While visitors to the lodge can enjoy a range of experiences while they’re here, certainly the big thrill comes with “going fishing.” For most of our guests, their trip to our remote fishing lodge in Haida Gwaii is a major highlight of their year, and we’re thrilled with that. There was a time, many years ago, when the typical lodge guest called themselves a “fisherman” and their days spent up here were just the favourites of many fishing days on their annual calendar. As a fishing destination there’s certainly a consensus that this is “the place to be.”
Nowadays, for many of our guests, this is the only fishing they will do all year. They’re not so likely to consider themselves “anglers” or “fishers” or even “fishermen.” But they wouldn’t miss their annual visit to QCL for anything! That “QCL Experience” is a special recipe that combines a wealth of different ingredients that they’ve come to love.
Getting out on the water, immersed in nature, away from the all the noise and scramble of “normal” daily life, is a real treat. Catching a fish – getting your own food – is a connection to our instincts, with our distant past. The ability to take some fish home to share, proudly, with family and friends is every bit as exciting as catching it. What we’ve discovered with our guests over the years, is how important that connection is. With every vacuum-packed portion that you take from your freezer to share at your table, there’s a story that comes with it. It could be the people you shared the catching with, the weather or the scenery at the time, or even the wildlife that tried to take the fish away from you! All of those ingredients come together to make each fish you take home a very special part of your adventure. And we are so pleased to have some small part in that. Thank you for choosing to share that adventure with us!
After an opening week with classic summer northwesterlies, QCL guests have enjoyed the last 10 days with mostly light winds from all around the compass. That’s given us full opportunities to explore the fishing grounds and our guests have certainly taken advantage of that!
Salmon hunters have been really spoiled – they never have to wander more than a few metres from the beach! Through all of July we’ve seen huge volumes of feeding Coho and Chinooks inshore, from the eastern boundary to the west. Many QCL guests have their own favourite spots to fish and these days they’re happily hanging out, being productive, in their favourite waters. With so many salmon in the area, there is a healthy mix of teen-sized feeder Chinooks swimming with the more mature, migratory stocks on their journey towards the river. Anglers are pleased to land those 16-20-pounders that provide the ultimate filet for the dinner table. And there are enough of the beautiful big Tyees in the area to get a serious chance at one of those. The big fish this weekend was a gorgeous Chinook that taped out to 47 pounds for veteran QCL angler Roy J, fishing with his guide Clint, over at Cape Edenshaw. Our guides are making an extra effort to handle the fish as little as possible if their guest wants to release it. Guest Kyle B chose to release his big Chinook that was taped out to 37 lb by his guide Tegan and self-guided anglers Jordan and Tara elected to release their chrome silver Tyee that scored 34 pounds at the Mazzaredo Islands. It’s great to see some of these awesome fish get a second chance. On the Coho front, the numbers in the area are substantial with the average size currently around 6-8 pounds. We’re seeing some 9’s and 10’s so that number will climb quickly in the coming weeks.
Of course, these light variable winds give perfect opportunities for bottom bouncing and everyone is getting out there to jig up some tasty lingcod and halibut. While most anglers are picking up a pair of “unders” 12-19 lb, (do-able in one day, this season) there are always some who find those big “turkeys” in the 30-50 pound class. This weekend Paul T hauled up a 59-pounder, Roger R a 45, Derek S a 45 and Neil S released one that scored 48. Last week we got into some big ones with 5 halibut taping out to more than 140 pounds each… lots of excitement in those boats! The great mystery of bottom fishing is so appealing because you just never know what you’re going to pull up from the deep! But we do know that getting out on the ocean to enjoy the marine world and seeing all that it has to offer is something very special. And when we can get some tasty fish to bring home and share with family and friends, it’s an adventure that just can’t be beat! Thanks for coming up! We totally know where you’re coming from!
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already into the second half of July! Our 5th group of guests arrived today, keen and excited to get out on the water. A significant change in our arrival program this summer is being very well received. Arriving guests enjoy their brunch in the Bell Ringer café, after having met their guide and getting a brief orientation. Once they’re off the helicopter, the top priority for most guests is to get in a boat! So, our new program is a huge step in the right direction. Plus, our departing guests can enjoy a nice, relaxed breakfast in the lodge without the inflow of new guests arriving. It’s a real win/win for everyone.
