Halibut fishing has become more popular than ever at QCL and with good reason. “Back in the day” most of our guests picked up a couple of random halibut while mooching for salmon and they were happy with that; not going offshore to jig for halibut meant more time for catching salmon! With the introduction of GPS mapping of the fishing grounds many anglers have found their own favourite fishing holes and return to them year after year. Releasing all of those big breeding females over 75-pounds has been a good thing too. As a result, many QCL guests make fishing for halibut and lingcod a priority during their stay.
We know that there are some big fish out there; some really big fish. It’s not unusual for us to see a number of halibut in excess of 100-pounds released every week. And sometimes they are massive – over 6-feet in length. Well last week, working with some largish tides, lodge guest Derek Benson and his father spent some time in a couple of boats with friends, fishing offshore in the hunt for a big halibut. They tried out a few of our favourite waypoints but found their best luck over a hump 215 feet down. There was a fair bit of excitement when they returned to the lodge and shared their many photos and videos of the results!
Derek tells the story pretty well!
“We pulled up to our GPS mark at “Hali-wood”, knowing we were in a good spot from the sizable halibut lost there the day before. Dropping back down to the same spot, my Dad hooks up. Thirty minutes later we are cheering over the 254 lb. halibut lying alongside of the boat. I had laid my 7-foot rod down to her and it was 6” short of the tip. After a quick release, I reset on the GPS mark and dropped the same jig back down. The fight started as I was adjusting the Lowrance sounder with one hand and jigging the rod with my other. After 15 minutes of not raising the halibut up an inch, I asked my Dad to get the boat in gear and start circling around her. My plan was to get momentum on the halibut to help angle her up, rather than trying to lift her straight up, with the boat in neutral. An hour later (and 30 corkscrews later!) we gasp in disbelief at the width and length of this fish. Again I laid my 7-foot rod on top of the fish, and there was still nearly a foot of fish extending past the rod! It then took another 30 minutes to unhook it and 3 more times to the surface. I was using my Shimano Teramar rod and Shimano Talica 16 2-speed, a tuna setup but multi-purpose. Measuring out to 94 ½ inches it converted to 474 lb. on the IPHC chart. This was definitely the fish of a lifetime, and I’m happy to say, it was safely released.”
Congratulations to Derek and his crew on a great angling achievement! Two years ago we recorded a fish for Bruce Severson and George Best that measured out to 90 inches in length for a score of 405 pounds and we doubted that we would ever see another fish in that league. This one certainly is and we’ll be happy to add Derek’s 474-pounder to the QCL record book! We’ve seen a lot of great fish up here and we’re always in awe of the quality of our fishery! Every time a new record is set, we’re happy to celebrate it!
As we button up the lodge for the long wet winter months ahead, it’s time to take stock of our 25th season in Naden Harbour. It was indeed exceptional in many ways. Several weeks of warm dry weather from mid-May thru late June was cause for some concern as much of the province was under water restrictions and fire watch. It was a reminder that even up here in the “misty isles” we can’t take anything for granted. While the staff were thrilled at the beautiful summer conditions, the return to “normal” in July provided welcome relief for the operations department.
June fishing is distinguished by feisty feeder Chinooks but this year the numbers were outstanding! Lots of anglers had their butts kicked by 15-pound Chinooks and loved every minute of it! When you can catch & release 40 or 50 fish like that in a day, you’ve got some stories to tell!
Halibut… never have we seen better halibut fishing. There were no shortage of nice chickens for the fish box and for those seeking something heavier to haul up, we were always finding new bumps and ridges out in 220 to 330 feet that provided those larger fish in the 30-60 pound class. As for barn doors, best year ever by far! Fifty-two fish over 100 pounds, 10 of them over 200! The QCL record was broken twice this year with a 277 pounder for Dave Bossons and of course, we won’t forget the massive fish hauled up by Bruce, George and Kraig that taped out to 405!
While the early season Coho fishing was pretty standard we didn’t see the usual abundance of Coho in July & August. Whether that was a migration thing or some other issue, we’ll be anxious to hear from the DFO scientists’ reports this fall.
