The mid-summer stretch is treating QCL guests to some really excellent fishing adventure these days! Very favourable weather conditions have added some icing on the cake – some of us are wearing t-shirts! We even had 3 guests go for a dip off the lodge beach before enjoying the hot tub! Life is good!
It was especially good for veteran anglers Joe H & Brad R as they first set their gear at Green Point Tuesday morning. Joe’s rod had the twitch before Brad even managed to get his in the water! But together these fellows would share an epic battle with a massive salmon that they’ll remember for a long time. Brad finally slipped the net below the big beauty and when they lifted it aboard, they were super thrilled! Finally returning to the dock last night, the scale at the Bell Ringer revealed a weight of 52 pounds! Cause for celebration for sure! Nice fish boys!
While big Tyees over 50 pounds aren’t as common as they used to be, we’ve certainly seen a nice bump in the big fish department recently with several Tyees kept or released. Jeff W released a 33-pounder on the weekend and Jason N boated a 38 on Saturday, followed by a 30 on Sunday! Zack J followed up with nice 31-pounder and Ryan O returned to the Bell Ringer with a stunning 14 lb Coho, the largest of the season so far! When we have the right tide and wind conditions the halibut grounds are a wonderland! On Saturday we saw lots of nice keepers land back on the dock but the Tyee Bell was ringing big-time with released giant halibut reports! Richard K released an 87-pounder, Janet B recorded a 69-inch halibut that scored 168 lb and Clint C turned back a full-on barn door that measured 75-inches to score 220 pounds! Amazing! Coho catches remain very strong with the average size creeping up around 8-pounds now so everyone is enjoying the awesome salmon action on the water.
Light to moderate winds wavering from southwest to northwest are to continue right into next week with very little precipitation and the odd sunny period – so we have pretty perfect conditions to look forward to. Peak tides will return around the 12th when we’ll see 17-foot swings, so hold on for that one! Stay tuned!
It’s hard to believe but we are officially at the halfway point for the 2022 season up here at QCL! After an unseasonably late start to “summer” in June, the past 2-3 weeks have been pretty awesome! Lots of fish, better than average weather and so much fun on the water and back at the lodge. We’ve enjoyed very healthy numbers of what we’d call “feeder salmon” in recent weeks. Lots of Chinook salmon in the low-mid-teens and hungry Coho in the 6-8 pound class are keeping anglers busy throughout most of the fishing grounds. The presence of larger Chinook has been increasing steadily with regular catches of those stunning twenty-somethings, and the Tyee Bell is ringing every night now in celebration of Tyee-class fish either kept or released. Everything is feeling more like a “normal” fishing season, just a little later this year.
We started off this week’s trip with a bang on Monday night at the Bell Ringer with David H cracking the bell four times after releasing a big beautiful Tyee that taped out to 43-pounds before guide Alex K carefully returned it to the water. Roger P celebrated releasing a 30-pounder with his partner and their guide Colton M and Dan B was turning heads with an impressive 42 lb Chinook that came back to the dock with guide Dan R. We’ve been very fortunate to find solid salmon fishing off most every point of the fishing grounds, at the right stage of the tide, which have been especially large this week with ranges up to 18 feet!
However, nice calm seas on Monday thru Wednesday provided perfect conditions for any angler’s preference! Halibut fishing is very reliable on most days and this week was no different with many anglers finding impressive fish over 30-pounds and some tangling with the proverbial “barn doors” out on the grounds. Finding that magic number where it’s “not too little but not too big” is a challenge that definitely comes with fishing and Dan S pretty much maxed out his opportunity, bringing a 55-pounder back to the Bell Ringer! Lionel W turned back a 5-foot-long halibut that scored over 100 pounds and Matt C hauled up a 75-incher which scored 230-pounds! But the big catch this week went to Josh P who battled an 87-inch behemoth that would weigh about 273 pounds if you could get it in the boat! While not every angler wants to work that hard, there are endless possibilities out there for those who dream of catching a fish larger than themselves! Up here we seem to do that every week.
This weekend the large tides will start to diminish and we’re enjoying light winds and a comfortable mix of cloud and sunshine… with the occasional shower tossed in for good measure!
After what felt like the longest wait ever… we were absolutely thrilled to welcome our first QCL guests of the 2022 season on Friday. And it felt so good! While every guest who popped out of a helicopter was wearing a mask, once they took it off, the smiles were a mile wide. Many of our guests this season booked their trip in the summer of 2019! And finally, they’re here. An awesome crew of talented and enthusiastic staff have just come through training week with flying colours and they’re looking forward to the next 100 days, working together here in Naden Harbour.
