Change is constant, they say. It’s like the wind, blowing in the background, that we tend to ignore and then are surprised when it stops. One constant breeze – always a breath of fresh air – that has been with us at QCL for over 20 years, is none other than Jin Chong, Mr. Hospitality himself.
Today marks a big day for Jin personally, and for QCL, as Jin has made the decision leave one passion to pursue another. While we’ll miss his infectious smile, easy-going demeanor, and warm personality at the Lodge, we couldn’t be prouder of Jin and his new and exciting venture!
Starting today you can find him as Managing Partner at Highwater Tackle, a very well-known and respected tackle shop located in the LoLo area of North Vancouver. Joining Jin as owners at Highwater are a couple of other QCL long-timers, Kevin Clough and Elyse Austrins. Both Kevin and Elyse will remain at QCL full time in their current capacities, while Jin manages the store’s daily operations. Congratulations to all three of you on your new venture and farewell to Jin, but only for now. We know that it certainly won’t be the last time we see him at the Lodge and that QCL and Highwater will (and already are) finding plenty of reasons to work together.
Everyone please drop by and see Jin anytime at his new home. He’ll be happy just to say hi, relive some old QCL memories, or to help outfit you with any fishing needs for your next outdoor adventure. Track him down without hesitation at 201 Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver. And again, our congratulations to Jin, Kevin and Elyse with Highwater Tackle!
As the season progresses at full speed towards the metaphorical finish line known as Labour Day, I find myself getting more nervous, almost disappointed, rather than excited. A lot of people would probably assume I am ready to go home, ready for a change of scenery, ready to do anything other than go fishing. But a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be a fishing guide at QCL.
Being a fishing guide, to me, means a lot more now than it did 4 years ago when I started. It’s not just about the fishing. It’s about the atmosphere, the surroundings, the laughter and entertainment amongst the crashing waves. The people you meet over the course of the summer and the connections that are created are irreplaceable, even if they are short lived. The most cherished memories that I take away from this experience always seem to revolve around the people first.
With the beautiful weather, bountiful coho catches and Tyees still coming in every trip, I can find excitement knowing that there are still three trips left in the season. This past week, the DFO increased the halibut retention limit to three fish, if they are all under 90 centimetres in length or one fish between 90 and 133 centimetres in length. The opportunity to take an additional halibut home is a significant bonus for an angler. It’s another great example of why fishing later in the season is never a bad idea up here at QCL.
The abundance of humpback whales breaching, sunfish sightings and big Chinooks lurking by the kelp beds are just a few of my favourite takeaways from the 2022 season. As unsettling as it may be to see my QCL summer come to an end, I am thankful for this experience and know that it will live with me for years to come. I also need to keep reminding myself…
The memories can’t start until the experience ends.
Amazing August! QCL guests have enjoyed so much epic adventure up here this summer that it’s hard to see how it could get any better. But these past weeks have delivered that “trip of a lifetime” experience for many. The fishing overall has been steady… the big fish are not as plentiful as we’ve come to expect, but the action is consistent, and anglers aren’t spending too much time in their seats! Going home with a nice box of beautiful wild salmon, halibut and lingcod is a precious treat that will be shared and savoured for months to come.
Small tides and light winds in the past week have really opened the door all day to bottom fishing, so our guests are really getting their fill of jiggin’ the deep! It’s yielding outstanding catches of halibut, lingcod and Pacific cod. This coincides nicely with a recent regulation change from DFO allowing sport anglers to retain a third halibut under 90 cm if they don’t have one larger than 90.
While most of our guides are still committing some part of their day to fishing inshore in search of big Chinooks, they’re finding good success on all salmon species while trolling offshore in 200-240 feet of water. That’s typical for late season salmon and the results have been good! We’re finally seeing more Coho in the 10-plus class, mixed in with powerful 16-20 pound Chinooks. Every so often a big, bright Chum hooks up and delivers that outstanding battle that they’re known for! Back at the Bell Ringer the Tyee bell is ringing every night for a wide array of big catches – from 40-50 pound halibut, to 30-pound-plus Lingcod and, of course, Tyee Chinooks over 30-pounds, some retained and some released. There’s always cause for celebration down there!
