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!
Tight lines and silver smiles!
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!
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!
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!
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 !
All this blue sky is a little overwhelming to most of us up here! The temperature hit 21 degrees yesterday and we can hardly stand it! (But I’m sure we’ll adapt!) As we hoped and expected, the northwesterlies have been pushing bait into the sound and our salmon fishing is picking up noticeably every day. Although it’s been a slow start throughout the north coast of Haida Gwaii, we’re seeing an abundance of herring and needlefish and the Chinooks are coming along. Finding them is a test for many anglers though.
Today Parker Point lit up nicely during the early flood tide with some nice mid-twenties Chinooks picked up. But at the same time, guides are finding feeders offshore in 150-250 feet of water, fishing anchovies down 50-80 feet. Sporadic salmon action but usually productive for the persistent! A beautiful 28-pounder was released yesterday by Christopher D while fishing with guide Tristan O’Brian. That’s a nice fish boys, well done!
We’re starting to see all the other salmon species showing up now with some mid-teen-sized Chum hitting the dock and reports of Pinks and a couple of Sockeye. Every once in a while you get a surprise and that happened to day for guide Luke Wagner when his guest Nicole landed a stunning Coho that tipped the scale at 12-pounds! A nice big one for so early in the season!
Our 16th Annual Kingfisher Derby wrapped up on Sunday with the usual suspense. With an additional 7 anglers signing on at the last minute the purse grew nicely and the grand prize for largest Chinook released bumped up to $55,000! Phil Mudge, fishing with guide Kevin Clough at Bird 2, was leading after Day 2 with a nice Tyee that scored 31.36. But we knew there were more Tyees hanging around out there. Sunday morning broke and around 0800 Randy Rognlin, fishing with guide Matt Burr at Cape Naden, registered a beauty that scored 32.91, taking the lead. Later in the morning a non-derby angler held up a nice big Tyee at Parker Point that was even bigger, just a reminder that no one was quitting before the final bell at 1900 on Sunday night.
In the end however, Randy’s Tyee held to take the top prize and the Bell Ringer was rocking! Derby Master Mike Reading presented cheques to all the winners with Phil Mudge getting $30000 with his 31.36, Chris Waters got $15000 for a 27.42 and 4th prize of $7000 went to Mike Lane for a Chinook scoring 26.8. Interestingly the largest killed fish also scored 26.8 to take the $10000 prize for that category. Another $7000 was awarded in day prizes. A big thank you to all participants for coming up and we’re happy to hear that most of them are planning to return next year to try again! It’s always a fun and exciting weekend!
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!