Some resorts have no trouble baiting travelers angling for luxury. After you’ve been out on the briny blue, celebrating over cocktails with your new fishing chums, immerse yourself in a hot tub, tuck into chef-prepared superb cuisine with fine wines and then drift off under plump duvets and sheets made of the finest Egyptian cotton next to your private bathroom. Several fishing lodges are land-based, where you can stroll pristine sandy beaches, hike through old growth forest. Or spend the afternoon watching wildlife—whale sightings are the norm.
However, there’s nothing like the thrill of reeling in a big fish. For beginning anglers, a good day’s fishing can be a crapshoot, but not in the waters surrounding these resorts. The rugged shoreline of the Central Coast, the west coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii provide ideal habitat for vast shoals of baitfish. There are countless nooks and crannies for salmon, as well as gravel banks and pinnacles for halibut, rockfish, and lingcod. Snagging a salmon is more the rule than the exception – the resort guides know exactly where ocean fish are biting.
There are fishing lodges and resorts throughout B.C. that can provide all-inclusive packages– including accommodation, meals, fishing gear and service– to meet most budgets. Here are a few of B.C.’s finest…
Queen Charlotte Lodge, Haida Gwaii
This remote part of the world is a welcome escape from daily life, and Queen Charlotte Lodge (QCL), on the northern shores of Haida Gwaii in Naden Harbour, offers a unique mix of adventure and comfort, friendship and fun.
Once the site of an old whaling station, QCL sits on 20 acres, surrounded by old-growth forest and beachfront. It offers five different kinds of accommodation, from the main lodge with 24 rooms to private chalets with private chefs. While nowhere can guarantee that you’ll catch a fish, QCL guarantees you’ll never be hungry, and you’re spoilt for choice.
For instance, the main dining room offers three appetizers, six entrees and three desserts, with a big barbecue buffet the night you arrive. Variety kicks in at other venues: Chef at the Buoy Teppanyaki House will prepare surf ‘n’ turf at your table, or maybe you prefer to hang out at the Bell Ringer and pick a lobster from the live tank after enjoying just-prepared salmon and albacore tuna sushi (all Ocean Wise) at the Kingfisher lounge…
A typical day:
4.30 a.m. Full-on breakfast in the main lodge or if you need to be on the water before dawn, cappuccino and breakfast sandwich to go at the dock.
6 a.m.: Catch 20lb chinook salmon
9 a.m.: Stop by the Driftwood (anchored on the fishing grounds) for a bathroom break, coffee and muffin.
11 a.m. -2 p.m.: BBQ lunch on the Driftwood, including salad bar, chowder and chili.
5 p.m.: Cocktails (go for the Twin Creek Smash) and pub snacks at the Bell Ringer, a social house with a weigh scale and excellent bartender. Here is where you tell stories and trade lies and your catch is weighed. Party central.
7 p.m.: Main lodge for dinner: Ponzu-cured Albacore or BC spot prawns followed by herb-crusted halibut and an extensive wine list.
9 p.m.: Kingfisher Lounge downstairs with port and cheese or Irish Coffee around the fireplace.
Charters depart Fridays and Mondays from Vancouver to Masset for three- or four-night stays from June through August. All-inclusive fly-in fishing packages start at $4,895.
Everyone buys a fishing trip with the idea they are going to “SMASH” them while on their fishing adventure. All hoping their arms are sore from fighting fish, hands and fingers are sore from hooks and tying leaders and shins are sore from continually bashing them on gaff that is sticking out of the gunnel. Oh the joys of fishing!
I personally have fished for salmon since I was two years old. From the days of Grandpa raking herring and dumping them in the boat for his 2 year old Grandson to try and grab for the bait tank. To the days of jigging herring, to fish from my 10 foot dinghy with my 2.5hp “Big Block” Mercury. Now to my spoiled life at QCL and the dock staff preparing my boat for fishing daily. Although the adventures of fishing with Grandpa and in my dinghy were great, the QCL experience is second to none!
44 years of salmon fishing, 18 seasons with QCL and the number one question asked over that period of time is without doubt, “When is the best time to go salmon fishing?” As the old adage says…”if I had a dollar…”
Rob, quit with the soliloquy and answer the question! When is the best time to go fishing?
Well my favorite answers are always a bit cheeky:
In all honestly, with every cheeky answer there is a truth. Each river that holds Chinook or King salmon, from Alaska to San Francisco has a prime time of stock return, or when the majority of the species return to the river. That timing varies from late March to late October with the bulk of the returns happening late April through October. The return for Coho or Silvers varies but the bulk of these fish return mid-June through late October.
After being cheeky, usually I get to the true answer! In all likelihood I stole my answer from someone but it accurately describes the truth when asked the question of best time to fish. Here is my answer:
QCL has roughly 100 days of fishing during a season. From year to year we have 12 to 15 of the greatest days of fishing one could hope for. We also have 12 to 15 poor days of fishing when everyone second guesses themselves! The issue is, I cannot tell you when either of these days are going to happen but what I can tell you is they will happen. The rest of the 70 days are productive and success is varied. Calling them average would make Grandpa turn over in his grave, he would have died for an “average” QCL day down on the south coast!
