Well here it is, September already, and once again we’re making the annual fall migration south to “the real world.” Gone are those beautifully casual 5-minute commutes down the beach to the lodge or to the dock. (You don’t want to hear what the alternative is like!) The early morning light is now delayed past 7:00 and it’s coming later and later every day. (Fun fact: In June we enjoy 17 hours of daylight… in December it’ll be just over 7 hours!)
The 2018 season will be noted for exceptional Coho fishing (offshore), a windy July, smaller Chinooks, Steak & Lobster in the Bell Ringer, friendly medical doctors onsite 24/7, more GPS hotspots on the map, quick & easy halibut, fresh sushi on the deck and a 4th beautiful big red boat on the water! QCL guests returned home with more varieties of fish in their boxes and many of them opted to add some tasty BC specialties like smoked sablefish and spot prawns. It seems we saw fewer whales overall this summer and the same 5 sea lions were roaming around the grounds much of the time.
The staff this summer was outstanding. We had the benefit of several leaders returning in key positions to maintain consistency in training and operations. And it’s always exciting to watch the stars emerge from the ranks of new staff as the season gets rolling. Some of the most memorable moments come when we welcome the return of a guest who was here 10 or 20 years ago. Their impressions of the “new QCL” are pretty wonderful and their recollections of “how it was” are heartwarming. While we’ve made a lot of changes to the program and marked improvements to the facility, we’ve tried very hard to maintain the quality and the style of service that we built our reputation on. That will always be priority #1.
What a wrap to the 2018 season! While it might have been a bit of a slow start (by our standards) to the season this year, the past month has been cracker jack! Good weather and tons of fish around has sent a lot of smiling faces home in recent weeks. It’s taking some getting used to but the offshore fishery has been incredible. We’re finding offshore trolling tacks that are producing great results at depths from 55 to 75 to 95 feet and deeper. This is producing reliable catches of gorgeous Coho to 16 pounds, quite a few hefty Chum in the mid-teens and Chinooks to 20 pounds. Halibut catches are virtually instantaneous when you touch bottom; but you do have to weed through somme chickens to find the turkeys! All good fun.
Our inshore fishing for Chinook salmon requires a different approach but it’s no less rewarding. The Tyee catch has been pretty consistent this month with several beauties in the low to mid-thirties coming to the boat every trip. And, just to keep everyone on their toes, there have been enough huge Chinooks around to reward the most dedicated Tyee angler! And it’s surprising how it can happen! Last week, on the first drop of the trip with his guests Bill and son Robert, veteran QCL guide Derek “Demo” Poitras started out at Parker Point. The herring must have landed right on its nose but before they had the second line in the water Robert was onto a heavy fish! After a serious tug-o-war, Derek slipped the net beneath a huge chrome buck and it was high-fives all around. Wasting no time they did a quick measurement and this “king of salmon” was back in the water and on its way again. Taped out to 47-pounds it was one of the largest fish of the season. Fantastic catch Robert! Well played and kudos to you for choosing to let him go!
On the next day Jason A was on board One-Fifteen with guide Lance Mercer. Cape Naden has been especially productive this summer and Lance had “that feeling” when they decided to drop in there first thing. It didn’t happen right away but after an hour of teasing an anchovy along the kelp they were rewarded with a big hit and a screaming reel. Jason worked the heavy fish masterfully and Lance was able to keep them out of the kelp. This big beauty taped out to 44 pounds and Jason never hesitated to send it back in hopes that it’ll return to its home stream! Congratulations guys and well done!
August fishing… oh boy! It seems that everything really comes together by the time August rolls around. Certainly the catch board would say so! The inshore fishery, mainly focused on Chinooks, has turned out lots of beautiful big salmon every day. Those brawny 20-something pounders are the backbone of the action but there always a few surprises lurking in the kelp! The Tyee bell gets a workout every night with a couple big Chinooks caught and/or released. Lately the median-sized Tyees have been in the low to mid 30’s with the occasional giant making an appearance. Last week we were thrilled to see 3 of our largest salmon of the season caught – and released – at 3 different locations.
