Last June we held our first ever fishing derby targeting only bottom fish – halibut and lingcod specifically – and it was a resounding success! Where salmon has been “king” for decades, we’re certainly seeing our time divided among lots of different fisheries. The early season in Haida Gwaii has proven to be an excellent time to go after large-size lingcod and halibut. They have voracious appetites and feed quite aggressively. QCL guests have really taken to exploring the offshore waters and have been jigging up a storm! New and improved depth sounder and GPS technology have added a whole new dimension of experiences to a QCL fishing trip.
The 2017 Derby produced some impressive catches last June. John F took the prize for largest Lingcod with a 37-pounder while the largest halibut to the dock for the derby weighed in at 55 pounds for Kyle Q. Anglers in the derby probed around all sorts of structure on our fishing grounds to find a wealth of fantastic bottom fishing. Released halibut were not part of this tournament so some most impressive catches were carefully turned back to swim again. Alan S released a 100-pounder on Wednesday and on Thursday we recorded halibut releases by Keith B – 115 lb. and Jeff F – 118 lb.. A forty-five minute battle concluded early Thursday morning with the measurement of a 78-inch halibut caught by Dana A which translates to 255 pounds! His guide Mark Kasumovich was able to get the proverbial “barn door” stretched out peacefully at the surface long enough to get some accurate numbers along with photos and some video. All in all, it turned out to be a fantastic week.
The 2018 Jig-a-Pig Derby is set for Monday May 28th thru Friday June 1st. Many of this year’s participants are booked to return and they’re bringing friends! If you’d like to get in on this fun and exciting event be sure to contact us soon!
On Thursday, Sept. 21st, a newborn Minke whale was beached in Naden Harbour on the sandy shore of the Kung village site in Haida Gwaii. Spotted by Andy Adams, caretaker of nearby Samson Lodge, at 10:30 am, he knew he would need a few pairs of hands to get him back into the water. Andy boated down the bay to Queen Charlotte Lodge and asked if we would be able to help. Operations Manager Brad Palmer cleared the rest of the work day so that we could go and assist. What an incredible opportunity! Eight staff members piled into the boat with buckets to see what we could do. The whale was very still when we got there and we were worried that he was sick or injured. He had a few scrapes on his back, which could have resulted from being separated from his mother by a pod of Orcas and chased into the harbour.
We’ll never know why he got there but we knew we had to help him. We kept pouring buckets and buckets of water on him to get his temperature down and after a while he perked up a bit and started breathing deeper and moving slightly. He was so young he still had part of his umbilical cord attached and pink pectoral fins. We dug a bit of the sand out from around him to let the water pool there to keep his temperature down as the tide was coming in. High tide was at 2:30 pm, and he was beached right at the high tide line so we knew we only had a brief window of time to get him back in the water. Very carefully we stood in the water with him and repositioned him towards the deeper water. He responded very well and got livelier as the water got deeper around him. We stayed with him in the water while he got his bearings again. In a big burst of energy he flipped his tail and swam out in a small circle, but came right back to us! I guess he wasn’t quite ready to go yet.
About 15 minutes later he made his final exit to the deeper water and stayed around for a few minutes until we couldn’t see him any longer. What an amazing feeling to watch him regain his energy and swim back out into the ocean! What an incredible animal! With a bit of help, we hope he can now find his mother. What an absolute privilege to see a whale up close like that and be able to help him out. We all agreed that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
As the Sikorsky winds up and lifts off with our last guests of the summer, there is always a collective sigh of relief among the small group of us left standing at the helipad. We share high-fives and hugs all ‘round. Completion of the marathon that is the summer season at QCL is something worth celebrating. I like to compare it to having company over for a visit… always a great time, lots of fun, delicious food and drink, wonderful stories and at the end, a little exhausting. It’s a great feeling really. The silence that remains after that last helicopter leaves is bittersweet.
The latter days of the 2017 season were as consistent as the rest. The bulk of salmon were found offshore with the commercial trollers in waters 250 to 400 feet deep. Interestingly there was a huge mix of species out there. As expected, there were tons of nice Coho in a wide range of sizes from 6 to 17 pounds. There were far fewer Pink salmon in the latter weeks but we discovered quite a few Chum; with some chunky big silver ones up to 18 pounds, and we always seem to find the occasional Sockeye in the mix. While we didn’t encounter any Tyees offshore, QCL anglers were successful at locating enough Chinook salmon to add a couple of them to most fish boxes. They came in a range of sizes between 14 and 28 pounds and were generally caught at depths from 60 to 160 feet down.