I know most of you were hoping for an exact window, an exact time as to when the fish are guaranteed to be there and biting, if I could tell you that my name would not be Rob, it would be Fish God! What I can do is help you with how to pick a fishing adventure and the timing of it. Here is the list:
Two examples of people who have gone on the same date year after year are below. One of them produced the greatest day of fishing and one produced the lodge record at QCL:
When our family purchased the Lodge in the year 2000, my best buddies Bryan and Jason Killins were on the first trip of the season, May 29th to June 1st. They continued on this trip for many years with varying success. Some years’ crazy amounts of fish, some years, lots of empties in the boat. On June 2nd, 2015 we got our regular early start, off the dock at the crack of 10am! Being last off the dock has its advantages…um NO! But this day did, we were approaching “The Maz” and we saw a massive bait ball with birds feeding on the surface. We stopped to give it a “try” and 6 hours later, we had landed 76 Chinook with 14 double headers! The greatest day of my fishing career!
One of the most memorable days for the lodge came in late August 2011, August 20th to be exact. When our guest Mr. Chris Lewis caught and released an 84 pound Chinook with guide Derek “Demo” Poitras. Chris has continued to fish this timeframe over the years and as luck would have it, they were graced with another monster of 49 pounds with his son Josh!
Any day can be your day, it can be on your first trip or your 30th trip, but if you don’t book, you will never know! Hope to see you at the lodge this summer. All the best and Happy New Year.
Rob “Fish God” Clough
(Kind of catchy…might have to drop Red Baron!)
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 June 4th thru Friday June 8th. 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!
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.
The perfect way to toast the New Year is with this delicious salmon recipe provided by our Dock Manager Ryan Ashton. Hopefully you’ve managed to save a few pieces of your delicious salmon catch to enjoy in 2017! With the fresh texture and taste so well preserved by our in-house vacuum packing service, you can enjoy exceptional fish dinners all year ‘round!
Although not a traditional holiday meal, salmon can be a great addition to a festive menu. One of my favorites is Salmon Wellington – a west coast twist on the well-known beef wellington! If you still have some QCL salmon left in your freezer, why not give this recipe a try?
4 (7 oz) salmon fillets
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, divided
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
3 oz cream cheese
5 oz fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 (1 lb.) package puff pastry
1 egg (for egg wash)
After South Westerly wind tore up the fishing grounds this past weekend, anglers were forced to hold off on fishing early Sunday morning. They stuck to the Eastern fishing grounds, Edenshaw, to avoid the rough waters that came along with the storm. This combined with a super pod of killer whales resulted in guests and guides having to work extra hard to fill their fish boxes, BUT all of our guests still went home with fish and had a great time!
Out on the water and back on the dock it was looking like our guests on Monday were also going to have a bit of a struggle to get their limits, but around 8:00 pm on Monday night Green Point lit up and the few guests the stuck out there to the end had an amazing night playing Chinook after Chinook.
The fleet hit the grounds on Tuesday and the bite was on! A new run of salmon hit and they were abundant! It was easily our most productive salmon day of the season and the Chinook were just the start of it. The Coho have finally hit and they came in strong. If the past couple of days are any indication of what is to come, guests will be going home with their 8 salmon! The average size of Coho was between 7-8 lbs, and one giant weighing in at 11 lbs! Chinook have maintained their size mostly in the 15-20 lb range, with a couple in the 30’s and the catch of the day on Tuesday a 47 lber!
Last week at the Lodge, Mark Kasumovich – QCL Guide & Sales Representative – guided a wonderful individual into a battle with the largest salmon of his life, a 45lb Chinook. The most fulfilling moment of guest Doug Weis’s career ensued moments after he slipped the net around his fish and swung it into the boat. He turned to his son and guide Mark, and with a tear-stained eye he said that it was one of the happiest days of his life! Doug and Justin, you came to the Lodge as friends but you left as family! We hope to see you both up again sometime very soon.
The sunshine has hit Queen Charlotte Lodge, and with it has come some great fishing. The average size of Chinook is going up, and we have seen a lot of great fish hit the dock. On Monday Bill Coss brought a 56 lb Chinook in, which is now the largest salmon of the season! He picked it up at Yachts Bay on a green spoon. The green Tiger Prawn Spoons have been proven time after time this season and helped bring in a multiple 50s’ now – always a popular choice with the guides and guests! In addition to Springs, we are starting to get the odd Coho in, getting up to 10 lb’s in size which is a great indication for what the coming weeks should bring.
All of our regular spots have been producing fish, but Klash and Parker Point have been proving to be particularly hot spots. Although there are fish all day, the most productive times to get out there is early morning, and at the end of the day when more consistent numbers of the fish seem to be getting caught.
Halibut fishing has continued to stay strong, with 15-20 lber’s coming in regularly, and a few over 30. We have seen guests picking up great Hali trolling for salmon over the past two days in the 12-18 lb range.
If you’re looking to top up your box don’t forget to go for a few black bombers and lingcod for a tasty treat! We have been seeing more lingcod and rockfish and the dock lately and are a great way to increase the amount of fish you are going home with!
Back at the Bellringer, the drinks are flowing, the music is playing and guests are having a great time after a long day on the water. The kelp bongs are scheduled to make an appearance any day now, but if that’s not your style there are plenty of options and tasty treats to help warm up. The playful competition between friends and thrill of the day’s catch all adds up to a great time on the dock!