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Archive for October, 2008

Racking up the bull count

Published on Monday, October 27th, 2008

Today marked the 11th outing since the Tidal Fraser River re-opened for salmon fishing. I decided to drop by Garry Point Park once again for a couple of hours around flood tide. Since the bulk of the salmon run has gone by and none have been taken, I decided to only arm myself with the light spinning rod this time for bull trout. What has been impressive so far this season is the abundance of bull trout and cutthroat trout. To date I have seen four cutthroat trout caught and released, which is a good sign considering none were seen in previous years while fishing for fall salmon.

I finally have been testing out a new spinning rod that was built from a 4wt Rainshadow blank. It is a sensitive rod as expected and it bends beautifully with a trout on.

The softness of this rod is a disadvantage when spincasting because it is hard to get a good hook set, especially if a thicker hook is used. Yesterday I had trouble picking up the strikes that I had, so today I downsized the hook to a thinner one and the change paid off.

I fished the shallow bay in front of Pajo’s Fish and Chips as usual. Kids were throwing rocks into the water, dogs were swimming on the beach, large boats were roaming by constantly, who would think trout and char could be picked up with all the disturbance. At high tide, the depth I am fishing at is between 3 and 6 feet. During low tide, these areas would be completely dry. Once water returns, fish also return to feed on critters around vegetations.

I managed to hook three today. The first small one darted into the shallows and pecked on the lure right in front of me. After a few kicks, it got off pretty easily. The second and third fish were much larger, estimated to be between 2 and 3lb. Both fish were hooked within a few casts, so they must have been schooling together. Knowing how soft the rod is, I gave it all on the hook set and the rod bent straight to the cork each time. Both fish were hooked fairly far from shore so they provided pretty lengthy fights.

This maybe the last Tidal Fraser River outing in October. Although salmon fishing has generally been poor, the bull trout fishing has been very entertaining.

Rodney’s October 2008′s Tidal Fraser River bull trout count

Date                  # of fish hooked    # of fish landed
October 10th 1 1
October 11th 2 2
October 12th 2 0
October 13th 2 1
October 15th 2 2
October 18th 2 0
October 22nd 1 1
October 24th 1 1
October 25th 2 2
October 26th 4 2
October 27th 3 2
Total 22 14
Stare at the water

Published on Sunday, October 26th, 2008

After bringing up followers and ambushers yesterday in the Tidal Fraser River, I saw some pretty exciting actions in the shallows today. With only a couple of hours to spare after the weekend chores, I hurried down to Garry Point Park to catch the end of today’s incoming tide. The Westerly wind was blowing hard, but that was not so much a factor since the park has fishing spots at all directions.

Today I decided to retire the spinners temporarily and try some bigger lures. I had a box of Gibbs Croc and Koho spoons in size 1/4 and 3/8oz stocked up recently. Green and orange are my productive colours. Green seems to work for chum salmon when they decide to bite, while orange almost never fails if there are coho salmon around.

Soon after I began trying the shallow portion of the first bay, a bull trout darted upward and lunged at the Croc spoon. It was rather exciting as I saw the entire event. Again, because the fish came up from the side of the spoon, it managed to get foul hooked. Unfortunately, I don’t think this particular fish will survive after being released due to the size of the gash near the abdomen. It swam away quickly, so you just never know. If it doesn’t, a nearby heron will be happy tomorrow.

Something that I’ve noticed this fall is the amount of juvenile salmonids that have been swimming by while we fish. During every flood tide, it has not been unusual to see schools after schools of them swimming toward the ocean. Perhaps this is a good indication for the fishing in several years from now.

I managed to produce a couple more hits but no hook-ups in the shallows before moving on. After a spot change, two more bull trout decided to grab the spoon in the deeper water. As tide started flowing outward, my expectation for even a sighting of salmon quickly diminished. After another spot change, I then made another exciting observation. Big boats are always moving by at the Fraser River mouth, so waves pound the shoreline constantly at times. When this occurs, I usually choose to cease fishing and wait for the water to calm down again. While waiting at one point today, I just happened to glance down between two wave crests and saw a big salmon, probably a chum salmon, swimming by several feet below the surface. See salmon in the Chilliwack is a norm, but seeing them swimming in the murky Tidal Fraser River is rare. It reminded me that anything could be swimming by in front of me while fishing this brown canal. After that sighting, I quickly dropped the ultralight setup and brought out the salmon gear again.

I finished today’s outing with this gorgeous sunset shot.