And there are always those anglers who wouldn’t give up on the traditional inshore fishery. Right through to the closing day, patient anglers were still finding some nice Chinooks in along the rocks and the kelp. Birds 1 and 2 kept a half dozen boats interested on most mornings and evenings with some nice Chinooks showing up every day. The arrival of a big Chinook always gets a little more attention and the last 40-pounder of the season was no different. Fishing from one of the Driftwood boats with QCL veteran Keith Burdett, Kristi Isaac hooked up with a good fish off the east corner of Bird 1 during the final week of the season. There was a decent chop coming with the northwesterly breeze and this fish was in no hurry to come to the boat. But patience paid off and after 20 minutes a stunning big salmon was in the net. We managed to get down there with the camera in time to document the occasion as Kristi had decided that this big Tyee should be released. Taped out to 44-pounds and carefully revived & released, it was a fantastic way to cap off another great summer. Congratulations to Kristi & Keith on a wonderful fish and thanks for giving it a chance to return to the river!
Now the process that we call “rigdown” is well underway. Cleaning, counting, packing and shipping keep a good-sized crew busy for several days after that helicopter leaves. The final stage involves disconnecting all the pieces of the marine operation and relocating the barges, floats, docks and breakwaters to safe anchorage for the winter. Once that’s completed in late September we’re down to the caretaker team to spell each other off through to the new year when we prepare to start all over again!
Season 27 will be complete. It was certainly one of our biggest and busiest ever. We knew there would be challenges with some of the new program changes this year and there were. But, thanks to our incredible staff, a very dedicated management team and passionate and supportive ownership, we made it one of our most successful ever, on every level. We’d like to say a huge Thank You to each and every one. We couldn’t do it without you! To our loyal and super-enthusiastic guests, we wish you all a wonderful Fall / Winter / Spring. Enjoy all those delicious fish dinners and share them with your friends and family. And remember, every time you pull a piece of fish out of the freezer, there is a story that comes with it! Be sure to share those as well!
It’s crazy to think that another fishing season is almost in the books. With that being said, fishing is still going strong here at QCL. Although there is still the odd Chinook being picked up inshore, most boats are now spending the majority of the day working “the salmon highway” along the 300-foot contour line. This has resulted in very consistent Coho fishing on a daily basis and on some days the Chinook fishing has been just as good out there, resulting in action-packed fishing days. In that mix of consistent Coho fishing there has been some real lunkers, with several nice mid-teen Cohos hitting the dock last trip. This photo features a gorgeous 17-pounder caught by Arnot T. Congratulations! With the calm waters that we have continued to see lately, many nice halibut continue to be caught on a daily basis. All in all, guests, guides, and everyone else involved seem to be very happy with how things are going out on the water!
Today we had a new group of guests arrive for our final weekend trip of the season. Again, the offshore fishing was very productive, especially on the ebb tide. Although the Chinook were fewer in number out there today, a fair number of Chum salmon were caught. These powerful fish often provide an acrobatic and unpredictable fight that our guests really seem to enjoy. With the Coho fishing remaining strong today, there were certainly some real beauties around. The highlight of our day was when one of my guests hooked into a nice fish that took a couple of lengthy runs. I figured that we for sure had a nice Chinook on the line, but to our pleasant surprise it ended up being a large 15 lb Coho. What a fish and what a day!
After an exciting and busy night watching the big fight in the Bell Ringer most guests were ready to go bright and early for 7 am to be first off the dock.
I’d had a quick chat with my guests the night before and decided we were going to start our morning in Yatze bay. The slight fog was lifting as the sun was starting to poke out. We could see the lighthouse on Shag Rock in the distance as we dropped in. We were the first boat there. Right as we dropped in we hooked into a coho who launched out of the water multiple times. Although it slipped the hooks and got away we were optimistic for the rest of the morning.
We were fortunate enough to hook 3 Chinooks over the next hour and landed 2 beautiful fish. Each guest boated a beautiful fresh Chinook that delivered an exciting fight.
