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!
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.
Northwesterly winds have definitely set the tone over this past week, directing the fishing effort to the sheltered shorelines south and east from Klashwun Point. Fortunately we’re finding some pretty nice Chinooks while combing along the kelp beds and rocky points. There have been opportunities to get offshore and pick up some Coho and Halibut as well, but some sizeable tide action can make that a challenge much of the time. The odd twist is that we usually enjoy a pile of big blue sky with these winds but that’s been pretty spotty most days too!
The Tyee bell was getting some action on most nights last week with several Chinooks and halibut tipping the scale over that magic 30 mark. John R kicked the party off with a 30-pounder, repeating his Tyee Club appearance from last year. Brian K added a 30 on Wednesday along with Jordan C who boated a 32 and Laurence H who’s 37-pounder was the big salmon of the day. Matt C came close, however, with a 34 lb Tyee, but he seriously proved his skills with the 41 lb halibut that he weighed right after that! That’s a nice day on the water!
The winds let up nicely on Tuesday and the halibut fishers responded! We saw lots of flatties on the dock with several perfect specimens ranging from 30 to 42 pounds. Rob G missed the cutoff however with a big one that taped out to 86 pounds!
Thursday proved fruitful for salmon hunters with more Tyee catches recorded. John P shared the thrill of the Tyee with his 2 sons, boating a stunning 31-pound Chinook. Makenna C got the day off to a great start at Bird 2 when she caught & released a beauty that taped out to 36 pounds! Fishing with his guide Trevor Harris, Clark H worked the shoreline religiously and was rewarded with two fine Tyee catches – at 31 and 33 pounds! And off the outer face of Bird 2 at afternoon slack, veteran QCL anglers Carol H and her husband Andy connected with the big salmon of the week, a hefty Tyee that thrilled the Bell Ringer crowd at 42 pounds! The average size is creeping up steadily for both Chinook and Coho salmon over the past couple of weeks, and we’re really pleased to see so many chunky Coho in the 10-12 pound range! Let’s see what happens this week!
You can feel the excitement throughout the entire lodge right now. The past few days have included some steady winds from the northwest, which has brought the entire fishing grounds to life. The birds are everywhere, having a hard time deciding which bait ball to dive on. Humpback whales are working together, scooping up massive mouthfuls of fish as they move across the grounds. On top of all this, the fishing has picked up significantly.
The past few days have seen some of the best chinook fishing of our season so far. It appears as though a new wave of fish has started to push its way across our grounds. Multiple Tyee’s are starting to be caught, and we just had the first 40 lb Chinook caught of the season. Fish are still being caught offshore in the deeper water, but the inshore fishing has really improved over the last couple of days. Most of the salmon are still being picked up around the slack tides; however, as the tidal differences continue to decrease, the fish seem to be biting a little more consistently throughout the day. On top of all this, the Coho have started to show up in little pockets scattered across the halibut grounds.
Halibut fishing has also been getting better and better. The smaller “chicken” halibut have been plentiful as always, but some absolutely massive halibut have been caught on the grounds as of late. Some of them have even been found in some pretty unexpected places. Last trip my guests and I were trolling around Cape Naden looking for a chinook. We were working in tight to the kelp bed when all of a sudden the back rod started to scream out line. It wasn’t long into the fight when my guests and I realized something fishy was going on. After the initial “run”, the fish just stayed down on bottom. Every time we gained a couple of yards of line, it took them right back with a single pull. Finally, after about a 30 minute fight, we got it to the surface. It measured out to a 100 lb halibut. The thrill of seeing a fish that big never gets old, and to reel it up on a salmon rod with 30 lb test makes it that much more impressive!
You really never know what you are going to see each and every day up here. We truly have the coolest office in the world.
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!