Thanksgiving Weekend is coming! Enjoy some of that delicious white fish you caught this summer! Lingcod and halibut provide some of the tastiest seafood you can find anywhere and we are always catching them up at QCL. They’re so versatile and can be prepared a hundred different ways. While you maybe planning for a turkey dinner this weekend, we recommend white fish for lunch! Here’s a nice light recipe – perfect for a family gathering. ( from our latest cookbook, A Taste Of QCL Vol2 )
Well here it is, September already, and once again we’re making the annual fall migration south to “the real world.” Gone are those beautifully casual 5-minute commutes down the beach to the lodge or to the dock. (You don’t want to hear what the alternative is like!) The early morning light is now delayed past 7:00 and it’s coming later and later every day. (Fun fact: In June we enjoy 17 hours of daylight… in December it’ll be just over 7 hours!)
The 2018 season will be noted for exceptional Coho fishing (offshore), a windy July, smaller Chinooks, Steak & Lobster in the Bell Ringer, friendly medical doctors onsite 24/7, more GPS hotspots on the map, quick & easy halibut, fresh sushi on the deck and a 4th beautiful big red boat on the water! QCL guests returned home with more varieties of fish in their boxes and many of them opted to add some tasty BC specialties like smoked sablefish and spot prawns. It seems we saw fewer whales overall this summer and the same 5 sea lions were roaming around the grounds much of the time.
The staff this summer was outstanding. We had the benefit of several leaders returning in key positions to maintain consistency in training and operations. And it’s always exciting to watch the stars emerge from the ranks of new staff as the season gets rolling. Some of the most memorable moments come when we welcome the return of a guest who was here 10 or 20 years ago. Their impressions of the “new QCL” are pretty wonderful and their recollections of “how it was” are heartwarming. While we’ve made a lot of changes to the program and marked improvements to the facility, we’ve tried very hard to maintain the quality and the style of service that we built our reputation on. That will always be priority #1.
Well it’s early August and our new guests arrived in bright sunshine and blue skies this morning, excited and smiling at their good fortune. With a forecast of light variable winds and favourable tides, they know they could be in for something very special this week. We’ve recently experienced some ups and downs weather-wise and have certainly seen how it can affect the anglers’success. Fortunately our track record is pretty solid and it’s very rare to get a “bad”weather day without getting a “good”one in return.
Our two most recent trips are good examples. Last week moderate to strong northwesterlies limited access to some of the fishing grounds over the first couple of days and the catch record confirmed it. But along came Thursday and everything changed. We got out early and enjoyed a full day of fantastic fishing, enjoying the whole of the grounds and catching lots of fish. Everyone picked up some Chinooks and got into some nice Coho offshore. Most had managed to get one halibut earlier in the week and practically everyone got out to get a second on Thursday. There was a buzz in the dining room that night with the energy provided by a banner day on the water.
Overnight the winds swung to southeast and threatened to corner everybody at Edenshaw for the weekend. Our new guests arrived and headed out, prepared for what Mother Nature was about to serve up. Friday weather turned out to be pretty moderate and we saw a very respectable catch on the dock that night. Saturday was definitely the test and the eastern grounds were not rewarding us with many treasures. Oh, there were fish caught, but there was considerable time between bites. At dinner we shared a favourable forecast for Sunday and surely everyone went to bed with their fingers crossed!
At 6:00 am, dawn broke with a patchy blue sky and just a light breeze. It was a quick breakfast for sure and everybody was on their way. Once again, easy access to any of your favourite spots feels fantastic and every guide had a plan. Tides were moderate but still a factor to plan around, whether fishing for salmon inshore or bottom fishing on the outside. Over the course of the day the Fishmaster reported decent catches going on practically everywhere; not much chatter on the radio, everybody was busy!