Working a herring along the wall at Bird 2 has to be one of the most effective ways to find a Tyee anywhere on the west coast! QCL guide Brett Towers was doing it right the other day, as the pressure was on! He had his Dad on board with a couple of friends. Making the turn along the kelp, deep in the bay, that herring worked its magic and Don was onto the fish of his dreams! It took them on a bit of a hayride but in the end, Brett was able to get the net under it and lift it into the boat. With a quick photo and a measurement, they had the silver giant back in the water. Taped out to 47 pounds, it was the largest Chinook we’ve seen this season and cause for some serious celebration back at the Bell Ringer that night! Fantastic work guys! Well done Brett!
A couple of days later, Driftwood guest Stan T was over at Cape Edenshaw with his guide Mark Kasumovich when they also teased a big slab away from the shelter of the kelp. Nice and vigourous when they got it in the net, Stan chose to send it back as well. This one scored out to 45 pounds and was yet another proof of Edenshaw’s reputation for holding big fish under the right conditions. Nice work guys and Congratulations to you Stan! Not far away, on the very same day, Dave R was fishing Cape Naden on board 97 with guide Jackson Jane, when they connected with a big Tyee. As Jackson reported in his post, it took the bait trolled on the back rod and gave them quite a workout before coming to the net. David was quick to choose releasing this beauty and it swam off with strong strokes of its tail after measuring out to 46 pounds! Amazing fish!
When these Chinooks aren’t bleeding and are properly revived, the survival rate is apparently very good. So it’s quite an extraordinary feeling to watch a big Tyee swim out of your grip and return to the depths. We have always believed that big fish breed big fish, and while we fully respect the angler’s right to choose, we try to ensure that they make an informed choice. Many anglers dream of having that opportunity and we support anything that can help to ensure those opportunities continue in the future.
Things are still going strong here at QCL, with a good assortment of fish spread across our fishing grounds. Daily catches have ranged from Coho, Chum and Chinook action offshore to the odd Tyee-class salmon being picked up at some of our well known inshore points. Our best success inshore has certainly come as a result of the “stick, stay, make it pay” method of fishing, in order to catch the random snap bites that take place throughout the day. Fortunately, we have also had the privilege of extremely calm waters over the past week, which always gives some of our hotspots a real “fishy” feeling.
On Thursday morning at Cape Naden that “fishy” feeling was certainly in the air. As we made our way onto the fishing grounds I overheard some radio chatter about a few fish already being picked up Bird 2. Yet as we cruised past Naden something told me I should probably stop in for at least a pass or two.
That pass or two turned into an hour and a half at Naden with no bites, yet all four of us on board were optimistic that something was going to happen. Finally, around 9:30am, the screaming sound from our back rod interrupted a peaceful morning on the water. My guest, Dave R grabbed the rod, with no hook set needed, as the fish already had the Islander reel sizzling. We immediately cleared our other two rods, as we knew we were in for a battle! After a long first run that seemed like it may not end, Dave was finally able to slowly work the fish to the boat for our first look. At that point it was pretty clear we had a Tyee on the line and off it went for another powerful run. After a lengthy tug-o-war with this large specimen, we were finally able to put it in the bag! After some high fives and a few loud cheers, we brought the fish into the boat for a measurement and a few quick photos. This fish was then released to continue its migratory journey to its home river. This big silver beauty taped out to 46 pounds! Congrats Dave! Thanks for choosing to let it go!
Later on at the Bell Ringer things were buzzing, as there was also a 45 caught and released at Cape Edenshaw that morning, along with a few more Tyees caught at various spots on our western fishing grounds. Things are shaping up well for a great end to yet another season in Haida Gwaii!
