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September 7, 2021 Duane Foerter0

It’s fair to say that most anglers who travel to Haida Gwaii on a fishing trip dream of catching a big Chinook salmon, what we call a Tyee or, as our American friends like to say, “a big Kang”!  It’s easy to understand why.  In these cold northern waters, they are the kings, the royalty of the fish world!  Sleek and powerful and bright chrome silver, a large Chinook salmon over 30 pounds will certainly test the angler and their tackle.  And it’s never over until they’re lying in the bottom of the boat!

But if you ask these same anglers what fish they prefer on the dinner plate, the answer will often be halibut!  It might be the nice meaty texture, the brilliant whiteness when it’s cooked or the subtle, non-fishy flavour and aroma of fresh-cooked halibut that holds so much appeal.

In our early days when we used smaller boats and engines, we had no technology like depth sounders and GPS.  The halibut tackle was pretty light duty, and most anglers didn’t want to spend much time hunting for halibut.  In fact, many halibut were caught as bycatch while mooching with a weighted rod for salmon!   We’ve always been spoiled in Virago Sound, the halibut fishing is never too far from shore and anglers would make a quick run out to the “chicken coop” on the 180-foot line. They’d drop a herring down to the bottom and, in short order, they’d have their two fish limit – enough to keep a promise to their partner at home – and then it was back to working the kelp beds for that big Chinook.

But how the world has changed!  We used to use very rough triangulation to remember our halibut holes – line up that big old spruce snag with that point over there and stay even with that big rock on the beach, and you should be close to “the spot!” Well… maybe!

Nowadays we’ve planted so many X’s on the water that pretty well everyone has their own, favourite halibut hole!  Modern depth sounders synchronize with apps on your smartphone to actively upload depth and structure data to the cloud.  The detailed maps created of the seafloor have revealed a whole new underwater world, out beyond the kelp beds.  Sea mounts, pinnacles, rock piles and gravel benches provide habitats for all different species of fish and affect the tidal currents and feeding areas for baitfish.  What was, not long ago, a great, invisible, underwater mystery, is now a seascape for exploration and discovery.

We have lots of guests up here every trip who are quite happy to spend most of their time offshore doing just that.  We have larger, safer and more comfortable boats and tackle that can handle the proverbial “barn door” halibut.  We’re also able to find other species like lingcod and Pacific cod.  All of these fish are well managed and the limits are kept low to prevent overfishing of the stocks. And, of course, just because you know where they should be, doesn’t mean you’re going to catch them!  Afterall, it’s still called fishing… not catching!

All that being said, here’s a good fish story…

On Saturday morning, Curtis, Jen and Colin were salmon fishing, self-guided, near the Mazzaredo Islands. This is a location, well inside Virago Sound, where the water depth ranges between 30 and 70 feet.  It’s been very productive salmon water for much of the summer, so they were trolling for Chinook salmon with cut-plug herring.  Curtis had just rigged a new herring and tossed it into the water to set up the downrigger.  As the herring started to sink, he noticed some movement below it and leaned over to have a better look… just in time to see the dark shadow open up to reveal a huge white mouth that inhaled his shiny herring!  The shadow moved alongside the boat and then back down, flipping a wide brown tail that had to be 18-inches across!  In shock, Curtis grabbed the rod from the holder and hung on.  The sounder said 32-feet, so the giant fish couldn’t sound too far!  But the hook was in its mouth and the 11-foot mooching rod was soon arched over in a half-circle with the line singing tight.  Typically, a battle with a halibut is a weight-lifting exercise, with a short, 6-foot pool cue of a rod that bends a little at the tip.  It’s often a straight lift with lots of give and take and usually happens in 200-300 feet of water, so there’s lots of lifting to do!  In such shallow water Curtis’s fish had nowhere to go but out, so he held on as best he could while his boat-mates stowed the downriggers and made ready to chase down this sea monster.  Fortunately for them, the tug-o-war was over in about 15-minutes as Curtis was able to maneuver the huge halibut alongside their boat; quite a feat considering the noodly salmon rod!  They used another salmon rod as a measuring stick and after several attempts concluded that this giant was about six and a half feet long – 79 inches in length!  It was in no mood to have anyone poking around in its mouth to retrieve the barbless bronze salmon hook so they cut the line after taking a few photos and the giant halibut disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived!  A look at the IPHC Halibut Chart revealed that this big female weighed about 265 pounds!  Considering where halibut usually live, Curtis’s opportunity to witness this giant take the bait was a rare occasion indeed.  While it’s not unusual for us to catch halibut, even big ones, in close to shore like this, we’ve never seen one this big actually brought to the boat.  Well done Curtis, Jen and Colin!  Surprises like this keep us all interested and excited to get out on the water any chance we can!