The beautiful sunny weather and great fishing saw most anglers lingering on the water right until the 8:00 pm call. Meanwhile, back at the Bell Ringer, the totes were lined up out the door. The atmosphere down there was electric with cheers, jeers and high-fives going off all the time. We didn’t weigh any monsters last night but the bell was ringing pretty steadily for some 30-something Chinooks, teen-sized Coho and a few halibut just too big to bring home! The last fish hit the scale at 10:34 pm and the dining room was busy well after that!
In most of our daily lives we’ve created a world with few limitations; we can get pretty much anything we want when we want it. Part of the appeal of the fishing adventure is that lack of control. Just being out in a wild place and experiencing everything it has to offer –“good”and “bad”- is a huge attraction for many of us. And here at the Lodge, we’re privileged to watch that story unfold day after day!
Each day I put on my signature red boots and head down to the dock, never too sure what is in store for me that day, but always eager to find out. I start my day in the freezer, sorting the previous day’s catch into each guest’s bin. A quick check against the catch boards, everything matches, perfect.
Early evening arrives and boats are starting to come back from the fishing grounds, ready to weigh in the day’s take and enjoy a beverage and some appies. The totes are lining up in the Bell Ringer, full of fish ready to be weighed. The music is on and the drinks are flowing. I look back and see a silver tail peeking up over the edge of a tote; it looks big. Standing nearby, an excited guest and guide can barely contain their smiles. Will it go 30? As each guide lays out the fish, I’m sure to check the tags to ensure the angler will receive their own fish, cut exactly the way they want. Fillet? Portion cutting? Smokehouse? Then it’s time to snap a quick photo with the catch before it’s recorded. By now, I know the guides well. I can usually guess which guest’s fish they’ll weigh first, second, third. In between weights, I catch snippets of fishing stories; the good one that got away, the near-misses and the close saves. A few times each night, it’s time for a ‘Bell Ringer’. Whether it be the perfect ‘turkey’ halibut, or a coveted ‘hog’, we celebrate just the same. After each fish is weighed, it is sorted into bins by cut, then off to the processing room it goes, where it is cut, washed and vacuum packed. From there, it hits the freezer, flash frozen for freshness for months to come.
It’s the last night of the trip, and once all of the fish have been recorded, processed and sorted, it’s time to box them up to send out the following morning. The boxing team and I pack up every guest’s fish, checking the catch and recording the outgoing weight. As the morning sun is rising, we load the boxes onto “The Q”, sending them out to Masset, where they’ll fly south and be waiting for their owner in Vancouver.
Every day I am fortunate to be at the centre of the ruckus, recording each fish, celebrating each victory with guide and guest alike. This season has been one for the books, with near-daily Tyees, and many multiple-Tyee days. Our largest thus far has tipped the scale at 40.4 lbs. Coho fishing has been on, right from the get-go. We’ve seen plenty of ‘Silvers’ in the double digits all through July, and even some pushing close to the 15-pound mark moving into late July. The season high stands at 13.4 lbs, but I suspect we’ll see some bigger ones moving into August. This season has also brought an unusually high number of the most elusive salmon: the Sockeye. We had ten in one week! With the increase in Sockeye numbers, three boats have been able to complete the ‘Grand Slam’ of salmon fishing, one of each species. This season has also been strong for bottom fishing. Numerous Halibut north of the 50-pound mark have been released, and several have even taped out to more than 200 pounds, a real ‘barn door’ of a Halibut. June also brought about a large quantity of Pacific Cod. We caught more in one day than the entirety of last season! We also got to see a new kind of fish this year, landing our very first Alaskan Pollock. You never know what you’ll pull up when you drop a line down to the bottom!
I am lucky to have this unique vantage point which affords me the privilege of taking care of each and every fish brought back to the dock. The excitement of the scale draws the attention of veteran anglers and first-timers alike. Whether someone is looking for a guess on weight, a crash course in salmon identification, or just to take a photo, I’m always happy to help.