Followers and ambushers

Published on Friday, October 24th, 2008

I skipped out of the house after 3:00pm to catch the last hour of the incoming tide. Second cast into the day brought this bull trout to shore. This fish tried to grab the spinner really hard at first. I missed the hookset but it greedily came back from the second grab before I ran out of water to retrieve.

A new angler is definitely needed, or I should start catching bigger fish.

Perhaps this…

After releasing this fish, I thought today was going to be jolly dolly day with multiple hook-ups. That obviously didn’t happen for the rest of the afternoon. The most exciting part of the day came around dusk. At one point I was reeling in my spoon really quickly to recast. When the spoon was approaching me near the surface, I saw a big brown shadow behind it. It sped up and went over the spoon from one side, then again from the other side, and repeated two more times before I ran out of water to retrieve. It was obviously an attempt to attack, but I never felt a tap on the rod while it happened. Judging by the size of the head, which expanded when it extended its jaw near the spoon, I would say it was a bull trout that weighs 5lb or more.

Although the Tidal Fraser River looks like a wide canal filled with brown water, there are actually many exciting findings if one chooses to look at it more closely when fishing. When spinning, I like to keep the lure in the water until it absolutely has to come out in the last second. Too often there would be a follower behind the lure. Spincasting is as easy as cast and retrieve, but I’ve found that a sudden change of retrieving speed would trigger a take. If the tension suddenly drops when retrieving a spinner, it indicates that the blade has stopped turning. This happens when it hits bottom, but I find that most of the time it is because the following fish has bumped into the hook or lure. A sudden quick jerk on the lure that takes place once every few seconds would generate the attention of nearby fish. The Tidal Fraser River is a dark environment, it can only be advantageous to use any available movement that a lure can produce.

Bull trout and northern pikeminnow are typically ambushers, which suspend, swim around slowly and attack when a food item swims by. Quite often I observe fish, particular larger ones, emerging near the lure and attack it from the side. This observation can never get old, it feels like the heart always skips a beat or two when it happens. This method of attack also explains why some of the fish are often hooked under the lower jaw or outside the jawline.

No salmon were harmed today.

Zippo for coho

Published on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

October 18th

Saturday afternoon’s splendid weather drew me out of the house after completing some work. With only a couple of hours to spare, I decided to head down to Garry Point Park and see if I could tempt a trout or two. The tide was at its lowest, so there wasn’t much expectation for sightings of salmon. My success of salmon fishing at Garry Point Park has been limited over the year. Beside a few coho and chinook jacks and pink salmon, I’ve only seen chum salmon rolling at times. The mouth of the Fraser River is simply too wide so returning fish tend to spread out.

Water clarity had degraded slightly due to rain from earlier in the week, but it was still very favorable for spincasting. In the couple of hours that I had, I managed to miss a solid hit and witnessed two followers to shore. It was rather uneventful but relaxing since expectation was low in the first place.

I managed to take some photographs as usual.

This young swan fed around me most of the time. It was probably one of the swanlings that we encountered back in the summer.

This mink swam across a bay to me and was quite interested in the fishing gear.

Half-submerged logs are perfect hangouts for trout, char and pikeminnows around Garry Point Park.

October 19th

Sunday’s sunshine could not be wasted so I headed back to my usual salmon hunting spot in late morning. The strong flood tide was around 2:00pm so the timing could not be better. I arrived and found Harry, an old timer, fishing with roe. We had a long chat about how the fishing has been since the Tidal Fraser reopened.

I met Harry on a rainy day at the same location in October 1997 while driving around and looking for new fishing spots. I asked what he was fishing for on that day, but he was quite guarded with information, which was very understandable. While chatting, he hooked into a good sized fish that made us running around the bar for awhile. With no one else around to help, I volunteered to net the good sized chinook salmon for him. The day after that, I returned with my spinning rod and lures. He watched with skepticism. It took me no time to connect with a coho or two right away on a 1/4oz Gibbs Croc. The rest of October in 1997 was fantastic, I would race back from UBC in the afternoon to catch the last few bites before dark. During two particular outings, I managed to hook over ten adult and jack coho salmon while roe produced only a few for others. The fishing has been good at times after 1997, but it has never been that good again. These days Harry seems excited when I show up to fish beside his roe rod. Having a spincasting angler beside his bait is a good way to determine if there are fish around. If there are, either one of us would find them. If both techniques do not produce, then it is safe to conclude no fish are coming in.