Chinook fishing, on the other hand, was pretty reliable. Adapting to tides and weather, we were always able to find them. The Tyee count was up noticeably from last year and so was the “big fish” count for those over 40. We saw more new members of the 50 Pounder Club this year, eight of these coming in August! Two fish over 60 were landed this summer and one beautiful giant was released by Trevor Malley on July 30th that measured to 78 pounds! All in all, an incredible fishing season.
Sending out a huge THANK YOU to our QCL crew who did an outstanding job this year! It was our busiest season ever and this great team not only succeeded in sending our guests home happy… they flourished! What an awesome group of people to spend the summer with, it was truly a pleasure to share every day with you!
And to our guests, we hope you enjoyed it at least as much as we did! This is such an incredible part of the world and we’re blessed to be here. Sharing in your excitement and enthusiasm is why we’re here.
Thank you for choosing Queen Charlotte Lodge. We hope you came away with wonderful memories and amazing stories to share with friends and family as you enjoy those tasty meals of fish that you caught yourself! Of course we’ve already started preparing for next season so we’d like nothing better than to have you come back again! Until then, keep an eye on our website and social media for updates and all the latest news of what’s happening at QCL!
As we fish well into the month of August, big Chinooks are a pretty constant presence on the fishing grounds! QCL anglers are doing very, very well. Parker Point, Cape Naden and the Mazzaredo Islands seem to be producing most consistently, perhaps because that’s where most people are fishing! We’re getting them on both sides of the tides and at depths ranging from 70 feet on the rigger to 8 pulls on the back rod! Herring and anchovies have been producing equally well and we have guides who only fish with spoons outfishing lots of others!
While we’re generally picking up beautiful 20-25 pound Chinooks and 8-10 lb coho for the fish box we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of really big fish in recent weeks and we’re pleased to say that most of these have been released. Those heavy giants over 40 pounds are really something special and we saw another 16 of them recorded this past week… plus 5 more over 50! Hawaiian teenager Julian K, up for the first time with his dad, was fishing with QCL guide Leon Shaw when Julian reeled in the fish of the week, a stunning big Chinook that taped out to 60 pounds before Leon carefully revived and released it! What a start to your Haida Gwaii fishing resume Julian!
Fishing with guide Alistair Bryce last week, Gavin P released 35 and 55 pounders and his buddy Jake G turned back a nice 42 pound Tyee! On Saturday Tony C released a hefty Chinook at Klashwun Point that measured to 54 pounds. And it was the fishing day of a lifetime for Dillon M, out with guide Tegan Baxter, who landed not one, but two fish over 50 pounds on the same day! About an hour after releasing a huge Chinook that taped out to 50 pounds, they hooked another, even larger fish. This one scored 55 pounds and placed Dillon in the record books as one of a select few to have done so well. Congratulations to all QCL anglers who have seen some of their fishing dreams come true!
The weekend weather forecast looks like light winds out of the west to northwest and mixed skies. Tides will be moderately large with swings of around 12 feet.
Can you say 78 pounds! What a fish! Getting up early to fish that 6:30 tide paid off big time for Trevor and Brad, out with Robbie C this morning at Parker Point. A beautiful fish, well played and carefully released, is a joy to behold! Well done guys! and Congratulations Trevor! It’s a great day for fishing… at QCL Haida Gwaii!
We don’t have the answer to that question but over the years we sure have come to know a few of these fanatical anglers! They are on a perpetual quest, ever hoping to outdo their best catch. Some of these characters become fishing guides and take their quest to the next level – hoping to produce a better result every time they go on the water.
Such is the case with QCL guide Kraig (KoneZone) Coulter, a seasoned professional guide with years of experience fishing in northern Ontario, Alberta and here in Haida Gwaii. And when matched up with guests of a similar mindset, a perfect storm of fishing effort erupts! They are always the first on the water and the last boat in. The weather is not a factor and the sea conditions only make them more determined.
On the weekend Kraig was fishing with a couple of fellows from Montana; Bruce Severson and George Best are two great guys that have been up here to see us several times. They’ve shared some fabulous days on the water together. It’s no coincidence that Bruce (and Kraig) landed the largest salmon at QCL last year, a stunning chrome Chinook that taped out to 68 pounds!) Saturday afternoon was blustery, winds out of the northwest at around 15 knots and the air just a little misty. Four kilometers offshore at Kraig’s favourite halibut hole, the sea was rolling slightly with a bit of chop on top. High tide had passed and the ebb was underway. They had dropped down 295 feet on either side of the boat, a traditional jig on one side and a 16/0 circle hook baited with the head of a pink salmon on the other. While Kraig back-trolled to hold the boat in position, Bruce and George bounced the bait just off the bottom.