As we enter the middle days of July, (and of the season!) we’re happy to report that things are cooking along just fine. Fishing has been exceptional lately with incredible amounts of bait and salmon showing throughout the fishing grounds. Herring, in particular, has been the common denominator that draws so much life around it. Besides the extraordinary volume of salmon in the area, Humpback whales, white-sided dolphins and Dall’s porpoise are regular attendees at the party. Anglers who find themselves in the midst of all this excitement return home with stories and memories to share for years.
While the bulk of this bounty is found offshore in what would traditionally have been called the “halibut grounds” it’s nice to see that the inshore fishery is back on track. Regular catches of 20-pound-plus Chinook salmon around the shoreline structure and kelp beds are the preferred pastime of many anglers and they’re happy too. The Tyee bell has been ringing nightly, reporting nice catches of those larger fish in the 30-plus range. Parker Point, Bird 2 and Green Point have been productive lately around the tide changes. Veteran QCL angler John V released a big beauty last weekend that taped out to 39-pounds and yesterday Timothy M brought a big chrome beauty back to the Bell Ringer that tipped the scale at 39 as well. Those are stunning fish guys! Congratulations!
Halibut are completely distributed throughout Virago Sound and we catch them absolutely everywhere. The regular flow of the tides in and out of Naden Harbour push the needlefish around and halibut love to come inshore to feed on them, providing exceptional opportunities to catch giant halibut in shallow water. Many a giant has been played off the deck of the MV Driftwood as she’s anchored up in 40-feet of water at the Mazzaredo Islands. Of course, when you drop your halibut bait to the bottom in search of the perfect 30-pounder you never know what you might find! Such was the case for Sharon & Ward M yesterday when they hooked up with a heavy fish just east of “the Mazz” in 50-feet of water. The excitement of pulling a big halibut up alongside the boat is soon accentuated by the anxiety of how to deal with it! Thankfully in this case, QCL Dock Manager Ryan Ashton was in the area and jumped aboard to help out. Sometimes the fish cooperates and a quick measurement is possible before an uneventful release. Not this time. They did manage to come up with a length of about 60-inches and they were able to remove the hook from the giant’s lip – but at a price! Getting up close and personal to attend to business got Ryan well doused, repeatedly, and he returned to the lodge completely soaked, eager for a warm shower! But the estimated 109-pounder was safely back on the bottom and Sharon & Ward had to drop down and try again for the perfect take home model. Great job – well done!
Nice to see the world trying to move to “normal”- around here at least! It’s amazing what a few days of wind can do. The arrival of considerable amounts of bait both inshore and off, has turned up the fish volume noticeably. We saw a half dozen Tyees on the weekend with the largest being a 40-pounder released at Klashwun Point by Jason H with his guide Cole Guolo. They attempted a replay on Saturday but unfortunately the 30-pound Chinook was not able to be revived. Nice work guys!
Offshore we’re finding more Coho, Pink & Chum salmon while running spoons and anchovies down 80 – 110 ft.. They’re typical 5-9 pounders this time of year but are providing some good sport and some variety in the fishbox. Every once in a while a nice bright Chum takes the bait and surprises the angler with a very determined battle! Pound for pound a Chum is one of the toughest fighters out there.
We’re accustomed to our guests encountering some massive Halibut during their stay and this year has been no exception! Fish over 100 pounds are reported every other day and many weeks we’ll hear about one over 200. But a couple of times each summer a QCL angler manages to haul up a fish of epic proportions, the proverbial “barn door halibut.” Such a fish came to the boat of Michel D , fishing with QCL guide Sam Johnstone. This one came up relatively quickly; it took Michel only 45-minutes to bring her to the boat. But when she came alongside Grady 110 on Wednesday afternoon, they were all in awe of this massive fish. With Denis M on the phone camera, Sam and Michel carefully measured the length before removing the jig and setting her free. At 84 inches in length this big female scored out to 323 pounds! It has all the makings of a fish story that will no doubt be shared through generations! Congratulations Michel !
