Well it was WTF (Women that Fish) Derby weekend here at QCL, with 13 ladies from various locations across North America. The conditions have been excellent with calm seas and fairly clear skies. This has made for a very amusing couple of days on the water, with some decent fish being caught and lots of laughs!
Today we decided to spend the morning grinding it out at Cape Naden in hopes of hooking a derby winner. After a slow start we managed to put three teen-sized Chinook in the box before lunch. We also had the privilege of watching an amazing show put on by a Humpback whale that was feeding out on the horizon. All in all in it was a great morning on the water!
After lunch we decided to grab a couple halibut and then finished the day back at Naden, where we managed a nice 20lber that put up a very acrobatic fight! With another beauty day in the forecast to finish off the WTF Derby, I am looking forward to spending another day searching for the big one that the ladies have been referring to as “Walter”.
So it has been a busy start to the 2019 season in the food program for special events and derbies. We have had amazing guests in the private houses and I have enjoyed cooking and coming up with some new dishes. Now in my fifth season at the lodge, I’m thrilled to see so many returning guests and this year I get to share the experience with my husband Mark Ross. This place has changed our lives. Every day of every trip, we have the opportunity to create something new and exciting on the culinary front!
Our first big event was the Appy Walk to start the season with a bang. We built 3 action food stations offering flaming prawns, a grill station, and a raw bar with many other tasty treats along the Totem House walkway. Even little projects like a breakfast smoothie bar for groups using the conference center are a source for personal satisfaction.
For the White Gold Derby we smoked a whole 50-pound pig for 20 hours, then plattered and walked it all the way from the main lodge to the dock for the wrap up party. It was a huge hit.
For some groups we bring in fun ingredients and create new dishes and “show food”stations for nightly events.
No matter whether I am cooking an intimate dinner for eight in Totem House or 16 on the lawn at the Charlotte House, there is an amazing culinary team with me. We enjoy collaborating to deliver memorable dining events to enhance the fishing and adventure activities our guests are here for.
I love hearing about guest experiences on the water and get excited for all who get to catch the big one. This place is something special for both guests and staff to create a unique and special experience. I am so excited for the months ahead with so many groups left to cook for!
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.
With the departure of our second group of guests this morning we’re feeling pretty darn good about the weeks ahead. We’ve been treated to favourable weather and productive fishing. The trend has been toward light northwesterly winds and as result our salmon fishery has been most productive inshore along the rocks and kelp beds –“where they should be”as our guides like to say! All the favourite points are turning up salmon action, with a variety pack of sizes served up every day. Craig H and Sean C both hooked up with beautiful 30-pounders on Monday while Paul S boated a 33 on Tuesday.
QCL guest Eugene Knuttila, staying aboard the Driftwood with his son Jeff, had the ultimate salmon experience while fishing off the bay at Yatze with QCL guide Liam Longacre. On their second tack in glassy calm water Eugene’s rod dipped and he was soon onto a solid fish. The battle lasted about 20 minutes with lots of jumps and some tug-o-war from the bottom. But when the fish came to the boat and they saw that big head & shoulders, they knew this one was going back. After a quick measurement it was back in the water and only took Liam a few minutes to revive before it swam away with good strong strokes. It taped out to 46 pounds and proved to be the fish of a lifetime for Eugene, who was thrilled to experience such a moment with his son. It was definitely a high point for Liam as well –great job guys! Newlyweds Julia and Isaiah shared a similar experience when they tempted another big Chinook out of the kelp at Yatze, this one measuring out to 35 pounds before retreating to the shelter of the weeds after reviving. Beautiful fishing everyone… and Congratulations! This week marked the first edition of the White Gold bottom fishing derby with prizes for largest halibut and lingcod. Tide swings of 16-plus feet made for challenging conditions but determined anglers prevailed and a number of good fish came to the scale. A 37-pound lingcod took the top prize for John F while Eric H claimed the cash for halibut with a 33-pounder. There were several big halibut caught and released this week – a 78 for Syd C, an 80 for Raymond P, a 100-pounder for Justin C and a 160 for John S – but the derby is for keeper fish only and that sweet spot between 50 and 60 pounds was elusive this week. Good fun guys and we’ll maybe look for smaller tides for the next edition!