August weather has been particularly warm and dry, so long days spent out in a boat are pretty sweet… especially with a nice social lunch break at the Driftwood to catch up with friends and compare notes. With only 3 trips remaining in this 2022 season after Friday, we’re thankful that the fishing and the weather continue to cooperate and all of our guests, some of whom have waited since 2019 to get here, are getting the QCL adventure experience that they were hoping for!
Before most fishing was done by downriggers and trolling, boats would go out and motor mooch for salmon. The fisherman would make a cut-plug herring and thread it on to hooks and a leader. The leader would then be tied to a 4 or 6 ounce weight and then the weight was tied directly on to the main line. This was the BC standard for fishing for Chinooks and Coho.
One day in the early 1990’s I had a chance to introduce a husband and wife to the fishing up in Haida Gwaii. We made our way from the dock out of Naden Harbour to fish at the famous Bird 1 hotspot. There had been quite a few very large Chinooks taken over the last few days so I was very excited to see how this brand new fisher couple would make out. The tide was soft and the seas were calm – ideal weather and water for fishing with newcomers to the game. They watched as I cut the herring and rigged it up. They listened carefully as I explained how to let the line out and put the rod in the rod holder. I demonstrated how a mooching single action reel works and I drilled them on what to watch for and do when the inevitable strike comes. After a little bit of Q&A they were ready to go. The wife saw it first. The almost imperceptible first pull by a Chinook on the herring. Almost before she could say anything, the rod took a strong downward bend as the Chinook was beginning to panic and feel the hook. She was like a coiled cobra as she sprung to the rod… a natural. She reeled down to the fish and struck it hard. Line screamed off of the reel and the line angled up as I knew we were going to get a good look at this fish. Sure enough he swirled distant from the boat and I could see his wide gold green back. Eight inches across and all of 50 pounds or more. I was the only one that saw the fish and I was surely not going to further compromise the first few minutes of the fight with a description of how large the fish was. For now, this was information for me to keep to myself.
The fight waged for more than 45 minutes. Long, strong runs were followed by deep sulking. She had, by that point, developed her routine of pumping up the rod slowly, when the fish would give ground, and then franticly winding to pick up line and keep pressure. There was very little chatter as it seemed appropriate to let the wife focus on the giant Tyee salmon. Forty-five minutes stretched into an hour and I could tell the fish was quickly tiring. The pumping became easier, the runs not as strong and purposeful, becoming more panicky and weak.
Then it happened. Right at the top of the pump the rod went slack. Clearly this Chinook had found a way to rip the hook out of its mouth. As always, I encouraged the fisher to wind quickly to see if the fish had simply turned and we needed to catch up with it. I knew it was gone but we had to try. Just as I was about to say that the fish was gone the rod started to twitch and shake and the line came in easily. In an instant I knew what had happened. The big fish was truly gone. As the lady reeled in the empty hooks a small 12 inch Coho juvenile salmon had raced after my red hooks mistaking them for krill shrimp. He was now hooked and coming quickly to the boat. Before I could explain anything, the exhausted lady angler had brought the tiny salmon to the side of the boat. She looked down in disbelief and exclaimed that if a 12-inch fish could fight that hard she did not think she would be able to land a really large salmon!
I guess we could call it the height of our summer! The past few days of brilliant sunshine delivered some of those iconic deep colours that say it’s summer at the lodge! The fishing effort was largely focused on the waters from Yatze east to the Mazzaredos and the salmon action was quite steady overall. Anglers were busy reeling in lots of nice Coho mixed with a bunch of Pinks; punctuated by a chunky Chinook every so often! We managed to find a few Tyees in the mix, between 30 and 36 pounds – and lots of those amazing 20-somethings, the top target of our salmon anglers! We caught a break on Thursday and the winds died right off to send the entire fleet offshore to load up on halibut and lingcod, which they did quite successfully.
Seeing as it’s already August 13th (or Foggust as many call it) we’ve been really lucky to avoid much fog in the area so far. But a big bank rolled in late Thursday; we usually watch it creep in from the north and settle over the east side of Naden Harbour. Combined with a brilliant super-full-moon, it made for another dramatic visual this week.
I hope you enjoy this eclectic collection of photos that pretty much describe how the week went! But don’t worry, the weekend, so far, has been different! Tune in next week for the update!