Bruce’s salmon head setup hooked up first, the rod dipping sharply as something far below took hold and tried to take off with it. The take was so strong that he had to rest the grip of the 6-foot heavy action rod on the gunwale of the boat so he didn’t get hauled overboard! Halibut tend to inhale their food, sucking it into their mouth for a taste before actually biting on. The salmon head passed the taste test and Bruce was holding on tight as the 80 pound Tuffline surged off of the reel. Adjusting the drag to slow it down only confirmed that they were messing with a serious fish down there! The rod arched over the side and Bruce’s back was already feeling the strain of what was going to be a long battle! After 15 minutes of give and take, it was time to share the load and Kraig took the rod to give Bruce a break. He was able to get some line up but the fish was still far from the surface. George took his turn and after reeling through the 3-man roster a few times, they finally saw a huge dark shadow begin to appear below the boat. Kraig called the Fishmaster to standby in case they needed assistance. After 90 minutes of a hard fought tug-of-war the massive green-brown head of a giant halibut broke the surface. The first thing they noticed was the precarious state of the big circle hook, looped through the fish’s lip like the boldest piercing. They had no idea how that little strip of skin, perhaps a half inch thick, could hold up against the strain they put on that fishing line! Once they’d seen the fish Kraig called on Shooter to get out there for some photos to capture the event. During the 15 minute wait the halibut began to descend and they decided not to test it too much for fear of breaking it off. With Shooter on the scene with the camera, it took them another 30 minutes of tough pulling to bring it back to the surface.
Kraig has a bit of a reputation for catching big “butts” but this fish was extraordinary. The head was absolutely huge and it’s wide open mouth looked like it could swallow a football! It rolled over to its white side and suddenly the enormity of this halibut was plain to see. As he carefully led the giant alongside the 24-foot aluminum boat, he knew that this fish was well beyond the size of any halibut he’d ever seen before. Of course, every fisherman wants to know how big his fish is and these guys were especially curious. How do you describe a catch like this? Fortunately there is a chart published by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), formulated from logged commercial halibut catches, that gives us an indication of the weight of a halibut based on it’s length.
The obvious challenge… how to measure a barn-door-sized fish, held on the surface by only a little hook through a thin strip of skin? At any moment this fish could easily break off with a twist of its giant body in the water. Amazingly, this particular giant was extremely well behaved. Eventually they were able to get it horizontal alongside the boat and, after inconclusive attempts with the harpoon shaft, and the net handle, they decided to put a line on its tail and hopefully hold it flat. That took some doing but finally they managed to get a rope over the tail, which was 22 inches across! While Bruce held its tail just under the water and Kraig (with fingers crossed) managed the head with the circle hook, George used a salmon rod as a measuring stick. Flexing the rod to follow the curve of the fish, they marked the spot on the rod and then measured with the tape.
The number they got was “off the chart” that is stocked in QCL boats so they measured again to double check. Stretched alongside them was a halibut 90 inches in length! Seven and a half feet! That was a full 10 inches longer than the current lodge record fish, landed just a month earlier. They had no idea what the weight would be but the 80-inch fish was 277 pounds. Not until they arrived back at the lodge would the internet tell them their halibut would weigh approximately 405 pounds!
With measurements and photos completed it was time to let this big female return to the depths. She could produce about 4 million eggs when she spawns next winter! With Bruce on the tail line Kraig easily removed the circle hook from the halibut’s lip. There was a moment of hesitation but once that great head pointed toward the deep there was no stopping this fish! Like a giant spring the fish’s body flexed and Bruce’s grip on the rope let go. The tail slapped the surface like a humpback whale, splashing water everywhere, and the rope briefly followed, singing over the gunwale as this gentle giant made her way towards the bottom. What a fabulous moment to share on the water! The three exhausted anglers sat back and reflected on what they had just experienced. It was the stuff of dreams, a fish they could not have imagined crossing paths with! And yet it was over, the halibut returned to her place down below and the men left with memories and a story to share for the rest of their days. I guess that’s what it is with fishermen.