Out on the water, an excellent fishing season continues. Coho and Chinook salmon are feeding heavily on both herring and needlefish in Virago Sound. We’re also finding pinks, chum and even the odd sockeye in the mix. Humpback whales have been feeding continuously in the area and anglers are loving the occasional acrobatics as they lunge feed, tail slap and sometimes, explode from the depths in a full breach. Northern resident orcas have been in the area quite a bit as well this month, taking advantage of the concentration of bait and salmon. Experiencing the presence of these whales while we’re out on the water is really the definition of “awesome.” It truly leaves visitors feeling a special appreciation for the natural world around us.
And here we are! So excited to be in Naden Harbour and be open for our 31st season! With all the uncertainty of the past 15 months it certainly feels wonderful to open the doors and welcome our friends back the The Lodge. We want to send out a huge wave of thanks and appreciation to our guests and friends who have demonstrated amazing support and patience throughout that time. We know that this pandemic has been a shocking and sobering experience for many on so many levels. But if people are now able to venture back out into the world to enjoy some of their favourite things, we feel very fortunate that so many want to get back up here!
With opening day as a moving target, our whole staff enjoyed the benefit of a full two-week training period! But Wow! What a great two weeks it was! The level of excitement on Opening Day was off the charts as our first guests arrived and everyone fell into their roles so well. And our guests? They are just so thrilled to finally be here… we know it’s going to be an awesome season, already!
July 10th Report
One week in and I gotta say, it’s so great to be back! We’ve had a few days of nice sunny weather and the usual northwesterlies that come with it, but the fishing has been on fire. Through most of the past week we’ve been fishing the prime stretch of water from Klashwun Point down to Cape Naden. But a lot of our guests love working the quiet water around Brown’s Pile down to the Mazzaredos. Loaded with a healthy mix of Chinook and Coho, anglers have enjoyed terrific action inshore. Average Chinooks right now are generally in the mid-teens, mixed with a good dose of 20-somethings and enough Tyees to keep everybody really interested every time the reel goes off!
Often in midsummer the Coho are feeding offshore but these days we’re finding lots of them in close, swimming with the Chinook. And they’re feeding aggressively on both needlefish and herring in the middle of the water column. Coho size has bumped up in the past couple of days and we’re seeing some 9 and 10-pounders, but the bulk of them are still 6 to 8…beautiful feisty fish all the same.
The NW winds settled back to light variable in the past 3 days, giving easy access to the rest of the fishing grounds. Many of our guides love fishing Cape Edenshaw and they were not disappointed when they finally got over there this weekend. The steady push of several days of westerlies tends to move a lot of bait in that direction and that brings in the salmon. It’s a favourite place to hunt for the big ones!
But Bird 2 and Parker Point have been rewarding dedicated anglers with some great action and some spectacular fish. We’ve welcomed our first new member of the 50-Pounder Club for 2021 already this week when Brian M brought a stunning fish to the boat that taped out to 56-pounds before it was carefully released from a cradle by guide Marcus M. Ellen D and her husband Patrick teased a big beauty out of the kelp at Cape Naden on Tuesday that got everyone at the Bell Ringer super excited when it tipped the scale at 38-pounds. Nice work!
Guide Marcus was at it again on Friday, with new guest Daniel N, who showed his fishing skills, reeling a big chrome beauty to the boat. It was quickly taped out to 44-pounds in the cradle before revival and release back to the wild. Congratulations all! Wonderful fishing experiences and precious salmon filets add up to memories to savour for a lifetime.
Flat calm days like today are a treat for those who love to fish the deep water. Off the north shore we find some spectacular underwater terrain that holds massive stocks of halibut and lingcod. Anglers have done very well out there this week, bringing impressive catches back to the Bell Ringer. Of course, every day there are some fish caught that are simply too big to bring back. On the last trip, Craig A, fishing with Ray P out at HaliWood, pulled a huge halibut up alongside the boat that they were able to measure out to 74-inches in length for a weight score of 215 pounds! Seth K released one at 128 lb., Chuck H and Sean G each measured giant “butts” out to 121 pounds! Happily, they all managed to find some nice keepers in the 20-30 pound class.
This weekend, QCL anglers have been exploring the full breadth of the fishing grounds, enjoying perfect conditions on the water and catching some very nice fish to take home and share with friends and family. They’ve been thrilled by the presence of several humpback whales feeding in the area, especially when they decide to launch themselves from the depths and breach the surface with a massive splash. All these moments add up to create amazing stories that our guests go home with – to share with their friends. It’s our privilege to play some small part in that and we all look forward to doing it again and again!
Well just when we were bragging about how great the weather has been this summer, we’ve had a couple of “rock ‘n roll”shows this week! On the weekend, some good old-fashioned northwesterly winds bumped up the energy level a notch and we discovered that fishing is really good inshore! From Bird 2 all the way past the Mazzaredo Islands and over towards Inskip Point, QCL guests found loads of terrific salmon action. Admittedly we didn’t see so many halibut but everybody was busy!
