I get to fish with my dad a couple of times per year and I usually try to pick a different fishery each time so he gets to experience them all. At the age of 78, some of these fisheries have to be experienced now before he can’t physically do it anymore.
Today we spent the morning at Kawkawa Lake, where I already gave it a go on Monday with some success. While I was able to find some pretty thick schools on the sounder on Monday, only one fish was brought to the boat. It seemed like the bites were happening in the morning and tapering off after Noon, so today we decided to go with an early start, by arriving at the boat launch at 7:30am (well, that’s early in Rodney’s book).
I’ve been playing around with different ways to position my rod for better hook-set when mooching/bottom fishing for kokanee on the bottom. The bait is sitting on the bottom at 40 feet and straight down from the rod, so I want my rod to be sitting parallel to the water surface and slightly elevated so it’s close to my eye level. This way I can see those tiny bites better. Right now I am using a Scotty coaming/gunnel clamp mount on the side of my boat by my seat, which has a rod holder extender attached to it so the spinning rod holder is sitting about a foot higher than the edge of the boat.
There wasn’t a whole lot of activity between 8am and 9am. One other boat was out trolling and I managed to bring in one kokanee after a few fish went by on the sounder.
The show really started at 9am when fish started to show up on the sounder constantly. Whenever it happened, the rods would start getting nibbles. We used deli shrimp that has been cured with Pautzke Firecure (red). Only half or less of a shrimp is threaded onto the size 4 hook so the fish don’t have to chew on it for too long before being hooked.
We managed to get our limit of 8 fish by 10am, then the bite actually tapered off. Not sure if it was the sudden increase of boat activities on the lake, but they just kind of disappeared from the sounder. We packed it in at 10:30am to get away from the heat.
As we enter another new fishing licence year, some freshwater regulation changes have been implemented in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Region Two). Regulations are reviewed every year and some changes are often made to accommodate angling quality and conservation. Here are some major changes which you should be aware of before going fishing:
Night Time Fishing Closures
Until now, daylight only fishing regulations have only been limited to salmon in some streams. Starting on April 1st 2015, daylight only fishing will also apply to all species for the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River, Lower Pitt River and Harrison River. This means you can no longer fish at night from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
This change was first proposed late last year as a way to reduce poaching of white sturgeon, which often takes place at night. By having complete night time fishing closures in these three main systems where sturgeon fishing usually takes place, conservation officers hope to catch poachers more easily and see a significant reduction on sturgeon poaching.
The changes have been controversial because representatives of most sport fishing organizations have opposed it, believing this is yet another loss of sport fishing opportunities which the community will never get back. By having a blanket fishing closure, families can no longer enjoy fishing for other species such as Northern pikeminnow by the camp fire at night in the summer. Most of the poaching also take place in the tidal portion of the Fraser River (downstream from Mission, regulated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada), where it remains open for night time sturgeon fishing. It is hoped that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will soon follow these changes which the province has made, otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of this closure.
Releasing Big Wild Trout and Char in Selected Lakes
Wild trout and char over 50cm long now have to be released at Chehalis, Chilliwack, Cultus, Harrison, Lillooet Lakes. There has been very little understanding on the trout and char populations of these lakes, which are connected to the Lower Fraser River. Some have long believed that anadromous coastal cutthroat trout and bull trout travel between these lakes and the Fraser River.
A good example is this hatchery-marked cutthroat trout caught at Cultus Lake during the pikeminnow fishing derby several years ago (above photo). Hatchery-marked coastal cutthroat trout are only released in several Northern tributaries of the Lower Fraser River, therefore this fish must have travelled from one of these tributaries, through the Fraser River, up the Chilliwack/Vedder River before it reached the lake.
By requiring anglers to release large wild trout and char at these lakes, we can further protect the vulnerable anadromous trout and char stocks of the Lower Fraser River.
Ross Lake Brook Trout Retention
Until now, anglers are required to release all native char (bull trout) at Ross Lake where the Skagit River drains into. In recent years, brook trout, which have been stocked in a couple of lakes connected to Ross Lake in United States, have become more abundant. They can now be found in both Ross Lake and Skagit River when targeting rainbow trout and bull trout.
Biologists fear that these introduced fish will have a significant negative impact on the native fish populations, therefore retention of brook trout is now allowed at Ross Lake, up to five fish can be kept by one angler per day. The challenge now is to make sure anglers will identify the chars which they catch correctly. Bull trout and brook trout can look somewhat similar to those who have never caught them before. If bull trout are mistakenly retained, then this regulation change can potentially backfire.
Other Region Two regulation changes can be found in this PDF file (highlighted in blue in the water-specific table).
A few months ago, I was asked by Rod to host one of his upcoming video features, which entailed targeting winter steelhead in Port Alberni with Murphy Sportfishing. I had fished the Stamp and Sproat areas from shore many times before, so I thought it would be nothing new.
