British Columbia Fishing Blog

Fishing Trip Stories, Video Blog, Website Updates...

Welcome to our fishing blog, which takes you along on our fishing trips around British Columbia. This is also where we provide you updates on changes to our website and other related projects.

Halibut Fishing from Pedder Bay

Published on June 10th, 2015 by Rodney

Several years ago I was introduced to halibut fishing on Vancouver Island, and this has become one activity which I look forward to every summer. Beside having a chance to haul up a rather big fish from the deep sea, a big appeal of this fishery is tasting a piece of delicious halibut steak afterward. At $20+/lb, what’s better than catching your own and eating fish that is much fresher than the ones bought from the stores?

This spring, we decided to take a trip out with Sea Ghost Fishing Charters, which is based at Pedder Bay Marina just outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Originally, we were going to do our trip in April but the last minute cancellation due to gale-force wind left us pretty disappointed. We rescheduled the trip and headed over to this week, and the weather couldn’t have worked out better. Stable, sunny weather meant a relatively calm sea. We just needed the fish to cooperate!

Tagging along with me were Kitty and Jessica, who both work at the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and are avid freshwater anglers. Kitty has done several saltwater trips since last year but Jessica has never been fishing in the ocean before.

Pedder Bay Marina

Tucked in between Victoria and Sooke, Pedder Bay is a quiet inlet where summer vacationers can bring their RV and boat for a long stay. The marina has direct access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where fishing for both halibut and salmon can be productive throughout most of the year. At 6:00am, we met up with our guide Gord Gavin, who is a seasoned angler in the area and owner/operator of Sea Ghost Fishing Charters. The boat ride from the bay to the fishing spot only took around 20 minutes. A thin layer of fog could be seen in the far horizon, a light breeze could be felt from the West but the clear sunny sky told us that it was going to be a fabulous day.

Once the anchor was set, Gord tied the rods up with Gibbs Delta Tackle’s halibut rigs, which include a spreader bar separating the large weight and the leader. The hooks of choice were circle hooks, which are designed for these fish to hook themselves once they ingest the bait. The hooks were decorated with Hali Hawg grubs, which were then accompanied by a variety of bait including octopus, mackerel and salmon pieces. Three rods were set up and each had one type of bait rigged up in case one was preferred over the other.

Jessica watching the rods

Kitty Enjoying the Halibut Trip

Gord explained that the best time for halibut fishing is in fact when the tide is running. Our goal was to fish until the tide peaked and hope the bite would come on. It is a waiting game, the scent has to travel, drawing those hungry halibut to the bait. Once the bait settled on the bottom, we anticipated for some bites right away but that never happened. The first two hours went by without any action, but Gord was very confident. “It will happen.”, he said. Trusting his decades of experience, we sat patiently and stared at the rod tips.

Shimano Trevala Rods, the Best for Halibut Fishing

The tidal current eventually picked up as we approached its peak, so our weights were no longer settling on the bottom as much. Gord worked hard to keep the bait close to the bottom where the fish are usually feeding, by letting line out once every few minutes. His persistence was finally paid off, when one of the rods showed some signs of life just before the tide peaked.

Gord instructed us to be patient as the fish would hook itself on the circle hook. It initially gave the rod a couple of quick taps but left the bait alone for a few minutes. It then returned to chomp on the bait a few more times. This repeated for almost ten minutes until it finally committed. The rod arched in the rod holder and gave it the signature halibut head shake. Gord took the rod out of the holder, handed to Jess who was both excited and nervous. With 600ft of line out, it was going to be a long battle!

Unlike salmon, halibut do not usually run as they are brought up from the deep. The fish gave Jess a few head shakes as it came up. Gord said once these fish reach around the 60ft depth mark, they usually start fighting more due to exposure to more light. Sure enough, the fish began to pull harder as it got closer to the boat, putting Jess to work even harder. With 550ft of line reeled in, she was already quite exhausted. As the fish reached the surface, the sore arms were long forgotten, both Jess and Kitty were screaming with joy. Who wouldn’t be when you were about to land the biggest fish of your lifetime!

The most critical part of the fight is when the fish reaches the surface, because the brute force of these giant flatfish is hard to control. Gord first gaffed the fish while it swam beside the boat, dispatched it and finally secure it with a rope. The fish weighed in at 36lb, which was the perfect size for eating.

Jessica's First Halibut!

The celebration didn’t last long as the second rod began to bend soon afterward. Unlike the first fish, this one did not hesitate and began peeling line out while the rod was still in the holder. Gord handed the rod to Kitty, who last year caught her first halibut already. Instead of fighting the fish while the rod sat in the holder like last year, she decided to try the lift and retrieve method. Kitty was slightly luckier, the tide was not as strong anymore so there was less line to reel in.

Kitty Fighting a Halibut

It was still exhausting apparently, because Kitty’s legs were shaking once the fish reached the surface. It was a slightly smaller fish, weighing in at 33lb. The harvested pair already made this an excellent trip and we had only been fishing for four hours.

Kitty Holding the Halibut by the Boat

Gaffing and Roping the Halibut

With two fish retained, Gord sent the rods down to the deep again hoping to get another one. Unfortunately the rest of the halibut lost their appetite. We managed to bring in a nice size rockfish before ending the trip at Noon.

Rockfish

A Keeper from the Crab Trap

Once we returned to the marina, a crowd of tourists was excited to see our fine catches. Fresh halibut within 20 minute boat ride from shore, we were definitely spoiled!

A "Chicken" Size Halibut

Guide Gord Gavin Cleaning and filleting Halibut

A Pair of Big Halibut

Many thanks to our guide Gord for this fantastic halibut fishing trip. While being able to bring home some fish from a guided fishing trip is nice, the most valuable experience is in fact the local knowledge from a guide who is willing to share and Gord is definitely one of them. I really appreciate that I now have a better understanding on the halibut fishery after the trip.

Pedder Bay Marina is approximately 40 minutes drive from Downtown Victoria. Because most of the trips start quite early in the morning, it’s best to catch the ferry to Victoria the night before if you are coming from Vancouver. If you’d like to book a trip with Gord at Sea Ghost Charters, please visit his website where he has listed all the available best dates for halibut fishing based on the tide. The halibut fishery in British Columbia usually opens on February 1st but Gord does not start his charters until March 1st, and it lasts until late November unless an earlier closure is announced in-season.

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A Hot Kokanee Morning

Published on May 21st, 2015 by Rodney

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.

Scotty Spinning Rod Mount

Scotty Spinning Rod Mount

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.

Kokanee on the Humminbird 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.

Fresh Kokanee

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.

Kawkawa Lake Kokanee

Here is a happy customer for once!

Happy Dad with Kokanee

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2015/2016 Lower Mainland Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes

Published on April 1st, 2015 by Rodney

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.

Fraser River night time fishing closure

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.

Cultus Lake coastal cutthroat trout

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.

Ross Lake brook 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).

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Sproat River Winter Steelheading

Published on February 4th, 2015 by Kitty

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.

Sproat River on Vancouver Island

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!

Steelheading with a Shimano Chronarch

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.

Seeking Steelhead in Pocket Water

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.

Steelhead Fishing at Wady's Pool

Swinging a Spoon for Steelhead

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.

Hunting for Steelhead at a Tight Spot

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.

Winter Steelhead at Sproat River

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.

Sighting a Steelhead

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.

Steelhead Fishing with Murphy Sportfishing

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.

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Late Season Fresh Chum Salmon

Published on December 1st, 2014 by Rodney

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.

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