Light winds from the west and a generous dose of sunshine really delivered some summer vibes for our guests this week. It certainly helped that the fish were around, and everybody had their chances at some really nice salmon and groundfish. The average Chinooks are still in the low to mid-teens but we’re definitely seeing more fish in the twenty-plus class and the Tyee Bell gets to sing most every night for some of those larger salmon, halibut and lingcod. This week we saw all five salmon species on the dock which is always a good sign of things to come. Some of the outstanding catches were 33-pound Chinooks for Andy B (guide Alex) and Paul C (with guide Anton) last trip. While there were no giant halibut released last week, QCL anglers managed to find lots of keepers in both the “under” (<90 cm) and “over” (90-133 cm) classes. Several anglers found impressive fish between 30 and 46 pounds, which always draw some attention at the Bell Ringer.
The weekend saw some blustery northwesterlies on Saturday but the salmon really seemed to like it… because the action from Klashwun Point down to Parker was very good on the ebb tide. Solid numbers of teen-sized Chinooks were taken, with a surprising number of Coho, Chum and Pink salmon mixed in. Curtis L landed a fine 31-pound Tyee with his buds and veteran QCL guide Derek P in those lumpy seas on Saturday so he’s got a great story to tell! Sunday flattened right out to pancake seas for Father’s Day and we scattered over the whole fishing grounds to pick up limits of halibut and lingcod. Jim M released a big halibut that taped out to 180-pounds & Brian H turned back a 92. First time angler Erin R battled her first halibut, which just happened to be an 82-pounder (Wow!) and veteran QCL guest Dana B released a 77. This week is shaping up nicely with a busy Bell Ringer last night, celebrating several nice halibut and lingcod in the 25 to 40-pound class. While we didn’t see a Tyee Chinook yesterday there were several in the mid-twenties so we’ll see what today’s effort brings! We’ve got light to moderate northwesterlies all week with daily doses of sunshine, so everyone is enjoying beautiful Haida Gwaii weather through the weekend.
While visitors to the lodge can enjoy a range of experiences while they’re here, certainly the big thrill comes with “going fishing.” For most of our guests, their trip to our remote fishing lodge in Haida Gwaii is a major highlight of their year, and we’re thrilled with that. There was a time, many years ago, when the typical lodge guest called themselves a “fisherman” and their days spent up here were just the favourites of many fishing days on their annual calendar. As a fishing destination there’s certainly a consensus that this is “the place to be.”
Nowadays, for many of our guests, this is the only fishing they will do all year. They’re not so likely to consider themselves “anglers” or “fishers” or even “fishermen.” But they wouldn’t miss their annual visit to QCL for anything! That “QCL Experience” is a special recipe that combines a wealth of different ingredients that they’ve come to love.
Getting out on the water, immersed in nature, away from the all the noise and scramble of “normal” daily life, is a real treat. Catching a fish – getting your own food – is a connection to our instincts, with our distant past. The ability to take some fish home to share, proudly, with family and friends is every bit as exciting as catching it. What we’ve discovered with our guests over the years, is how important that connection is. With every vacuum-packed portion that you take from your freezer to share at your table, there’s a story that comes with it. It could be the people you shared the catching with, the weather or the scenery at the time, or even the wildlife that tried to take the fish away from you! All of those ingredients come together to make each fish you take home a very special part of your adventure. And we are so pleased to have some small part in that. Thank you for choosing to share that adventure with us!
And here we are! So excited to be in Naden Harbour and be open for our 31st season! With all the uncertainty of the past 15 months it certainly feels wonderful to open the doors and welcome our friends back the The Lodge. We want to send out a huge wave of thanks and appreciation to our guests and friends who have demonstrated amazing support and patience throughout that time. We know that this pandemic has been a shocking and sobering experience for many on so many levels. But if people are now able to venture back out into the world to enjoy some of their favourite things, we feel very fortunate that so many want to get back up here!
With opening day as a moving target, our whole staff enjoyed the benefit of a full two-week training period! But Wow! What a great two weeks it was! The level of excitement on Opening Day was off the charts as our first guests arrived and everyone fell into their roles so well. And our guests? They are just so thrilled to finally be here… we know it’s going to be an awesome season, already!