When we arrived at the West Coast River Lodge, however, my expectations for the trip changed. We were warmly greeted by our hosts Sean and Marnie, and both Rodney and I were extremely impressed by their hospitality, and the coziness of the lodge. The next morning we had an awesome breakfast awaiting us at 6:30am.
Shortly after, our guide Kevin, came to pick us up from the river bank behind the lodge in his 18ft jet boat. This I thought was very cool!
The first place we wanted to try fishing was the Sproat, one of the larger tributaries of the Stamp River. I was a little nervous at the beginning since I had to use a low profile baitcasting reel, which was much smaller than my conventional round baitcasting reel. The new set-up, however, later proved that would not hinder my casting, but instead it improved the fishing experience. The smaller reel made it easier for me to lock down when setting the hook on a fish – Thank you Rodney!
Kevin was confident with the spots that he wanted to show us, and only a few casts in we hooked up with a beautiful fresh winter fish. After several rolls near the surface the fish started to move below us. Bringing it back up was a little challenging especially against the fast current. Right when Kevin and I thought it was ready to be netted, the fish moved above the jet boat and popped off as soon as it went around a rock. I was still content, since I said to Rod at the beginning of the trip we would get at least three fish. 1 down, 2 to go!
Kevin was knowledgeable and encouraging the whole way through, which kept me persistent throughout the day. When we were jumping from spot to spot, he would point out where the fish would sit, and tell us why. This for me was one of my favourite parts of this filming experience. I know that fish like to hold in those slots, but I always struggled to fish them. When I was on the boat, however, they were so much easier to access, and I loved to see these areas of the river from a different point of view.
The next couple of hours of our trip was spent covering every slot, run, and pocket, until we approached the well known “Watty’s Pool.” Not only was this waterfall a barrier to our boat, it can be for the fish as well. So we decided to toss our lines in. After running bait, and gear through several times with no luck, we decided to work our way down river again. As we were leaving, Kevin saw a pod of steel scattering as we drove past. They were too smart, and camera shy I guess.
Just before we approached our next fishing spot, Kevin mentioned to Rod and I that this pocket was his go to spot on the river. I ran several casts in close, and then slowly worked my way out. Further was tricky since there were many branches looming over the edge of the river.
All it took was that one perfect cast through, and down went the float! Of course I missed it. Kevin and Rod agreed that I didn’t spook it, and suggested to run a pink worm through. First cast and fish on! This fish was feisty, and would not let us bring her in easily. After several minutes we managed to bring her aboard – a slightly blushed hatchery winter.
Nearing the end of our trip we were able to shake hands with a decent sized rainbow. As we were coming into the lower end of the river, Kevin told us that fish usually sit on these flat rocks. He was right. There was a grey ghost peacefully sitting there, but was not tempted by our offerings. I still thought it was pretty cool, and find it exciting to witness how the fish react.
After this trip with Murphy Sportfishing I can definitely say I am a more confident angler, and will take the tips Kevin gave me and apply them to my fishing practices. Thank you Murphy’s for showing me a new angle of a river I love.
Murphy Sportfishing offers guided winter steelhead fishing trips from a jet boat from December to April. Owners Dave and Marilyn have a team of experienced local guides who are familiar with the Stamp-Sproat-Somass system. Each boat can accommodate two anglers. Combine two days of fishing with the overnight lodge accommodation for a weekend get-away. Because the boat gives you more fishing time, trips like this are not just for experienced anglers, but also ideal for those who wish to learn the basics of steelheading.
The fall salmon fishing season for the Lower Fraser River tributaries usually begins in early September and peaks around mid October. By late October, it begins to taper off as less and less fish move into the systems. As fishing tapers off, angling pressure also decreases. November is in fact a very pleasant time to be fishing on a large popular river system like the Chilliwack/Vedder River. The lower river often sees small schools of chum salmon arriving with the tide. Unlike what most believe, these chum salmon can be rather chrome. Check out the above video which I shot in late November.
When I created Fishing with Rod’s YouTube channel in 2006, I could never have predicted how big this community would become. Our online videos, watched by millions of viewers from all over the world, have showcased this province’s sport fishing opportunities and connected us with many fabulous friends. The ability to interact with your viewers and other publishers has allowed us to constantly find new ideas and improve our content.
In the past few years, I discovered one particular channel hosted by two young anglers in the UK. Carl and Alex Smith, who are brothers, started documenting their fishing adventures a few years ago. Their unique style of story telling in the video has captured many viewers’ attention. Both brothers contacted me a couple of years ago asking about sturgeon fishing in BC. While they were excited to hear about what fisheries are available here, they were unable to make their way over.
This year, with the support from Tourism Chilliwack, Fred’s Custom Tackle, Fraserway RV and several partners, I had the opportunity to finally invite them over in October so they could experience the ultimate BC fishing adventure. We picked October because the peaks of the salmon and sturgeon fisheries overlap each other. I was extremely excited as I could work with two young aspiring videographers. At the same time, I wanted to capture the raw excitement from them when they caught their first sturgeon and salmon.
