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.
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!
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.
It is the last day of June in Haida Gwaii. The morning sun is peeking through broken clouds and lighting up the glassy water while eagles call from the shore. The smell of fresh sea air wakes my excitement for another day of chasing trophy salmon in the most beautiful place on earth. After getting a full box of Coho and nice mid-sized Springs offshore on Day One, we are in a good spot to take a gamble and spend a day fishing in tight to shore, looking for a big one. And that’s what we decide to do.
My guests, Matthew and Daibidh and I are alive with anticipation when we drop in at Parker Point an hour before the morning tide; everything is setting up perfectly. After 5 hours without a touch I am starting to second guess whether we picked the right spot but we are determined to stick with the plan and stay optimistic. Then finally, after 6 hours, things start to pick up. So we work the east bay with a newfound enthusiasm and our luck really starts to change. On our next pass the inside rod goes off and Daibidh is into a good one! After the second tide comes to an end our work seems to have paid off and we are high fiving over two beautiful fish, a 23 and a 25 lb Chinook. But we decide to take one last lap to see if we can’t still find that monster we are really after, and then it all happens. Ten hours after we first set our gear the outside rod buckles and the reel starts to burn. “That’s the one!” I shout and start clearing the lines as Matthew takes the rod and the fish keeps accelerating towards Alaska. After the most nerve-racking 30 minutes we are marveling at a magnificent 32 lb Tyee Chinook, a real trophy! We take a few moments to take in its beauty as it regains its strength and then watch it swim off back into the depths. What a perfect way to end the day. There is no better feeling than to be rewarded for a hard day’s work. The level of excitement on the boat is unreal as we head back to the Bell Ringer, this was the perfect end to another amazing month in heaven!
It’s salmon season! Sure feels good! A shift in the winds may have been just the ticket about two weeks back, when large amounts of bait started to appear in Virago Sound. The food pyramid kicks into high gear and everybody gets to eat.
While we traditionally focus our salmon fishing efforts along the kelp beds and the rocks, we’re finding heavy traffic a bit offshore along the salmon highway! In waters where we typically target lingcod and halibut, QCL anglers are trolling bait and finding steady action on several species of salmon. Anchovies at 30-50 feet are productive on coho, chum and pink salmon while the Chinooks can be down a little deeper in the 70-100 foot zone. And when you’re tired of trolling it’s so easy just to stop over a patch of structure down below and you’re into halibut and lingcod at depths of 150-250 feet.
Offshore trolling is often productive but it’s not everybody’s favourite place to fish. Thankfully the bays and rocks that we’re so familiar with – Cape Naden, Parker Point, Bird 2 and Klashwun Pt. to name a few – are also holding bait and that’s where the lunkers prefer to hunt. These prime spots are turning out some really nice fish lately for anglers with the patience and knowledge of the tides to find them at feeding time! Herring, offered whole or in cut-plug form, is usually the bait of choice in here.
This past week the Tyee Bell has been getting a regular workout with new members joining the ranks every night. Maxime G weighed a nice 35-pounder only to be joined an hour later when his father Luc rolled in with a 32 lb. Tyee of his own! Most of the Tyee-class fish we’re seeing currently are in the low to mid-30’s but there have been some bigger fish around. Roger G found a stunning 40-pounder at Bird One, fishing with QCL guide Aaron Lomax and Jason H released one last week. The first 50-pounder of the season could certainly show up any day!
Northwesterly winds are forecast to continue this week and we’re hoping for a nice spell of sunshine – 2 or 3 days anyway – and that’ll put a smile on everyone’s face around here for sure! Stay tuned!
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 !