What a week it’s been! With easy access to the whole fishing grounds, QCL anglers last week enjoyed one of the fishiest trips of the season. Working the inshore sweet spots from Green Point all the way around to Cape Naden, our guests found their share of chunky Chinooks, many in the 21 to 28 pound class, with lots of high-teeners and enough Tyees to keep it interesting!
It was certainly a good trip for Saskatchewan angler David S, visiting the Lodge for his 8thtime, when he joined the QCL Tyee Club, boating a beautiful 37-pound Chinook with his guide Mark Kasumovich and fishing buddy John P. Andy S came from Washington state to enjoy some great QCL fishing and was rewarded with a 41 pounder with some help from his guide Tristan O’Brian. Gary V, fishing with his wife Janice and veteran QCL guide Nick Mercer, returned to the Bell Ringer with one of the season’s largest salmon, a stunning Tyee that tipped the scale at 45 pounds! For a lot of first-timers, seeing some big salmon up close is pretty inspiring, hopeful that they will get a chance to tangle with one like that someday!
When our guests chose to move offshore they found it pretty easy to “double-up”on their efforts. Halibut fishing has been a breeze lately, with many boats investing a whole 30-minutes to pick up a couple of nice “chickens”for the freezer. While they’re out there they spend more time trolling for Coho and they’re finding really nice fish. We’re seeing 12-13 pounders every day now and the occasional 14-15. The second half of August will be pretty exciting!
Last Saturday was one of those days when you talk yourself into going fishing. Breezy southeast conditions were predicted, the Driftwood was anchored at George Point and every boat would be trolling the shorelines around Cape Edenshaw. As the day wore on, boats would gradually make their exit and return to the lodge for some cocktails and a nice dinner. But often that’s when the determined angler utters those magic words…“Just one more pass”!
Working the kelp line inside Piggy Bay late in the afternoon, Tim & Karen D, hosting their newlywed daughter and son-in-law, lined up the perfect tack at the perfect time and the stars aligned. The inside rod dipped and Derek was there on the double. The telltale power of a heavy fish had the crew frantically clearing all the gear while Derek held on for quite a ride! Avoiding the safety of the kelp, this salmon was headed for open water.
Over the next 30 minutes they were gradually pulled about 500 metres offshore, away from the relative calm of the leeward shoreline. But patience and a deft touch on the gear eventually saw Tim ease the net beneath a big silver slab in the rock & roll seas. No blood and with lots of kick left in him, they chose to get a quick measurement and release this beautiful Tyee. Fishmaster Trevor Harris was alongside to witness the battle and take a few photos, then revive the big Chinook for a few minutes before it swam away with strong and steady strokes of its tail.
Congratulations were in order! Scoring out to 44 pounds, Derek and family released one of those legendary fish, the one that every angler wants to catch. Hopefully good fortune will see this salmon find it’s natal stream and it’ll spawn successfully. Certainly there will be lots of anglers 4 or 5 years from now who will thank Derek for giving it the chance!
Well it’s early August and our new guests arrived in bright sunshine and blue skies this morning, excited and smiling at their good fortune. With a forecast of light variable winds and favourable tides, they know they could be in for something very special this week. We’ve recently experienced some ups and downs weather-wise and have certainly seen how it can affect the anglers’success. Fortunately our track record is pretty solid and it’s very rare to get a “bad”weather day without getting a “good”one in return.
Our two most recent trips are good examples. Last week moderate to strong northwesterlies limited access to some of the fishing grounds over the first couple of days and the catch record confirmed it. But along came Thursday and everything changed. We got out early and enjoyed a full day of fantastic fishing, enjoying the whole of the grounds and catching lots of fish. Everyone picked up some Chinooks and got into some nice Coho offshore. Most had managed to get one halibut earlier in the week and practically everyone got out to get a second on Thursday. There was a buzz in the dining room that night with the energy provided by a banner day on the water.