When they arrived in Vancouver in the third week of October, the weather did not exactly cooperate. Heavy rain was forecasted and I nervously hoped for stable river condition so we could get the job done. When producing a fishing video, the other main challenge is always rain, which isn’t exactly our cameras’ best friend.
Luckily, the weather was working with us throughout most of their stay. On day one we visited the Chilliwack River Hatchery, where Carl and Alex saw Pacific salmon for the first time. Both were blown away by the number of fish in the waterway because they thought we were only going to see a couple. Chinook, coho, chum salmon packed the channels as they were almost ready to spawn.
On day two, we woke up early and met my buddy Lang at Lang’s Fishing Adventures for a day of Fraser River sturgeon fishing. Because the tide was more favourable in the afternoon, we spent a few hours in the morning fishing for chum salmon first in the Stave River. Although most of the fish we caught were somewhat coloured, Carl and Alex were thrilled as they both caught their first salmon. There wasn’t a shortage of bites, but it took awhile for them to get used to as the float take-downs are somewhat different to the species they fish for back home.
That afternoon we began our search for white sturgeon, which can sometimes be a waiting game. Not this time, as the first fish was on the hook just ten minutes after we began fishing! Alex hooked the fish and was surprised by its strength. Instead of being able to reel it in, this fish pulled us downstream until it popped off when Alex handed the rod to Carl for a break. It was a rather big fish so we were a bit disappointed.
Both brothers probably thought that was going to be the only chance and they blew it, but little did they knew what was in store for them. We went on to hook into several more sturgeon that day. Alex’s first ever sturgeon was 2 feet long, but this was followed by a 5 feet long fish. Carl’s first fish was over 6 feet long, and by the end of the day we were able to land a couple more 5 and 6 footers beside losing two more big fish.
On day three I decided to leave Carl and Alex with Lang so I could have a break while preparing for the coho salmon fishing trips during the rest of their stay. Although both brothers were more than satisfied by their catches on the previous day, Lang, who is always obsessed with big fish, wanted to connect with an even bigger one.
The weather that day was disgusting. The easterly wind was strong, and I suspected that it was making anchoring along the Fraser River very difficult. Heavy rain arrived in the afternoon, so the miserable condition could not have been very motivating. By mid afternoon, I decided to phone and check in to get an update but no one answered. It was obvious that they were busy fighting a fish. One hour later, Lang phoned back and said, “We’re done!” The boys landed a fish of the lifetime! After battling for 1.5 hours, they brought a gigantic sturgeon to the beach, measured at 9 feet 11 inches long!
When I picked them up, I asked, “So how can you go fishing back home anymore after today?”
After two full days of muscle work-out, we spent the rest of their stay targeting my favourite species, coho salmon. Heavy rain had made Chilliwack River unfishable, so I decided to bring them to the Chehalis River in the Adventurer 4 motorhome from Fraserway RV. We camped overnight so we could have two days of fishing, which should be enough time to accomplish the task.
The goal was to catch a coho salmon by float fishing with freshly cured salmon roe. Upon our arrival in the afternoon, we could see many anglers having success from the morning outing. I spent the rest of that day making sure they were familiar with controlling a baitcasting reel when drifting roe down the river.
The following morning was a cool one. Rain had stopped falling and river level dropped a bit more. We emerged from the camper at dawn and continued our coho salmon quest. It took a couple of hours before the float finally dipped. Carl was slow on the hook-set, but luckily the fish stayed on as it had swallowed the bait. Within minutes his first ever coho salmon was landed. We decided to keep this silvery hatchery-marked fish for dinner. Alex was not as lucky, even though he managed to hook more fish than anyone else along the run. Three fish popped off his hook before the bites turned off.
We returned to the Chilliwack River on the following day as drier weather had made it more fishable. After trying out float fishing, I decided that we should give lure casting a go in some “frog water” which can be commonly found in the lower river. Coho salmon love to congregate in pools where river current is either slow or absent. The lures of our choice were 1/4oz Gibbs Croc spoons, which have worked for me in the past twenty years.
Being at the pool at first light is always key because fish are more easily spooked in still water. Our lure casting sessions were very successful! After spending three mornings in one particular pool, we were able to connect with a dozen fish.
Carl and Alex’s ten day visit in Chilliwack could not have worked out any better. Being able to land two species of salmon, numerous big white sturgeon including one going in the record book, is what keeps bringing anglers back to this world class sport fishing destination. Seeing how grateful the Smith brothers were and how excited they became each time they saw a fish, a bald eagle and the snow capped mountains, reminded me how often we are taking these opportunities for granted.
Carl and Alex’s 35 minute video feature is now available for viewing below. They have done a wonderful job on capturing what fishing is all about in Chilliwack. Be sure to also check out their YouTube channel and support these two talented boys’ work.