Our first group of guests found pretty typical early season angling with good numbers of teen-sized Chinook salmon sprinkled with a bunch of twenty-somethings to keep them on their toes. Our first Tyee of the summer arrived on the dock on Day One when Fred M and his guide Gerritt put a 31-pounder on the scale. While effort was well distributed around the fishing grounds, Cape Edenshaw was where we found most of the action on the weekend. Early season halibut are commonly found in close to the kelp and this May weekend was no different with several nice flatties picked up while trolling bait close to shore. But we did see quite a few come in from the usual haunts, with some larger-sized fish among them. Top “keepers” were a 37 for David R, a 39 for Patrick M and an impressive 63-pounder for Myles M! Of course, there are always halibut out there that are just too big to keep! Michael J released a 73-pounder on Friday, Lauren D turned back a 92 on Sunday and Carole T battled a “barn-door” halibut that taped out to 180 cm for a score of 188 pounds! Those are some impressive fish for sure! Well done!
Our culinary team under the direction of Chef Chris Green have outdone themselves once again this season with exciting new menus in the Main Lodge dining room as well as in the Totem House and Charlotte House. First impressions have been awesome so our guests should look forward to memorable dining to compliment their incredible experiences out on the water this summer!
It’s fair to say that most anglers who travel to Haida Gwaii on a fishing trip dream of catching a big Chinook salmon, what we call a Tyee or, as our American friends like to say, “a big Kang”! It’s easy to understand why. In these cold northern waters, they are the kings, the royalty of the fish world! Sleek and powerful and bright chrome silver, a large Chinook salmon over 30 pounds will certainly test the angler and their tackle. And it’s never over until they’re lying in the bottom of the boat!
But if you ask these same anglers what fish they prefer on the dinner plate, the answer will often be halibut! It might be the nice meaty texture, the brilliant whiteness when it’s cooked or the subtle, non-fishy flavour and aroma of fresh-cooked halibut that holds so much appeal.
In our early days when we used smaller boats and engines, we had no technology like depth sounders and GPS. The halibut tackle was pretty light duty, and most anglers didn’t want to spend much time hunting for halibut. In fact, many halibut were caught as bycatch while mooching with a weighted rod for salmon! We’ve always been spoiled in Virago Sound, the halibut fishing is never too far from shore and anglers would make a quick run out to the “chicken coop” on the 180-foot line. They’d drop a herring down to the bottom and, in short order, they’d have their two fish limit – enough to keep a promise to their partner at home – and then it was back to working the kelp beds for that big Chinook.
But how the world has changed! We used to use very rough triangulation to remember our halibut holes – line up that big old spruce snag with that point over there and stay even with that big rock on the beach, and you should be close to “the spot!” Well… maybe!
Nowadays we’ve planted so many X’s on the water that pretty well everyone has their own, favourite halibut hole! Modern depth sounders synchronize with apps on your smartphone to actively upload depth and structure data to the cloud. The detailed maps created of the seafloor have revealed a whole new underwater world, out beyond the kelp beds. Sea mounts, pinnacles, rock piles and gravel benches provide habitats for all different species of fish and affect the tidal currents and feeding areas for baitfish. What was, not long ago, a great, invisible, underwater mystery, is now a seascape for exploration and discovery.
We have lots of guests up here every trip who are quite happy to spend most of their time offshore doing just that. We have larger, safer and more comfortable boats and tackle that can handle the proverbial “barn door” halibut. We’re also able to find other species like lingcod and Pacific cod. All of these fish are well managed and the limits are kept low to prevent overfishing of the stocks. And, of course, just because you know where they should be, doesn’t mean you’re going to catch them! Afterall, it’s still called fishing… not catching!
All that being said, here’s a good fish story…
On Saturday morning, Curtis, Jen and Colin were salmon fishing, self-guided, near the Mazzaredo Islands. This is a location, well inside Virago Sound, where the water depth ranges between 30 and 70 feet. It’s been very productive salmon water for much of the summer, so they were trolling for Chinook salmon with cut-plug herring. Curtis had just rigged a new herring and tossed it into the water to set up the downrigger. As the herring started to sink, he noticed some movement below it and leaned over to have a better look… just in time to see the dark shadow open up to reveal a huge white mouth that inhaled his shiny herring! The shadow moved alongside the boat and then back down, flipping a wide brown tail that had to be 18-inches across! In shock, Curtis grabbed the rod from the holder and hung on. The sounder said 32-feet, so the giant fish couldn’t sound too far! But the hook was in its mouth and the 11-foot mooching rod was soon arched over in a half-circle with the line singing tight. Typically, a battle with a halibut is a weight-lifting exercise, with a short, 6-foot pool cue of a rod that bends a little at the tip. It’s often a straight lift with lots of give and take and usually happens in 200-300 feet of water, so there’s lots of lifting to do! In such shallow water Curtis’s fish had nowhere to go but out, so he held on as best he could while his boat-mates stowed the downriggers and made ready to chase down this sea monster. Fortunately for them, the tug-o-war was over in about 15-minutes as Curtis was able to maneuver the huge halibut alongside their boat; quite a feat considering the noodly salmon rod! They used another salmon rod as a measuring stick and after several attempts concluded that this giant was about six and a half feet long – 79 inches in length! It was in no mood to have anyone poking around in its mouth to retrieve the barbless bronze salmon hook so they cut the line after taking a few photos and the giant halibut disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived! A look at the IPHC Halibut Chart revealed that this big female weighed about 265 pounds! Considering where halibut usually live, Curtis’s opportunity to witness this giant take the bait was a rare occasion indeed. While it’s not unusual for us to catch halibut, even big ones, in close to shore like this, we’ve never seen one this big actually brought to the boat. Well done Curtis, Jen and Colin! Surprises like this keep us all interested and excited to get out on the water any chance we can!