Overnight the winds swung to southeast and threatened to corner everybody at Edenshaw for the weekend. Our new guests arrived and headed out, prepared for what Mother Nature was about to serve up. Friday weather turned out to be pretty moderate and we saw a very respectable catch on the dock that night. Saturday was definitely the test and the eastern grounds were not rewarding us with many treasures. Oh, there were fish caught, but there was considerable time between bites. At dinner we shared a favourable forecast for Sunday and surely everyone went to bed with their fingers crossed!
At 6:00 am, dawn broke with a patchy blue sky and just a light breeze. It was a quick breakfast for sure and everybody was on their way. Once again, easy access to any of your favourite spots feels fantastic and every guide had a plan. Tides were moderate but still a factor to plan around, whether fishing for salmon inshore or bottom fishing on the outside. Over the course of the day the Fishmaster reported decent catches going on practically everywhere; not much chatter on the radio, everybody was busy!
The beautiful sunny weather and great fishing saw most anglers lingering on the water right until the 8:00 pm call. Meanwhile, back at the Bell Ringer, the totes were lined up out the door. The atmosphere down there was electric with cheers, jeers and high-fives going off all the time. We didn’t weigh any monsters last night but the bell was ringing pretty steadily for some 30-something Chinooks, teen-sized Coho and a few halibut just too big to bring home! The last fish hit the scale at 10:34 pm and the dining room was busy well after that!
In most of our daily lives we’ve created a world with few limitations; we can get pretty much anything we want when we want it. Part of the appeal of the fishing adventure is that lack of control. Just being out in a wild place and experiencing everything it has to offer –“good”and “bad”- is a huge attraction for many of us. And here at the Lodge, we’re privileged to watch that story unfold day after day!
Now into the final third of the 2018 season, we’re thinking those northwesterly winds we were praising in late June can let up already! We’ve had 2 weeks of steady northwesterlies now and are ready for a change! Anglers and guides are looking forward to getting back offshore with easy access to the fantastic bottom-fishing and large schools of Coho passing through the area. This week we’ve seen excellent Coho action with the larger-sized fish we expect in August. Double-digit sizes are pretty common now with several fish in the low teens showing up. Paul C, fishing with guide Max Peiffer, picked up this stunning 16-pound Northern while trolling at 37-feet in front of Bird 2. Fish like this one are always on the bucket list of any salmon enthusiast!
It’s been an excellent Coho season for us with large numbers being found in the offshore waters, generally down 30 to 60 feet and hitting anything from anchovy set-ups thru spoons and hoochies. At the same time we’ve been quite successful throughout July finding considerable Chinook salmon in the same offshore areas, just deeper at 60 to 100 feet. And occasionally we get a surprise, like the 42-pound Tyee landed by Driftwood guest John C last week, while trolling for Coho in 220-feet off Shag Rock! It goes to show you have to be prepared for anything when fishing up here!
The weather is about to change for this weekend with winds shifting today around to southwest and then rising to southeast overnight. They’re forecasting some fairly breezy conditions for Friday and Saturday so we’ll be spending some time over at Cape Edenshaw this weekend. The upside is that those shorelines have seen very little fishing pressure with all the northwest so it could be very productive! Look for an update on Sunday. After the weekend it looks like we’ll enjoy a nice stretch of light variable winds right through the middle of the month! We’ll be ready for them!
Never a bad day in Haida Gwaii, just some better than others. And while this will always remain true, it is a relative statement. The day and trip is what you make of it, just depends on what your mind set is. I am a firm believer that positive vibes yield positive results, what you define as positive is up to you.
As a guide I have the privilege of meeting and experiencing different people and things, and every trip is different. For some, it is a couple celebrating their anniversary, wanting to experience all the sights and sounds of Virago Sound. There is no need to necessarily target the sizzle of a large migratory Chinook salmon popping off the down rigger clip faster than you can you say “how you doing?” Often the thrill of seeing a large Orca hunting, maybe the dreary bark of a large bull sea lion, even the aggressive deep water dive of an auklet will leave the most experience outdoorsmen in awe.