One exception on Friday was a stunning big Tyee, hooked up at Eagle Rock by guest Larry C, fishing with guide Nic Rasovic in the 102. It might have been some good luck that Nic’s Dad was aboard as Larry’s fishing partner, but after an epic battle Nic slipped the net beneath a big chrome beauty that he quickly taped out to 48-pounds before getting it back in the water! It took Nic a while to revive the huge Chinook but with some assistance from Fishmaster Trevor Harris they were thrilled to see it swim away with nice strong strokes of its tail. Congratulations Larry! Well done boys! Always amazing to see this caliber of fish and thanks for sending her back!
The fishing has been steady through the weekend and into Monday as well. Here’s a few shots of the kind of action we’re enjoying… No napping in the boat these days!
The tides of August have been generous so far and QCL anglers have certainly enjoyed the benefits! The salmon action has been outstanding, particularly for beautiful strong Chinooks in the 15-25-pound class. We’re getting them inshore in all the favourite places too. Coho action has been productive but more widespread, with anglers generally targeting waters a little farther offshore in 150-225 feet, fishing from the surface down to around 60-feet. The numbers are there but the bulk of Coho are still averaging under 10-pounds, a little lighter than normal for this time of the season. But no one is complaining with these chrome-silver bullets providing tons of exciting action wherever we find them! Down at the Bell Ringer, the sound of the Tyee Bell is pretty common each evening with a few over-30’s being either reported or weighed-in every trip.
This week our two largest Chinooks, both scoring out at 42-pounds, were released. Fishing with veteran QCL guide Tegan Baxter, Ray P turned back a stunning fish on Monday and on Thursday an equally impressive Tyee was released by Odon D and his guide Kyle Bell. Great work guys and thanks for choosing to release those amazing fish!
With only 5 trips left to go for the 2019 season we’re super-thrilled to see such consistent fishing and particularly good weather! There’s no space left this year but we’d certainly encourage anyone hoping to come up next summer to make plans now as most everyone is talking about their return trip in 2020!
Moderate northwesterlies through last week gave way to light variable conditions through the weekend, but we’re expecting another week of westerlies to start on Wednesday. All this means is that the fishing has been fantastic and should remain so. There’s lots of bait inshore now and we’ve seen excellent volumes of Coho as well as Chinooks move inshore with it. Lots of really feisty 18-24 pounders are in the current mix. As a result, more anglers are fishing the usual rocks and kelp beds, leaving the offshore and pinnacles turf for bottom fishing. Moderate tides this week are extending the productive fishing periods around points like Cape Naden, Parker, Klashwun and Eagle Rock.
It’s been a great week for Tyees with lots of bell ringin’going on down at the dock. Gorana B was the queen last week, releasing her first Tyee over 40, a chrome beauty that was taped out to 41-pounds by veteran QCL guide Derek Poitras. Marie G did just fine as well, boating 30 and 31 pounders with guide Jeff Smirfitt on Monday and Tuesday. Deborah B completed her mission on Thursday, releasing a solid 31-pounder with her guide Nic Rasovic. The guys weren’t left out…we had several fish in the low-30’s, some kept and some released. Josh K returned to the Bell Ringer with a nice 36 lb Tyee and Taylor R turned back a 34. The most noise at the bell was made by Keith B who hauled up one of those barn-door halibut, this one scoring out over 200 pounds!
The weekend catch was no less impressive… with Devon W releasing a beautiful 45-pound Chinook at Cape Naden on Sunday morning, fishing with guide Neil Wood. Saturday saw Don T release a 40-pounder with his son Brett on the net. That was the encore to the 33-pounder they released on Friday! And the annual Tyee derby between brothers Conrad, Gerhart and Willy saw 31, 32, 33 and 32 pounders caught and released with their guides Kylie Tokairin and Danny Hollins. That means a lot of action down at the Bell Ringer! Great job folks!
Here it is…August! It’s prime time for many fisheries on the coast with all salmon species on the move. Last week we had a “Salmon Grand Slam”–Audrey C came all the way from Quebec and during her weekend stay she caught all 5 species of Pacific salmon! Surprisingly we don’t see that very often, mainly because we don’t catch many sockeye.