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August 10, 2021 Duane Foerter0

A challenging but very rewarding fishery here at Queen Charlotte Lodge is the search for lingcod near the underwater peaks and shelves that litter the ocean floor. Feeding on the flood, these aggressive predators snap at nearby bait and lures alike with their powerful jaws and gripping front teeth. Nothing prepares you for the first time you haul up a large ling-dinger and see the head emerge out of the dark depths as you crank away on your sturdy Avet saltwater reel!

Before coming to work at QCL in 2017, most of my saltwater fishing experience consisted of chasing around small lingcod with buzzbombs in the inshore waters of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast region. From my dad, I learned to gut and clean my catch, and how to carefully separate the filets from the carcass. We’d cook the ling with lemon and butter, perhaps some parsley or tarragon if we were feeling adventurous.

Just as my lingcod fishing has evolved, so too has my culinary technique; in the kitchen today, we don’t just stop at lemon, butter and herbs for our lingcod dish. Inspired by similar latitudes on the other side of the North Pacific, the lingcod dish I chose to serve at QCL fuses local line-caught lingcod with Japanese ingredients and techniques for a dish packed with flavour and steeped with memories.

We start by making the tentsuyu broth, which is a slightly sweet Japanese broth commonly served with fried tempura items like tofu, vegetables or ebi. The broth starts with simmering shitake mushrooms, to which we add kombu (a dried kelp), mirin (sweet cooking wine), rice wine vinegar and tamari (gluten free soy sauce). Once these ingredients have begun to release their impressive flavours, we briefly add and steep some katsuobushi (dried and smoked bonito flakes). After ten minutes we remove the bonito and simmer the broth for another thirty minutes. The combination of kombu, katsuobushi, and mushrooms imparts an intense umami flavour. Umami is that meaty, savoury mushroomy-anchovy-raw tuna hard to quantify but “you know it when you taste it” taste.

Once our broth is prepared, the rest of the dish comes together quite quickly. Into a hot blue-steel pan we add a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, chosen for its neutral flavour and relatively high smoke point. Our lingcod filet is then slid into the hot pan, with the side first touching the pan intended to be our presentation side once all the cooking is complete. After a few minutes, gently flip the lingcod, and reduce the heat to the pan to just cook the fish through to medium-moist. You don’t want to overcook this lean white fish!

In another hot pan we start a brief sauté of sofrito (onions, garlic, and olive oil), into which we add a season mix of mushrooms, including chanterelles, baby king oyster, maitake (hen of the woods) and shimeji, as well as five Salt Spring Island mussels. After one minute, we add three halved fingerling potatoes which have been braised with some of the tentsuyu broth sous vide (under vacuum) in an immersion circulator. The potatoes are packed with that umami flavour and form the base for the plating of the dish. A short simmer with some vegetable stock under a lid to open the mussels and heat the potatoes through and we are ready to plate.

Into a wide bowl we evenly distribute the halved potatoes, forming a base upon which we can build some height and drama for the finished dish. Naturally allow the mushrooms to fall around the potatoes, settling into the bottom of the bowl. The mussels are placed around the potatoes, showcasing the delicious bite within each shell. On top of this umami platform, we place the just-cooked lingcod filet, crispy golden side up.

The final stage of the dish involves the garnishes, of which there are three. First, we do a quick pickle of thinly sliced radish, just a minute or so in a combination of rice wine vinegar, mirin and a touch of Maldon salt (a large-flaked English sea salt). As the radishes are absorbing the slightly sweet and acidic pickle, we quickly dip a cluster of enoki mushrooms and a few slices of wakame or yakinori (both types of seaweed packed with umami) in a loose tempura batter, and quickly fry them until crispy and golden brown. A quick toss in some house made furikake (a Japanese spice mix consisting of bonito flakes, seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar and salt) and our crispy nori and mushroom hay is ready to crown the piece of fish. The radishes are naturally set up against the other ingredients to showcase their colour contrast and provide some freshness, as well as some balance to the other flavours.

Once we have assembled the stacked potatoes, mussels, mushrooms, seared fish, and garnished with our pickles and crispy components, the last thing to do is to pour some piping hot tentsuyu broth into the bottom of the bowl. The heady aromas, intense layers of umami, seared and flaky white fish, lightly pickled radish, and fun and frivolous crispy tempura garnish are all essential parts to one of my favourite, and deeply personal, dishes on the QCL menu this year.

QCL Chef Chris Green


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June 21, 2019 Duane Foerter0

Barn Door Halibut at QCLAs 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!

QCL salmon fishingThe 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.


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June 14, 2019 Duane Foerter2

An escape to this remote corner of the world is on the wish list for a lot of people, and for good reason!  It’s definitely an angler’s paradise; those gorgeous chrome-bright salmon sure make an impression on you!  The wilderness seascapes of the fishing grounds are literally overflowing with an abundance of life –both above and below the surface.  Sharing a breath of salt sea air with a feeding humpback whale just a rod’s length off your boat is a sure testament to that – especially while you’re reeling in a nice lingcod off the other side!