That being said, people flock from all corners of the world and country in search of a massive black-gummed salmonid. The feeling of coming around the corner of your favourite point and seeing a nice back eddy, then presenting your cut plug roll in just the right way and watching your rod get buried past the second eyelet will make even the most experienced angler salivate. Potentially forgetting to keep that tip up to let him run, Oh well, it’s all part of the fun when trying to hook and then subsequently land “Walter.”
For some it is hooking the fish of a lifetime; for others it’s taking in the sights and sounds of Haida Gwaii. For most it is a balance of the two. At the end of the day whatever your muse, our job is to give and do our best to provide our guests with as much colour as possible to paint on the canvas which is their trip to Queen Charlotte Lodge in Haida Gwaii. I look forward to painting further canvases in the future and trying to fulfill each guests dreams.
Each day I put on my signature red boots and head down to the dock, never too sure what is in store for me that day, but always eager to find out. I start my day in the freezer, sorting the previous day’s catch into each guest’s bin. A quick check against the catch boards, everything matches, perfect.
Early evening arrives and boats are starting to come back from the fishing grounds, ready to weigh in the day’s take and enjoy a beverage and some appies. The totes are lining up in the Bell Ringer, full of fish ready to be weighed. The music is on and the drinks are flowing. I look back and see a silver tail peeking up over the edge of a tote; it looks big. Standing nearby, an excited guest and guide can barely contain their smiles. Will it go 30? As each guide lays out the fish, I’m sure to check the tags to ensure the angler will receive their own fish, cut exactly the way they want. Fillet? Portion cutting? Smokehouse? Then it’s time to snap a quick photo with the catch before it’s recorded. By now, I know the guides well. I can usually guess which guest’s fish they’ll weigh first, second, third. In between weights, I catch snippets of fishing stories; the good one that got away, the near-misses and the close saves. A few times each night, it’s time for a ‘Bell Ringer’. Whether it be the perfect ‘turkey’ halibut, or a coveted ‘hog’, we celebrate just the same. After each fish is weighed, it is sorted into bins by cut, then off to the processing room it goes, where it is cut, washed and vacuum packed. From there, it hits the freezer, flash frozen for freshness for months to come.
It’s the last night of the trip, and once all of the fish have been recorded, processed and sorted, it’s time to box them up to send out the following morning. The boxing team and I pack up every guest’s fish, checking the catch and recording the outgoing weight. As the morning sun is rising, we load the boxes onto “The Q”, sending them out to Masset, where they’ll fly south and be waiting for their owner in Vancouver.
Every day I am fortunate to be at the centre of the ruckus, recording each fish, celebrating each victory with guide and guest alike. This season has been one for the books, with near-daily Tyees, and many multiple-Tyee days. Our largest thus far has tipped the scale at 40.4 lbs. Coho fishing has been on, right from the get-go. We’ve seen plenty of ‘Silvers’ in the double digits all through July, and even some pushing close to the 15-pound mark moving into late July. The season high stands at 13.4 lbs, but I suspect we’ll see some bigger ones moving into August. This season has also brought an unusually high number of the most elusive salmon: the Sockeye. We had ten in one week! With the increase in Sockeye numbers, three boats have been able to complete the ‘Grand Slam’ of salmon fishing, one of each species. This season has also been strong for bottom fishing. Numerous Halibut north of the 50-pound mark have been released, and several have even taped out to more than 200 pounds, a real ‘barn door’ of a Halibut. June also brought about a large quantity of Pacific Cod. We caught more in one day than the entirety of last season! We also got to see a new kind of fish this year, landing our very first Alaskan Pollock. You never know what you’ll pull up when you drop a line down to the bottom!
I am lucky to have this unique vantage point which affords me the privilege of taking care of each and every fish brought back to the dock. The excitement of the scale draws the attention of veteran anglers and first-timers alike. Whether someone is looking for a guess on weight, a crash course in salmon identification, or just to take a photo, I’m always happy to help.