July 10th Report
One week in and I gotta say, it’s so great to be back! We’ve had a few days of nice sunny weather and the usual northwesterlies that come with it, but the fishing has been on fire. Through most of the past week we’ve been fishing the prime stretch of water from Klashwun Point down to Cape Naden. But a lot of our guests love working the quiet water around Brown’s Pile down to the Mazzaredos. Loaded with a healthy mix of Chinook and Coho, anglers have enjoyed terrific action inshore. Average Chinooks right now are generally in the mid-teens, mixed with a good dose of 20-somethings and enough Tyees to keep everybody really interested every time the reel goes off!
Often in midsummer the Coho are feeding offshore but these days we’re finding lots of them in close, swimming with the Chinook. And they’re feeding aggressively on both needlefish and herring in the middle of the water column. Coho size has bumped up in the past couple of days and we’re seeing some 9 and 10-pounders, but the bulk of them are still 6 to 8…beautiful feisty fish all the same.
The NW winds settled back to light variable in the past 3 days, giving easy access to the rest of the fishing grounds. Many of our guides love fishing Cape Edenshaw and they were not disappointed when they finally got over there this weekend. The steady push of several days of westerlies tends to move a lot of bait in that direction and that brings in the salmon. It’s a favourite place to hunt for the big ones!
But Bird 2 and Parker Point have been rewarding dedicated anglers with some great action and some spectacular fish. We’ve welcomed our first new member of the 50-Pounder Club for 2021 already this week when Brian M brought a stunning fish to the boat that taped out to 56-pounds before it was carefully released from a cradle by guide Marcus M. Ellen D and her husband Patrick teased a big beauty out of the kelp at Cape Naden on Tuesday that got everyone at the Bell Ringer super excited when it tipped the scale at 38-pounds. Nice work!
Guide Marcus was at it again on Friday, with new guest Daniel N, who showed his fishing skills, reeling a big chrome beauty to the boat. It was quickly taped out to 44-pounds in the cradle before revival and release back to the wild. Congratulations all! Wonderful fishing experiences and precious salmon filets add up to memories to savour for a lifetime.
Flat calm days like today are a treat for those who love to fish the deep water. Off the north shore we find some spectacular underwater terrain that holds massive stocks of halibut and lingcod. Anglers have done very well out there this week, bringing impressive catches back to the Bell Ringer. Of course, every day there are some fish caught that are simply too big to bring back. On the last trip, Craig A, fishing with Ray P out at HaliWood, pulled a huge halibut up alongside the boat that they were able to measure out to 74-inches in length for a weight score of 215 pounds! Seth K released one at 128 lb., Chuck H and Sean G each measured giant “butts” out to 121 pounds! Happily, they all managed to find some nice keepers in the 20-30 pound class.
This weekend, QCL anglers have been exploring the full breadth of the fishing grounds, enjoying perfect conditions on the water and catching some very nice fish to take home and share with friends and family. They’ve been thrilled by the presence of several humpback whales feeding in the area, especially when they decide to launch themselves from the depths and breach the surface with a massive splash. All these moments add up to create amazing stories that our guests go home with – to share with their friends. It’s our privilege to play some small part in that and we all look forward to doing it again and again!
The QCL Kingfisher Derby has been annual tradition for many years. In fact, many of the participants have been fishing this derby for more than a decade! The Kingfisher is a Catch & Release salmon derby that happens in mid-June – so that means Chinook salmon. Fish guided or self-guided, weighted rods or downriggers; Go with what you know! All entered fish are measured, scored, revived and carefully released by derby marshals. Guides may not touch the rod. It’s 3 exciting days of intense fishing effort, right down to the wire on the last day. More than once the winner was netted in the final hours of the derby! To spice up the competition a bit, there is one prize for largest killed salmon; often a strategic decision! With an entry fee of $2000 per angler the top prize has ranged from $40K to over $60K.
This year’s event, our 18th Annual, is our biggest yet, with the richest prize pool ever! It’s a highlight of the summer with over $100,000 up for grabs for anglers pursuing the largest Catch & Release salmon. Top prize for the largest salmon released will be minimum $50,000 and there are prizes for runners up as well as daily catch. It’s a party all weekend with special treatment from the food & beverage department as well! Tons of fun! At this time there are still a few spaces left so if you enjoy a little competition in your fishin’ you should give us a call today!