This weekend and the excitement of the lodge guests was amazing with the great weather, the big fight and steady salmon fishing. Weekends like this go to show why us guides spend the whole off-season talking about QCL and our time up in Haida Gwaii!
Last week we were talking about “special combo” fishing and the great variety of fishing experienceLast week we were talking about “special combo” fishing and the great variety of fishing experiences there are to be had up here. Well this week we had a father & son angling team at the lodge that really took it to heart! Ronald and Dan R not only found the variety but, with the help of their QCL guide Jake Harrach, they found the quality as well!
Over the past 4 days they managed to catch the largest fish of the trip in each of 3 species and the 2nd largest in a 4th! On Tuesday Dan caught and released the big halibut of the trip, a big slab that taped out to 163 pounds. On Wednesday Ron boated a nice big lingcod that tipped the scale at 35 pounds which, in most weeks would be the big one! But he came second to a 50-pounder landed by Lino P! That’s only 6 pounds short of the lodge record! Congrats Lino! On the same day Ronald caught the largest Coho of the week, coming in at 16-pounds – a beautiful fish for sure! Then on Thursday, making that famous “just one more pass” at Cape Naden on the way in, Dan hooked up with a big Chinook that really put him to the test. After a twenty-minute tussle, Jake slipped the net beneath the chrome beauty and they knew there would be some more Bell-ringing back at the dock that night! At 39-pounds, this big Tyee would add to Dan’s record of success as the largest Chinook of the trip. Congratulations guys! That’s an amazing catch report! It’s a good thing you’re going home for the weekend to get some rest!
The weekend forecast is for more southerly weather and calm seas (with a regular dose of liquid sunshine.) The inshore Chinook fishing has certainly picked up in the past week with the best action during the first and last hours of the day. Offshore the Coho catch remains strong and we’re seeing more of the larger Coho coming to the scale. Bottom fishing has been getting easier with the tidal range diminishing every day since Monday’s new moon. QCL anglers released 6 halibut over 100 pounds this trip and we’re still seeing nice 30-plus fish at the Bell Ringer every night. These are great days to be fishing at QCL!
This past weekend trip was full of good times, as there were some fish around to be caught and the Bell Ringer was quite lively on a nightly basis. The fish coming in consisted of a combination of nice Chinook, Coho, and Halibut. Many boats decided to spend a good majority of their days offshore, targeting Coho with the odd Chinook and Pink salmon in the mix out there as well. This style of fishing certainly produced the most consistent action for anglers. Inshore, the waters surrounding Cape Naden and Bird Rock 1 produced some nice Chinook for those who chose to “stick, stay, and make it pay”, particularly through the afternoon low slack tide. This fishing was quite interesting at times, as it was often a race to sneak the fish in past a couple of hungry sea lions.
Today we had a new group of guests come in for our weekday trip and they were all very excited to get out on the water! While on our way out, my guests and I decided that today we were going to stick inshore in hopes of hooking into some large migratory Chinook salmon. After making this decision, I knew exactly where I wanted to drop the lines. A few minutes later we had three lines in the water at Bird Rock 1. As the day passed by, boats would come and go, with many choosing to make their way offshore in search of Coho and Halibut. After a slow start we decided to grab some lunch at the MV Driftwood. Then, following a short discussion, we decided to keep sticking it out inshore and back we went to Bird 1. Shortly after, we managed to put a nice 20-pounder in the box. With the low slack tide approaching I had a feeling that this was a sign that something good was about to happen. All of a sudden, right on top of the slack tide, our back line had a hard hit and my guest Dale was hooked into a real screamer. While clearing the other 2 lines we hooked a second fish that hit while I was popping the line out of the downrigger clip. Both of my guests were now into a couple beauties, with one screaming line off the bow and the other off the stern. After a couple of fun filled and chaotic fights this father-son duo managed to land their double header. In addition, Dale’s fish ended up being a 34 lb hawg! Although he had every intention to release any Tyee that he might catch on his trip, this one was hooked far too well for that to be a possibility. Regardless, he and and his group members were quite excited later on back at the Bell Ringer!
We are all looking forward to the remainder of the trip!