Guests staying with us this week got to experience all that and more. Among our guests we were thrilled to host Kevin Costner and his family who were able to enjoy the QCL Experience with us.  We’re so pleased that we were able to show them some beautiful BC wilderness along with some warm QCL hospitality. While they’re returning home with a nice box of fish we hope that their whole family takes along many fond memories of their visit here.

June fishing continues to be very productive with good numbers of Chinook salmon in all weight classes.  Sixteen lucky anglers got to ring the Tyee bell over the past 4 days, celebrating what most would consider the fish of a lifetime. But like we always say, there so much more to it than just fishing!


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June 7, 2019 Duane Foerter0

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 salmon fishingQCL 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!
QCL salmon fishingThis 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.QCL Haida Gwaii


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June 5, 2019 Duane Foerter0

QCL salmon fishingAfter 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. QCL salmon fishing

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!QCL salmon fishingQCL salmon fishing


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October 4, 2018 Duane Foerter0

Thanksgiving Weekend is coming!
Enjoy some of that delicious white fish you caught this summer! Lingcod and halibut provide some of the tastiest seafood you can find anywhere and we are always catching them up at QCL.  They’re so versatile and can be prepared a hundred different ways.  While you maybe planning for a turkey dinner this weekend, we recommend white fish for lunch!  Here’s a nice light recipe – perfect for a family gathering. ( from our latest cookbook, A Taste Of QCL Vol2 )

Cedar Plank Halibut

 


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June 8, 2018 Duane Foerter0

Our first week of the new season has been a terrific introduction of new programs, some new staff and many new guests to QCL. It’s been exciting to watch it all unfold; guests and staff alike are having lots of fun.  Steak & Lobster dinners in the Bell Ringer, hand rolled sushi while you wait in the Kingfisher Lounge, and after dinner treats at the campfire while watching all the activity on the dock, are some of the little details that we’re enjoying this summer.

QCL Bell RingerOn the water, the fishing action has been well distributed around the grounds, with early morning salmon bites at Cape Edenshaw and offshore bottom fishing around the slack tides.  While salmon action is improving steadily and we’ve seen our first Tyee of the summer ( a nice 30-pounder for Larry D.) we’re still waiting for the volume and size of fish we are accustomed to at this time of year.  They’re starting to get them on the west side now with several teen-sized Chinooks coming from favourite points like Bird 2, Eagle Rock and Yatze.

But the big story this week was bottom fishing, with the 2ndAnnual Jig-A-Pig Derby QCL Halibut fishinghappening.  Not a C&R event, the largest halibut available could measure no longer than 115 cm, so there was a lot of effort from participants to get close to the magic number!  They found several fish that were too big, 3 of them over 100 pounds and quite a few between 50 and 100.  But the winner turned out to be a fish scoring 113 cm and weighing 39.2 pounds for Doug W, fishing self-guided with his partner Scott P.  Lingcod are plentiful on our fishing grounds as well and there are a number of keen veterans who love to bounce a jig around the deep water (200-300 ft) structure out there.  They found good quantities of teen-sized and twenty-something lingcod but a toothy giant that weighed in at 40.4 pounds for Eric H. was the fish that took the prize, with a little help from his fishing partner John F and guide Mark Kasumovich.

Lingcod at the Bell RingerA big thank you goes out to all who QCL Jig-a-Pig Derbyparticipated and to those who came out on top, Congratulations!  The excitement of jigging in 250 feet of water and never knowing for sure what’s going to come up is addictive and we’re happy to see such enthusiasm every season!  We look forward to seeing everyone back again for some fun in 2019!


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April 24, 2018 Duane Foerter0

In case you missed it, we made an appearance on local TV this week.  Hospitality Manager Jin Chong was under the bright lights on Monday morning at Vancouver Global TV, sharing a tasty lingcod recipe.  It’s all part of a current promotion series we’re doing with PostMedia.  There’s a trip for two up for grabs with Global TV running this week thru Sunday April 29th.  You can enter online on the Global TV contest page.

The studio was filled with the fantastic aroma of soya, ginger, garlic, sake, sugar and seared lingcod filet!  That’s for good reason as Jin’s recipe is Ginger Soy Lingcod with Dungeness Lo Mein – and it is delicious!  Here a link to the video lesson and the recipe!  https://globalnews.ca/news/4162566/ginger-soy-lingcod-with-dungeness-lo-mein-recipe/

This recipe is also included out new cookbook, available at the lodge this summer, A Taste of QCL 2.  Here’s the recipe in the cookbook:

A Taste of QCL