As we flip the page on July, we’re well into a typical midsummer fishery with the bulk of our Chinook salmon found in closer to shore and feeding schools of Coho ranging throughout the offshore grounds in water depths of 120-250 feet. Depending on the day and the light, we’re finding the Coho anywhere from the surface down 100 feet or so. While the typical Coho is still in the 7-9 pound class we’re starting to get some over 10 and that will continue to increase through September.
Our Chinook fishery in July was dominated by large numbers of feeder Springs feeding in close along with the other 4 species of salmon. It was a total jackpot, and you never knew what was going to hit your gear. But with no significant winds in the area for about 10 days now, the fish and bait have dispersed widely throughout the grounds. The flat calm seas have enabled anglers to venture out to find the fish and they’ve been quite successful.
Tides have also played a significant role and guides are religious about picking their favourite points and fishing them hard through the slack. And the rewards have been significant! Cape Naden turned out the top fish this week with a stunning big Chinook caught by Nicole C that taped out to 50 pounds before being carefully released by her guide Len! Nice work you two! Tuesday was a big day with a pair of 41 pounders arriving in the Bell Ringer. One was boated at first light by veteran angler Mike C, fishing with QCL guide Ken Lepage. The other big beauty was landed by Frances D at Cape Naden at the end of the day with his senior QCL guide Ryan Kelly. “Just one more pass” does it again! Congratulations!
The big halibut keep on coming each trip and this week was no exception. Dominique P hauled up a nice chunky fish that scored 116 pounds and Mark L had a good closeup look at a 180-pounder. Driftwood anglers David L and partner Ken K did their best to measure an absolute giant that David successfully hauled to the surface. At 200 cm in length their proverbial “barn door” scored 263 pounds! Now that’s a workout! Great fishing guys!
We’re ready for the return of some steady northwesterly weather that tends to push the bait, and the fish, back onshore. But there’s none in the forecast for the coming week – a little light westerlies and then some southeast. Fortunately, we’re still finding pockets of bait out there and QCL anglers are having a great time tracking down some awesome fish to take home. Stay tuned! August is almost here!
As we roll into the weekend fishing trip we’re happy to report that all is well in the Gwaii! The usual mixed bag of weather has given QCL guests plenty of opportunities to explore the fishing grounds and discover all that they offer. The Chinook numbers are growing steadily with a continuous variety of sizes and strains. Most guests are getting 3 or 4 to go home with and the average size is running in the high teens these days –perfect filets for those 1-pound chunks! The Tyee bell is still ringing every night, celebrating those larger salmon, halibut and lingcod catches. We saw a couple more 40-pounders this week and several in the mid-thirties. It’s been nice to see some hefty lingcod on the dock these past few days with some keen jigging-anglers working around the pinnacles, pulling up tasty fish in the mid to high twenties. Halibut action saw an uptick this past trip as well with 5 fish measuring out to more than 100 pounds.
The BIG story however is the proverbial “barn door” halibut pulled up by California angler David Machinski, fishing with veteran guide Ryan “R”Kelly. This one taped out to 81 inches in length for a calculated weight of 291 pounds! That’s a lot of work but the view when she comes to the top is amazing! Fortunately David managed to find a 32-pound keeper later on the next day! Well done boys!
The 17thAnnual Kingfisher Derby wrapped up on Sunday with $100,000 in prize money up for grabs. With all the Tyees we’ve seen this month we knew it would shape up to be a great derby and they didn’t disappoint. In the end the $50K first prize for largest Chinook salmon released went to Randy Rognlin (again!) for his 35.42 scoring Tyee. Following closely to claim 2ndprize was Jordan Smith with a 32.92 and 3rdwent to Dmitri Brunislav for a 32.72. So so close! Congratulations guys and a big Thank You to everyone who came up to participate! This derby is always a highlight of our season.
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 !
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!