Our salmon fishery has been outstanding this summer, with solid salmon populations feeding and moving through Virago Sound. The last 3 weeks of July were dominated by light variable and mainly southerly winds so the days on the water have been especially comfortable! Those conditions do tend to let the bait drift out into the open water though and our efforts have definitely been rewarded out there. More than half the salmon catch in July was taken out where we would traditionally fish for halibut. We’re finding lots of Coho in the top 60 feet as we would expect but Chinook fishing has been especially productive in the same areas, just down deeper at 100 to 140 feet.
The classic inshore fishery for Chinooks has really turned on lately. Anglers working the kelp beds and the rocky points are finding beautiful Tyee-class fish at all the favourite spots. Cape Naden, Parker Point and Bird 2 have probably been the most consistent spots but we’re also seeing big fish coming from Cape Edenshaw, B1, Yatze, Eagle Rock and Klashwun Point. No surprises there! The Tyee Bell has been ringing most every night with a mix of big Chinooks in the 30’s and 40’s recorded. Each trip we’ve managed to release a number of these big beauties and lots of anglers are discovering how great it feels to watch a huge salmon swim away with strong sweeps of its tail! This week Mark A. released a 46-pound Tyee at Parker Pt. with guide Jake Harach and Dick R. turned back a stunning big female that taped out to 47-pounds with guide Kylie Tokairin. Last week John M. released a 40-pounder with guide Tristan O’Brian and Chris P., fishing with Kevin Clough, also released a real nice 40-pounder at Bird Two. Congratulations All!
So far we’ve seen only a few of those hook-nosed “Northern”Coho come through and as we move into August we’re sure to encounter lots more of them in the coming weeks. But there’s certainly no shortage of nice fish out there to stock up the freezer with some nice filets and portion-packed chunks!
We’re just coming off a period of huge spring tides with last week’s new moon –18.0 foot high and 0.3 foot low –and we’ve got 6-7 days of moderate northwesterlies going on right now. So it’s all coming together for some epic salmon action as we head into the second week of August –already! Stay tuned!
The adventures here in the northern waters of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) are as boundless as they are memorable this time of year. Each day fishing vessels depart the harbour full of excitement, sharp hooks, and people sure to take in all that the stunning ocean will provide. Wednesday morning was no different. After carefully selecting a herring lure and tightening our lines into the tranquil waters of Cape Naden, my guest landed a Chinook salmon tipping over the 40 lb. mark! With the aromas of lunch cooking aboard the MV Driftwood wafting across the fishing hole we decided to stop for lunch. Our appetites were itching for the satisfaction of a hot meal as one might expect. We decided after lunch that we might as well see what other trouble we could get ourselves into for the afternoon, what fish we could find and what sights we could see. On our way off shore large black dorsal fins gently broke the surface off the starboard bow of vessel 93, creatures of the deep indeed. I slowed the boat and turned off the motor so the orcas had the room and safety to transit the ocean ahead. A baby orca and two adults slipped back under water and then surfaced, looked us square in the eyes and dipped under water again. Cameras were snapping and smiles and grins spread across the boat, we had no choice. The orca parents looked right at us again and there was a space of time where we all shared a moment. Our breath taken and hearts pounding we continued on our way. Another day at Queen Charlotte Lodge on track to be, dare I say, unforgettable.
At QCL we have always been known for our salmon fishing but we have seen a large increase in the past 5 years of our guests targeting rockfish. If you didn’t know, many of these fish live up to 80 years with the Yelloweye species living up to 118 years or more! Since 2017 we have seen changes in the catch and retention limits for rockfish as well as the species we are able to keep. These measures have been put in place to help keep these species of fish around forever.
When reeling rockfish up from depths over 200 feet they often get what is called barotrauma. This quick change in pressure causes their swim bladder to expand and protrude out of their mouth and their eyes to bulge out.
Every boat at QCL comes equipped with a descending device. These devices are designed to allow the fish to recompress and swim away at the desired depth the device is set for – for us that’s usually at 150 feet. The jaws of the device close on the fish’s lower lip and the device gets attached to your downrigger. The device is set to release at a select depth and the jaws will open once the downrigger gets there, letting the fish swim free.
There are many of these devices on the market now, all designed to allow these fish to recover and swim away. We are using the SeaQualizer device on all our boats.
There has been much debate as to if these devices work properly. I use this device every day and I was curious as to how well it worked. So I started watching and recording the release using the image on the Lowrance HDS9 in my boat. If you look at the photo of the screen, you can see the cannonball descending with the fish attached via the SeaQualizer. At about 160-feet, you can see that the device opens up as designed and the rockfish (yelloweye) releases from the cannonball, swimming back towards the bottom. It feels great to let these fish go back to their habitat to hopefully keep these species around forever!