For this weekend light northwesterlies will prevail thru Saturday before we get a 10-hour dose of southeast that will steer us over to fish Cape Edenshaw on Sunday. Tides are moderating nicely so we should see much easier bottom-fishing today and tomorrow.
After a crackerjack opening weekend we’re happy to report that the fun just keeps on coming! QCL guests are enjoying fair weather and exploring the full fishing grounds, finding lots of great rewards!
The salmon fishing continues to be very good, especially in all the usual places. There is a significant quantity of 20-pound-plus fish in the mix with the usual teen-sized feeders we expect to see at this time. And we’re seeing a few Tyees every day so it’s pretty exciting to get out there and try your luck. Hangin’out at the Bell Ringer weigh scale in the evening is a biologist’s candy store; so many variations on a species – different sizes, shapes and colours of Chinook salmon, obviously coming from a range of river systems up and down the coast.
Andre T. and Chad B. each boated 35-pounders on Sunday while Chad’s partner Sonya released a beauty that taped out to 32 pounds. Jordan W released our first 100-pound halibut of the season and we’ve seen others tagged at 70, 78, 80, 82 and 85 pounds. This week we’re hosting the QCL White Gold Derby, focused on lingcod and halibut so it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers stack up by Friday.
With the largest “keeper”halibut this year –at max. length of 126 cm, scoring in the range of approximately 59 pounds, it’ll be fun to see how close the winner can come! Stay tuned for the results!
Opening Day 2019 dawned misty, moist and grey with barely a breath of wind. After a solid week of sunny skies and warm temperatures (by our standards 18 degrees is warm) our world returned to normal. The jet arrived at Masset on time and very soon the steady purr of those Sikorsky helicopters filled the harbour. Showtime!
Some of the new crew were a little anxious but the giddy enthusiasm of our arriving guests soon calmed them. Before long they were headed down the dock and out of the harbour. Those nice flat seas made for a very comfortable day on the water and our guides took advantage to focus on all of their favourite spots. A 10-foot flood and and 8-foot ebb provided lots of moving water, setting up some sweet lines around all those rocky points. And they caught fish. Lots of nice typical feeder Springs are in the area right now, feeding among the humpbacks and eagles on large schools of needlefish. We’re finding them at typical depths for the season, mostly from 35 to 45 feet inshore and 55 to 75 a little further out. Anchovies are our bait of choice and they’re working well but there’s always someone gettin’em on herring, spoons and assorted hardware.
Returning to the dock between 7 and 9, the Bell Ringer was abuzz with fish stories and photo ops. Between halibut and Chinooks they managed to keep the Bell ringing throughout the evening. Typical for June fishing, we had some big halibut releases, a 70 pounder for Randy P and an 85 for Jordan N. While lots of teen-sized “chickens”were caught, Andrew W found the perfect keeper, tipping the scale at 41 pounds.
For a first day, in May, we were thrilled to see 3 Tyees on the dock, as well as some in the mid to high twenties. A good range of sizes in the catch is always a positive sign. Fishing on their own, Vancouver bro’s Pat and Matt H came back with 32 and 29 pounders, creating a buzz among the guides! Great work fishing the tide at Parker Point boys! Mike K weighed a 32-pound beauty as well, fishing with guide Sam Johnstone. Two of our guests missed their connection and arrived about 4 pm. But their guide Aaron Lomax was ready to rumble when they got down the dock and on their first pass at beautiful Klashwun point Marc S tied into a nice heavy fish. It took some work but in the end Aaron slipped the net beneath Marc’s catch and lifted it into the boat. When it showed up at the Bell Ringer there was tons of interest and the volume soared as the scale registered 44.4 pounds. That’s quite a fish and a fantastic catch for Marc. Sometimes a live release isn’t an option but seeing such an amazing specimen up close is a dream come true for any angler. Congrats boys and welcome to the Tyee Club Marc. All in all it was an especially fine day on the water for our guests and we’re hopeful it’s an indication of a fantastic season ahead!
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!
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.
That 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!