You can feel the excitement throughout the entire lodge right now. The past few days have included some steady winds from the northwest, which has brought the entire fishing grounds to life. The birds are everywhere, having a hard time deciding which bait ball to dive on. Humpback whales are working together, scooping up massive mouthfuls of fish as they move across the grounds. On top of all this, the fishing has picked up significantly.
The past few days have seen some of the best chinook fishing of our season so far. It appears as though a new wave of fish has started to push its way across our grounds. Multiple Tyee’s are starting to be caught, and we just had the first 40 lb Chinook caught of the season. Fish are still being caught offshore in the deeper water, but the inshore fishing has really improved over the last couple of days. Most of the salmon are still being picked up around the slack tides; however, as the tidal differences continue to decrease, the fish seem to be biting a little more consistently throughout the day. On top of all this, the Coho have started to show up in little pockets scattered across the halibut grounds.
Halibut fishing has also been getting better and better. The smaller “chicken” halibut have been plentiful as always, but some absolutely massive halibut have been caught on the grounds as of late. Some of them have even been found in some pretty unexpected places. Last trip my guests and I were trolling around Cape Naden looking for a chinook. We were working in tight to the kelp bed when all of a sudden the back rod started to scream out line. It wasn’t long into the fight when my guests and I realized something fishy was going on. After the initial “run”, the fish just stayed down on bottom. Every time we gained a couple of yards of line, it took them right back with a single pull. Finally, after about a 30 minute fight, we got it to the surface. It measured out to a 100 lb halibut. The thrill of seeing a fish that big never gets old, and to reel it up on a salmon rod with 30 lb test makes it that much more impressive!
You really never know what you are going to see each and every day up here. We truly have the coolest office in the world.
The season has started and the fishing stories are starting to grow. As the catch list among the guide team grows the talk around the dinner table is always entertaining. Tales of epic battles with Chinook, tug of wars with Halibut, and memories of the one that got away always entertain groups of hungry guides crowded around the table.
Three Tyee’s have already been brought to the dock and it seems as though multiple 60+ pound halibut releases have become a daily occurrence. The past several years our guide team has begun targeting Halibut at the various pinnacles or hills that are found around our fishing grounds, and catching these monsters has become part of our daily routine. There was even a 220-pound halibut caught off of the driftwood when it was parked at the Mazarredo islands last week. Lucas the driftwood deckhand was fueling boats when he noticed the rod in the holder fully corked peeling line. After almost an hour the new driftwood halibut record was successfully landed, measured, and released. what a beauty!
Most of the salmon are being caught around slack tide periods as of late. The old saying “stick, stay, and make it pay” has been proven to be productive, as snap bites are found at all of the major points. One of my favorite moments as a guide is to observe a rod tip dancing up and down, or bust out of the clip and start screaming. Eager anglers jumping to attention and connecting to a fish will always bring a smile to my face. The weather over the next week is projected to be Northwesterly winds and we are excited to see what they blow in. The fishing grounds has not seen an extended Northwest wind this year. Flocks of birds were observed gorging on bait balls off shore today and 100’s of Auklets were seen off Klashwun point. I am excited to start the day tomorrow and see what the fishing grounds hold.
Yay! A shift in the winds to northwesterly this week is bringing some welcome sunshine and the promise of great fishing for the next couple weeks. We’ve been able to get offshore regularly to check out our favourite halibut holes and are happy to report that all is well in that department! But while we’re out there we’re seeing significant amounts of bait –big herring and mature sandlance –that persistent NW winds tend to drive south into Virago Sound and our inshore fishing grounds. The Chinook fishing has not yet ramped up to “normal”but it is improving steadily. Guests and guides are putting some time in at all the favourite haunts now and we’re seeing some nice fish come to the boat. Another Tyee yesterday, a 31-pounder for veteran QCL guest Matt A was a nice addition to the chorus of Tyee bell ringers on the dock. Matt was joined by his son Trevor who was thrilled to haul up a chunky halibut that taped out to 60 pounds before being released.