It’s “Special Combo” fishing at QCL these days! The return of more southerly weather has sent many QCL anglers offshore to enjoy a totally mixed bag of fishing adventures. While we’re still finding some nice Chinooks inshore, the angling opportunities found out in water depths over 200 feet are amazing. We’ve put quite a lot of effort into mapping these offshore fishing grounds in recent years and we’re certainly seeing the results.
We’re blessed with a huge selection of underwater structure out there. We’ve discovered that they it not only holds traditional bottom fish like halibut and lingcod, but tends to help anglers target on the migrating schools of salmon species as well. Underwater “hills and valleys” provide reference points that we use in trolling at a range of depths – generally from 50 to 120 feet down – and QCL anglers are finding all 5 species of salmon. The traditional target fish for our offshore trolling has been coho but down a little deeper we’re getting into beautiful 15-25 pound Chinooks as well. And while we’re out there, it’s so easy to just take a little break from trolling and drop a jig down on one of these hilltops for nice halibut, rockfish and lingcod.
Today saw a mix of light variable winds which allowed QCL guests and guides to fish all corners and everywhere in between on all of our fishing grounds, both inshore and offshore. Chinook fishing close in to the kelp and rock structure is still producing results but at a slower pace. With patience and willingness to stay at one spot, most anglers will be rewarded when the bite finally does turn on. Get your lines back in the water as quickly as you can though and try to hook up again because these are mostly snap bites, lasting only a short period and you may have a chance at only a couple of fish at a time. The bonus though is that the average size of these Chinook are larger than the average size from earlier in the year with a chance at a fish of a lifetime. Coho fishing offshore is still producing results in the 160 to 300 foot lines while still trolling fairly shallow.
It was changeover day and with my new guests for the trip aboard Grady 114 we headed out to the fishing grounds. The water was in great condition and the starting options were endless. With only a few boats at Cape Naden we dropped in and set the gear. Over the radio I heard of a few caught here before we arrived and was hoping we could still cash in on the bite. After a couple of passes without a touch and without seeing any other boat hookup I was starting to think we missed our chance at the early afternoon bite.
After an hour and thinking about a potential move, possibly offshore to find some Coho, the port rod goes off. With two big heavy slams of the rod tip the down rigger clip pops and line starts peeling. We’re off to the races boys! My guest carefully picked up the rod and let the fish continue to head for Alaska. Quickly we got to a point where I had to start reversing to chase this fish down. The tension on the drag was set just right and there didn’t seem to be any slow down at all. A bit faster on the chase and finally the line slowed down but was still creeping off the reel. This is a good one guys, don’t start reeling until this fish stops taking line! With well over half of the spool of line being pulled out to the open ocean my Islander finally stopped letting out line. I watched the rod tip as my guest was about to start reeling when one big head shake pulled the rod tip down and the the line went limp. Heartbreaking. Potential fish of a lifetime?? Who knows. Didn’t see it once. Will never know. But it was fun while it lasted. We re-grouped, carried on and shared a high five over the one that got away. Makes for a good fishing story anyways.
Till next time…
Keep your tip up, line tight and hang on for the ride.
After a really nice stretch of northwesterly weather – sunny skies and some lumpy seas – QCL guests have been enjoying some pretty fine fishing action this week. Both bait and salmon moved back in closer to shore where we’re accustomed to finding them and the results showed up on the catch board as very good numbers of chunky twenty-something Chinooks. While the Tyee bell hasn’t been ringing quite as often as usual, the fish boxes going home are nicely packed with those QCL portion-cut vac-pacs for our guests to share over the coming months!
Beautiful calm seas on Friday found many of our boats fishing offshore again in the 130-200-foot zone, and having a blast hooking up with lots of aggressive Coho mixed with enough Chinooks to keep them on their guard, all in the top 50 feet. Of course we’re starting to see the “silver princes of August” – those stunning teen-sized Coho that often smash the bait as soon as it hits the water. Some nice 14-15 pounders have shown up at the Bell Ringer to grab everyone’s attention! Of course we’re also weeding through a ton of Pink salmon as well this season – one way to ensure your bait is always fresh!
This weekend we’re on the flipside of the weather with moderate southeast & southwest winds, along with the rainfall that usually comes with. The outlook for next week is light southerly winds going to moderate southwest by Thursday. Tides are moderating with changes of only 8-10 feet.