10905069h-1200x675.jpg

September 7, 2021 Duane Foerter0

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!


10729410w-1200x675.jpg

July 31, 2021 Duane Foerter0

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!


90616235w-1200x675.jpg

June 21, 2019 Duane Foerter0

Barn Door Halibut at QCLAs 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!

QCL salmon fishingThe 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.


095A3321w-1200x675.jpg

July 12, 2018 Duane Foerter0

QCL salmon fishing successAs 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.

Tyee Chinook salmon at QCL Haida GwaiiWhile 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!


80624306w-1200x675.jpg

June 27, 2018 Duane Foerter0

Tyee Chinook C&RNice 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 !


80603126w-1200x675.jpg

June 16, 2018 Duane Foerter0

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.

Signing off

Luke “Skywalker”


80614062w-1200x675.jpg

June 15, 2018 Duane Foerter0

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 Chinook salmon fishing at QCLand 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!

QCL Grady WhiteThe 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!


80610364w-1200x675.jpg

June 11, 2018 Duane Foerter0

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.

Magnificent Tyee Chinook salmon at QCLThat 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!


80603102_w-1200x675.jpg

June 4, 2018 Duane Foerter0

Ahhh…it’s so great to get back on the water again!  That was definitely the consensus this weekend as we kicked off our first trip of the season.  The weather was very typical Haida Gwaii –a constant cycling of sunshine, showers and layers of clouds moving through all day and night!  Normal is good.

QCL Chinook fishingThe early season fishing has been similar to last year with teen-sized feeder Springs dominating the catch.  The action wasn’t hot, but most anglers bumped into a few over the course of the trip.  The best concentration of Chinook action has been on the eastern side of our fishing grounds with most boats working the inshore waters from Inskip Point around past Cape Edenshaw to Slab Rock.  Anchovy / flasher combinations or small spoons fished down 30 to 35 feet have  been most productive.  We’ve seen a number of nice Springs in the low to mid-20’s but we’re awaiting the first Tyee of the season.   Sandy O. came close with this beautiful 25 pounder!  Any day now!

QCL Chinook salmonModerate southerly winds on Saturday and Sunday saw most boats exploring the offshore waters to pick up some tasty halibut and lingcod.  We were finding lots of nice chickens for the fish box and, as usual, some anglers got a little more than they bargained for!  Our halibut fishery has emerged in recent years as some of the most exciting fishing out there and, true to that tradition, we recorded 4 fish over 100 pounds on our opening weekend.  The size champ of the season so far is Lorri S. (who not only bagged a perfect 22-pound Chinook) but also hauled up a classic “barn door”halibut that taped out to 75 inches –that’s 220 pounds!  Fabulous fishing Lorri!  Keeping “girl power”in the forefront, Aubrey C. brought a 108-pounder to the boat.  A 59-inch halibut for Jesse C. scored out to 105 pounds and John L’s big slab on Sunday was in the same league, coming in right around the 100 pound mark.  Jesse’s wife Marla was also in the running on Sunday when she landed a 57-inch halibut for a score of 93 pounds. The nice thing is that all of these very memorable fish (all females) went right back down to carry on with the business of making more halibut!  Fish stories to last a lifetime!

Making the most of that great fishery, today we kick off our second annual Jig-a-Pig Derby –dedicated to those who have a thing for jigging!  No doubt the Tyee Bell will be ringing a lot this week with tales of mighty battles going on out on the grounds!  We’ll keep you posted.


IMG_5712_w-1200x675.jpg

August 3, 2017 Duane Foerter1

Halibut fishing has become more popular than ever at QCL and with good reason.  “Back in the day” most of our guests picked up a couple of random halibut while mooching for salmon and they were happy with that; not going offshore to jig for halibut meant more time for catching salmon!  With the introduction of GPS mapping of the fishing grounds many anglers have found their own favourite fishing holes and return to them year after year.  Releasing all of those big breeding females over 75-pounds has been a good thing too.  As a result, many QCL guests make fishing for halibut and lingcod a priority during their stay.

We know that there are some big fish out there; some really big fish.  It’s not unusual for us to see a number of halibut in excess of 100-pounds released every week.  And sometimes they are massive – over 6-feet in length.  Well last week, working with some largish tides, lodge guest Derek Benson and his father spent some time in a couple of boats with friends, fishing offshore in the hunt for a big halibut.  They tried out a few of our favourite waypoints but found their best luck over a hump 215 feet down.  There was a fair bit of excitement when they returned to the lodge and shared their many photos and videos of the results!

Derek tells the story pretty well!

“We pulled up to our GPS mark at “Hali-wood”, knowing we were in a good spot from the sizable halibut lost there the day before.  Dropping back down to the same spot, my Dad hooks up.  Thirty minutes later we are cheering over the 254 lb. halibut lying alongside of the boat.  I had laid my 7-foot rod down to her and it was 6” short of the tip.  After a quick release, I reset on the GPS mark and dropped the same jig back down.  The fight started as I was adjusting the Lowrance sounder with one hand and jigging the rod with my other.  After 15 minutes of not raising the halibut up an inch, I asked my Dad to get the boat in gear and start circling around her.  My plan was to get momentum on the halibut to help angle her up, rather than trying to lift her straight up, with the boat in neutral.  An hour later (and 30 corkscrews later!) we gasp in disbelief at the width and length of this fish.  Again I laid my 7-foot rod on top of the fish, and there was still nearly a foot of fish extending past the rod!  It then took another 30 minutes to unhook it and 3 more times to the surface.  I was using my Shimano Teramar rod and Shimano Talica 16 2-speed, a tuna setup but multi-purpose.  Measuring out to 94 ½ inches it converted to 474 lb. on the IPHC chart.  This was definitely the fish of a lifetime, and I’m happy to say, it was safely released.”

Congratulations to Derek and his crew on a great angling achievement!  Two years ago we recorded a fish for Bruce Severson and George Best that measured out to 90 inches in length for a score of 405 pounds and we doubted that we would ever see another fish in that league.  This one certainly is and we’ll be happy to add Derek’s 474-pounder to the QCL record book!  We’ve seen a lot of great fish up here and we’re always in awe of the quality of our fishery!  Every time a new record is set, we’re happy to celebrate it!

QCL halibut 474QCL Halibut recordQCL Halibut 474QCL halibut record 474QCL Halibut Record