A bit of novel news from this week is the success of two boats who chose to avoid some gnarly weather on Tuesday and fish inside the harbour. One boat, guided by Sam Johnstone, was jigging for halibut and connected with a good fish alongside the deep channel leading north out to sea. After a 20 minute tussle they discovered a big hali alongside the boat that they taped out to 100 pounds! Congratulations to Mike N on a big catch in a little spot! Meanwhile, guide Kylie Tokairin was trolling along the same drop with guests–her own Dad and his friend, when they also hooked up with a big halibut, but on a salmon rod! They got pulled around for over an hour but finally managed to coral the giant at the boat, taping it out to 62 inches length, scoring 121 pounds! Way to go Brad!
The 16thAnnual Kingfisher Derby kicked off today with $120,000 in the pot! This annual Catch & Release derby attracts a strong following who compete every year for the largest released Chinook salmon. With new bait and new fish moving into the sound it’s bound to get very interesting! Stay tuned!
As we roll into the middle days of June we’re seeing more familiar faces and enjoying some of the many special events that have developed here over the years. Fishing has always been all about tradition and we see a lot of them celebrated up here! Friends from Calgary, here this weekend, always toast the conclusion of another successful fishing trip with a round of fine grappa on the final evening, pouring carefully from a spectacular 3-litre bottle that sits in a place of pride in the lodge. They left this morning with some great memories, assorted boxes of fish and renewed friendships. It’s an honour to play some small part in it.
Over the weekend the fishing showed signs of “progress”with the first signs of other salmon species arriving. We saw a few big bright silver chum come to the dock; pound for pound possibly the toughest salmon out there. There were also some small coho and pinks in the mix, that we haven’t seen to date. Chinook fishing often requires patience and attention to detail and we’re certainly seeing that these days. Active periods are often closely attached to the tides and successful anglers are those who manage to be on their favourite point just when the tide is right.
That was the case for Josh K on Sunday morning as he was fishing with Red Baron and a couple of buddies just south of Klashwun Point. They hooked up with the fish we all dream about at that spot and Josh handled it masterfully. The stunning chrome bright Tyee tipped the scale at just over 37 pounds –what a beauty! Nice fish guys! While we haven’t seen a lot of larger salmon yet, the bulk of Chinook in the area are those feisty feeder springs in the 10-20 pound class. We’re getting them more widely throughout the grounds now with Parker Point, Bird 2 and Eagle Rock providing some excitement around the slack tides.
We know that halibut are commonly found closer to shore in these early days of the season and savvy anglers are picking them up while trolling along the kelp for salmon. The MV Driftwood has been anchored at the Mazzaredo Islands much of the time as we have boats spread out evenly to the east and the west. They often drop a line off the side and it’s quite common for a guest aboard to catch their limit of halibut right there in less than 50 feet of water.
Sometimes they get more than they bargained for. There was excitement galore after supper on Saturday night when the tip of the rod outside the Chef’s galley door jerked down hard. A mad scramble ensued as the crew were busy pressure washing the tenders and guest Jim S was charged to deal with the fish. Problem was, once Jim grabbed the rod, the fish made a run toward the stern of the Driftwood, right under the swim grid and the crew working around it! The only way to follow the fish was to pass the rod under ropes and around boats until he could get to the aft deck, where he and first mate Ryan Winger jumped into a tender and proceeded with the battle! As the water depth was only 40 feet this fish was unable to sound and made long powerful runs out away from the boat instead. When Jim finally managed to get it close, it was obviously way too big to keep. Ryan and Chef Ricky managed to get a length measurement –a whopping 74 inches –before they released the giant, which scored out to 215 pounds! What an amazing catch in such an exceptional circumstance! Way to go Jim and the DW crew! That’s a fish story for the record books, even by Driftwood standards!