QCL anglers have enjoyed the best of both worlds recently with a return to our traditional summer westerlies but avoiding those big water days that can restrict access to the fishing grounds. The salmon action has been quite consistent with anglers fishing all their favourite spots from Green Point all the way back to the Mazzaredos. Bigger tides over the past week have helped to turn on “the bite” at various times of day and our guests are having good success with Chinook catches inshore. While we’re still seeing lots of teen-sized feeders there have definitely been more twenty-somethings and Tyee-class fish in the mix. The stretch of awesome Virago Sound shoreline from “the Mazz” around to Bird 2 has turned out a lot of good fish this season, especially over the past 10 days. Tim C, with his QCL guide Shawn Breau, did the dance with a powerful big Chinook at the Mazz last night before Shawn was able to get the net under it and finally have a good look. Tim knew this fish had to get to the river and easily decided to let him go. A couple of quick pics and Shawn soon had this beauty back on its way. Great work guys – Congratulations Tim!
The Tyee bell has certainly been noisy this week with quite a few big fish being celebrated, some released and some coming back to the dock. Reports of huge halibut catches are down recently with the bigger tides being a factor, but everyone is getting out to pick up some nice keepers to take home. The average is still around 15 pounds but we’re seeing several chunky ‘buts between 30 and 60 pounds on the scale every trip. Coho fishing has come on strong in the offshore waters and it doesn’t take long to pick up a few nice ones. We’re finding them from the 100 foot line all the way out to the Pinnacles and 250+ feet of water, fishing down 40-60 feet seems most consistent. Coho in the double-digits are becoming more common now and Scott N boated a beautiful 14-pounder last week, so those amazing & feisty Northerns are starting to show up. They have a huge fan club and we can’t wait to see more!
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
With the morning light just starting to dawn, my guests and I decided to leave the dock as early as possible. But we weren’t alone and one quick boat steered towards our fishing spot of choice. Fortunately they changed their minds and we got there with the spot untouched. With a purple dawn barely broken and not a breath of wind disturbing the waters, a magic hour was upon us. Our lines not yet in the water, we knew the bite was going to be swift upon us. “First boat, first pass!” I said to my guests. The first salmon we hooked immediately but she slipped the hook after steaming sideways next to the boat. We reset our lines and although there was a wait, we boated two nice Chinook salmon! Streaks on the sonar, calm water and the laughter created by the odd salmon biting our gear set the tone for the day. Excited to capitalize on our time on the water, we took advantage of a to-go order on the lunch boat, the M.V. Driftwood. Loaded with hot burgers cold beverages on the boat, we fished the day away, enchanted by the surrounding trees, waves, and rocks offered by the northern coast of Graham Island. Don’t worry, we topped the day off with a sighting of orcas dipping and fishing their way eastbound along the coast.
– Logan Allen
It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally ready to open the door for the 2020 season! We’re so excited about the excellent crew that we’ve assembled this summer. Training week has been a breeze with so many talented and enthusiastic young people looking forward to welcoming our guests. Last night our culinary team presented a delicious and varied new menu for the dining room that we’re sure will have you asking for some recipes!
Waterside, the action has been hot and heavy on the fishing grounds with plenty of bright chrome Chinook and Coho salmon in all the usual places… and yes, the Tyee bell has been ringing! Continuing our fleet replenishment, we have five brand new boats this year including the first three 21-footers which, I gotta say, are really sweet units!
All of our transportation this summer will be via direct fights between Prince Rupert and Naden Harbour. We have taken this extreme measure to ensure the safety and security of all the citizens of Haida Gwaii. In compliance with provincial regulations we’ve implemented protocols throughout the property to ensure everyone’s health and safety this summer.
The weekend weather is for light to moderate winds swinging between SE and SW with typical island weather… “a mix of sun and cloud with 40 percent chance of showers. High 15.” No matter how much things change, some things never do!
Our current e-newsletter is out this week with the latest updates on the goings on at QCL. With only 85 days to go before opening day (Wow!) everybody’s in high gear around here in preparation for our 30th season! If you don’t currently receive our e-news you can easily sign up from our website… there’s a little Newsletter form at the bottom of almost every page!
To read the current edition just click on this link: http://createsend.com/t/r-EB269230CB0F6A022540EF23F30FEDED
This week members of our sales team are attending the annual Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup; look for Roger, Craig and Kevin at Booth #621. We’ll be at the Pacific Northwest show in Portland on February 5-9. At the same time we’ll be in Reno for the big Safari Club International show. Remaining spaces for the 2020 season are going even more quickly now with show season in full swing. If you haven’t reserved your dates for this year you’d best not delay any longer!
Happy 2020! While the lodge is buttoned up for a long winter’s nap, we’re busy with plans to make our 30th season the best one ever! As we look forward to an exciting year ahead, we’re most thankful for the great relationships we have with all members of what we call the QCL family. Sharing time and experiences together up at the Lodge is a privilege that we truly appreciate.
The 2019 season was a very good one at QCL with memorable fishing, wonderful guests, terrific staff and mostly favourable weather. We’re well into the serious preparation phase for the 2020 season and the excitement level around here is definitely ramping up. Judging by the fantastic return bookings and the volume of new guests already committed to visit us this season, we’re going to have a very busy summer!
Members of our sales team are currently attending the annual Safari Club Convention in Dallas; look for Roger, Craig and Kevin at Booth #962. We’ll be at the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup later this month as well as the Portland show in February. At the same time we’ll be in Reno for the big Safari Club International show. Space for 2020 have sold notably faster than “normal” so if you haven’t reserved your dates for this year you’d best not delay any longer!