Unfortunately, no fish indeed came in on this day. Beside one chubby bull trout that I sluggishly shook off my spoon, none of us had a single bite from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

October 22nd

After leaving the spot alone for two days, I was ready for more punishment. The magic coho salmon period has passed, yet none of us have hooked any beside a few jack coho salmon. This afternoon I poked the water with my spinners and spoons right before flood tide. Chum salmon could be seen rolling from time to time, which was really not that unusual considering the in-season Lower Fraser run estimate is now up to 2.1 million fish.

Flood tide went by and no action could be found beside one solid hit that I missed. Once outgoing tide started picking up, some bites appeared. I hooked this bull trout that looked rather underfed. It is rather snake-like. Its partially torn jaw suggested that it had been hooked previously. This type of injury is particularly common on catch and release species.

Just before sunset, I felt a good tug during one retrieve. I missed it and continued reeling. Another tug came shortly, which I also missed. On the third and strongest tug, I set the hook and the fish went for a rather strong run, peeling a good amount of line off the reel. This was no bull trout I thought. Excited, I said, “Coho! Coho!” It continued dashing from side to side, resembling how a coho salmon would behave. The runs ended pretty quickly and it surfaced right away as if it gave up the fight. I took a closer look.

Roll Eyes

Catch of the day

With ten outings banked, one cutthroat trout, two northern pikeminnow and over a dozen bull trout but no coho landed, I can almost assume that my Tidal Fraser River fall salmon season will end with a big zippo for coho. I say almost only because this weekend’s outings may still bring unpredictable result. After all, it is fishing. Wink

Chumtastic on the Vedder

Published on Friday, October 17th, 2008

Since some heavy rainfalls are expected in the next several days, I decided that a trip to the Vedder was needed today before the river colours up once again. It is after all, prime time for coho salmon, so I better take full advantage of it before time runs out. This was my second outing to the Vedder this month. Normally I am able to do several outings by mid October, but other priorities have prevented that.

Perhaps I was eager, I actually arrived at our meeting place five minutes earlier than Chris. We made our way through the trails in the dark and reached the wading spot. The water looked awfully swift but Chris assured me that it was wadeable. Being significantly lighter in weight, I am always concerned about wading. There have been times when I found myself lifted off the river bed and floating downstream after following Chris’ wading steps. There were no such problems this morning. We buddy-waded and the depth was only up to our knees. We were ready to fish with many spare minutes before light.

Fishing started out slowly. The float only dipped once every couple dozens of casts, for Chris anyway. I struggled to find a bite for the first hour. Chris broke the ice by landing a good sized jack coho salmon, while making fun of my comical performance yesterday with my jack. This year’s high abundance of jack coho is a positive indication of next year’s coho salmon return.

When my float finally dove, I was ready for the hookset. A good looking chum salmon showed herself on the surface right away. Female chum salmon are much easier to handle. This one was brought in no time. Upon close inspection, it was quite fresh but I decided that it would be released.

Beside a couple more chum salmon hooked by Chris, that was it for the morning in the lower river!

Chris ended his trip at 9:30am as he had other daily duties. I decided to fish for the entire day to benefit the most out of my high fuel expense from Steveston. I ventured to mid river in late morning. Perhaps the brief rise of the river level earlier this week has pushed all the coho salmon up. Water clarity degraded slightly during the day but improved as the afternoon went by. The first couple of spots that I thought would produce were not delivering at all.

I finally reached one of my favorite spots by mid afternoon. It is a long stretch with medium sized boulders, which create a moderately turbulent flow. In the past I have seen fish moving into this run during the day, holding and biting, so I was hopeful. I arrived and found one other angler, who reported slow fishing in the morning but improvement just before my arrival. I could see schools of chum salmon making their way into the run. Within a few casts the float was buried repeatedly. Several hookups produced a big male chum salmon and a rather big silvery fish, possibly coho salmon, which quickly got off after one leap.

The rest of the day was no different to what we experienced in the morning. There were periods of sporadic bites, but also longer unproductive periods. The white spring roe from two weeks ago worked magically when the bite was on. Unlike the lower river, most of the chum salmon that I encountered in mid river were somewhat coloured and undesirable for keeping in my opinion. Almost every drift would resulted in a float burial. By late afternoon, I decided to keep a doe that was even nicer than the one I caught in the morning.

The entire day was dry, which was a pleasant surprise because the weatherman forecasted the opposite.

The highlight of the day was actually not the catch on the end of the line, but the capture on the lenses. I was lucky enough to creep in closely to this young eagle, which was busy feeding on a dead chum salmon. I sat just 10 feet from it for around ten minutes and managed to take plenty of photos and video clips while it dined.

The other bird encounter today was the usual American dipper, which was always around me feeding on leftover roe pieces.

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