!  What a start to your salmon fishing habit Carson!  Great job!

C&R Chinook at QCLAlthough we’ve had moderate northwesterly winds for over a week now, many guests have been able to go out and haul up some great halibut catches. Last weekend Rob C released a huge, human-sized halibut that taped out to 210 lbs with the assistance of veteran QCL guide Oliver Massey.  His arms may still be tired from that one!  Myles and Reid F have been coming up to QCL before they could even walk but they teamed up to land their largest halibut last week, a chunky 101 pounder! Well done boys!  Dad’s proud!  Casey P released a 146 pounder, Alan D a 121, John F a 101 and Mike S turned back a 148-pound giant!  It’s sure exciting to see a huge halibut beside the boat but it’s even better if you’ve got a nice keeper in the box!  Fortunately there seems to be no shortage of nice chickens & turkeys in the 15 to 50 pound class!  Quite a few of the guides have been exploring new bottom fishing spots this season and it looks like it’s paying off!


August 2, 2016 Duane Foerter0

Late July, early August… favourite dates for many QCL anglers and they’ve been finding some stunning fish this week!  Moderate northwesterly winds bring blue skies and warmer temps and tend to drive the bait into the sheltered waters of Virago Sound.  And that’s where we are, ready for the salmon that follow the huge masses of needlefish and herring that fatten them up through the home stretch!

C&R TyeeC&R TyeeC&R Tyee

C&R TyeeChinook action has been best along the classic fishing points, with anglers trolling anchovy and herring baits down 35 – 45 feet to find them.  Cape Naden is a steady producer with Klashwun Point, Bird 2 and Parker Point doing just as well on most days.  Linda S was thrilled to return a fish of a lifetime to the water this week after landing a stunning Tyee that taped out to 44 pounds.  Guide Kingsley Brice carefully revived the big beauty off Klashwun Pt. and away she went!  Fantastic work Linda!

64 Pounder C&R64 Pounder C&R64 Pounder C&R

50 LB ChinookTerry H shared this experience with a 40-pounder on Monday when his guide Coady Delesalle sent back a big Chinook for him.  The Tyee bell has been ringing loud on many nights with some stellar catches coming back to the scale.  Ralph S weighed in a 50 lb. Chinook on Tuesday while Jamie R was unable to revive his huge chrome Tyee that came in at 52 lb..  Greg E was more successful releasing a 44 pounder at Klashwun Pt. with his guide Jordan Grames on Wednesday.

52 Pounder for Jamie52 lb ReleaseCatch & Release Trophy at QCL

Fishing without a guide this week, Kent H and his bud John W hooked up a monster Chinook in the busy water between Shag Rock and Klashwun.  After a 25-minute battle John scooped the massive salmon.  They quickly measured and released a contender for big fish of the season, a heavy shouldered Tyee that scored 64 pounds!  And what a beautiful fish it was!  Fantastic work guys!  Finishing the trip with another awesome release was Daryle A who connected with a bruiser off Bird Rock on Thursday, his guide Brett Clarke taping the trophy fish out to 52 pounds before releasing it into glassy calm water, all captured in 4K video!  Beautiful work gentlemen!  Congratulations!

Tomorrow… the halibut report!


July 28, 2016 Duane Foerter0

I’d like to welcome all QCL family, and fellow anglers to another addition of the Guide’s report.

Today was a spectacular day to be fishing in Haida Gwaii, better known on the west coast as the “Mecca” of salmon fishing. With a fresh push of fish entering the grounds, we knew we were in for a treat today!

Tyee in the netMy guest was just shy of a Tyee last year, so I promised I’d make it up to him this season. It seemed after the initial push of the afternoon flood tide, Bird Rock 2 came to life with action. And after a few strips of line and some patience, we were onto one!  The big Chinook took a piece of herring at 6 pulls off the point, pretty textbook stuff for B2. The fight was heavy and lethargic, with the fish making multiple deep runs for the kelp. Fortunately, we were able to cut him off with the Grady every time. About 25 minutes into the fight we found ourselves in the west bay of B2, with a hungry sea lion in hot pursuit of our fish. Tyee salmon at QCLThankfully we were able to scoop him up before the rock dog was able to do any real damage. When we motored offshore in an attempt to release the fish, we realized he had swallowed the hooks. Looks like he was coming back to the Bell Ringer with us after all! This one turned out to be a 34-pounder, a great way to finish the day and an unforgettable trip at QCL.

Until next time, tight lines!

Ryan “Horseshoe” Winger

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