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Archive for July, 2009

Sturgeon on the pier

Published on Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I stopped by the No. 3 Road Pier this evening to put up a couple of posters for Saturday’s Fish for the Future. While there, Marco stopped by to do a bit of sturgeon fishing so I stuck around and watched for awhile.

The No. 3 Road Pier offers a variety of fishing in the summer, from baiting for peamouth chub to jigging for pink salmon. Pier fishing does not offer solitude, but the social aspect can be very appealing. A chair, some snacks and the right companions can turn a fishless outing on the pier rather enjoyable.

White sturgeon can be commonly caught in the Fraser River year-round. It is a catch and release fishery, which anglers can enjoy from both shore and boats.

Heavy gear is required when fishing for white sturgeon.

Baiting up!

Big bait catches big fish!

A large bar weight and eulachon are tickets to big white sturgeon.

A dozen or so anglers patiently waited on the pier. They chatted to kill some time while keeping an eye on the rods. The wait was not too long. A solid bite on one angler’s rod turned the atmosphere on the pier instantly. The crowd gathered to watch as his reel screamed after a hookset.

Oohs and Ahs came out from the crowd while waiting for the fish to surface.

Its head emerged after a couple of minutes.

To land a big fish, the angler had to guide it into the shallow water.

An evening success!

Gentle release to be fought on another day.

Greenland from above

Published on Thursday, July 9th, 2009

My 2009 spring Danish adventure came to an end yesterday as I flew back to Vancouver. During the Trans-Atlantic flight, we were fortunate enough to have clear sky at the eastern and western edges of Greenland. I snapped these photographs as we few over these glacial landscapes. 

When I arrived in Vancouver, I dropped by No. 2 Road Pier to see the restored floating dock. It looks fantastic! The floating dock is now wider and has a much nicer surface. Even though the Fraser River still has the silty white freshet colour, the water visibility is actually not bad, hovering at around one foot. This morning I decided to drop by Garry Point Park to make a few cast with the spinner, hoping to entice a northern pikeminnow or even a bull trout. No fish were found, but I spotted a couple of fish feeding on the surface, as well as numerous sockeye salmon in the main channel. Seals were busy hunting down these returning salmon. It is a welcoming sight after the grim salmon returns in the last couple of years. See you all at Fish for the Future on Saturday July 11th!

How to kill a river

Published on Monday, July 6th, 2009

On one rainy February morning in 2005, Shane and I walked along the Cheakamus River, hoping to connect with a silver winter steelhead. After hiking and fishing through a large section of the river, we came across one run that seemed extremely fishy. There had to be a fish laying in it.

I made a long cast out and allowed the large pink rubber worm drifting gently down the flow. Suddenly the float was buried. The dive was too swift to be a snag, it was a fish! I yanked the rod back beyond my shoulders and watched the rod kicked down furiously. Before I had a chance to scream “Fish on!”, it darted toward me and made a big splash right in front of Shane as I frantically tried to pick up the slack line on my centerpin reel. It was silver, it was one of the largest steelhead that I had ever seen on my line. Shivering from the cold and the excitement, I walked downstream slowly as the fish used the current as its advantage to escape. After a few minutes of tugging, it emerged on the surface and slowly made its way toward me. I reached my hand out, thinking that it was ready to be tailed but only to be startled by another burst of its energy. It splashed several times on the surface and the hook fell out of its mouth. I looked back at Shane, who looked at me with the “What were you thinking?” look.

Still fueled with adrenaline, I went straight back to where I had connected with the fish and made another cast. As if I had orchestrated, the float once again disappeared beneath the surface! Another fish made its splashy appearance on the surface as I attempted to pick up the slack line once again. It was a smaller fish, but still very solid. It was almost a replay of the previous fight. I made my way down to where I had previously lost the fish and prepared to land the fish. Just when I thought that I had it this time, the fish managed to go behind a rock and rubbed the leader a few times. As expected, the leader suddenly snapped and all I could do was to hopelessly watch it swimming away. Shane let out a loud chuckle behind me. What a disappointment it was, two steelhead hooked without being able to photograph with them. Nevertheless, these beauties were on their way to produce more offsprings to ensure the future of this unique steelhead run.

That future was instantly shattered several months later, when a sodium hydroxide spill due to the derailment of a CN Rail train killed almost every living organisms downstream from it. Offsprings of these trophy steelhead, were surely wiped out, among with other juvenile steelhead runs that had also been rearing in the river since the previous year.

The spill also jeopardized the pink salmon return, which was poor in the following return year (2007). The Cheakamus River and other tributaries of the Squamish River, have always given me memorable angling experiences since I was introduced to them in 1995. In the winter months we have had the opportunities to catch many bull trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and steelhead. In the fall months, its chum and coho salmon fisheries have given us many wonderful days with multiple large chrome fish captured. There are not many places in the world where you can experience this type of quality fishery, especially being only one hour from a populated city.

Since the disastrous spill, efforts have been made to restore these lost populations. The short term result has not been very positive. The salmon and steelhead returns in the Squamish River have been dismal in the last couple of years. Anglers used to visit, enjoy and celebrate the return of these fish between September and April. This is no longer the case. The river is empty of fish, fishers and other animals that depend on them. Despite of its grim state, volunteers have not given up by continuing its restoration, hoping to revive it in the long run.

The coffin is not fully closed yet, but it seems like it is about to be nailed. The currently proposed Garibaldi at Squamish project aims to create a Whistler-like ski resort that will accommodate over 15,000 users at one time. beside the obvious concern of development over natural land that we already enjoy recreationally, the largest concern that anglers and river stewards have is the capacity of its required water usage. Its plan is to utilize the headwater of Brohm Creek as the source of its water supply. This, in my opinion, is environmentally irresponsible. Brohm Creek is one of few tributaries of the Cheakamus River where salmonids such as steelhead spawn. Headwater is the source of a creek’s discharge. By drawing water from it to supply the resort’s need, it ultimately puts an end to the future of the Cheakamus River steelhead, which is already uncertain. In a world where concerns of water shortage crisis is growing rapidly, it is unbelievable that projects at this magnitude are even being considered.

We are currently seeing the killing of a river that has served many of us well. I would like to experience that rainy February morning in 2005 again, but it could only be relived by a few photographs if projects such as this are approved. The natural landscape and wildlife in the Squamish region already provide limitless recreational opportunities to anglers, hikers, mountain bikers, rockclimbers and many others. Do we need another manufactured “nature” experience that requires us to pay a significant sum of money to enjoy? This province markets its tourism as Supernatural BC, there is nothing natural about this development.

What can you do as a concerned angler? You can voice your concerns! The Environmental Assessment Office is currently accepting comments from the public before July 19th. Simply download this PDF file, print it, fill it and mail it to the address provided on the form. If you do not have a printer, we will have forms available at this year’s Fish for the Future for you to fill out. I will even mail it for you.

It is not only your responsibility to protect the few fish left in the Cheakamus River, but it should also be your interest to see better fishing like what many used to experience in the past. Please don’t stand by and regret when it is lost beyond recovery.

Here is a news video clip from Global BC in late 2008 that provides some background information on Brohm Creek.

No longer puzzled by perch

Published on Friday, July 3rd, 2009

With less than a week of stay left in Denmark, I wanted one more chance to tackle the lake that we have boated in the last couple of weeks. During our first outing, we all hooked a fish each but I did not manage to land my fish. During our second outing, we hooked a fish each again but both were lost. It has been a frustrating ordeal, even though it should not be too surprising because we are after all wading into a new system. Without a depth sounder, an electric motor and proper anchoring system, it steepens the learning curve.

Perch is, after all, a carnivorous species that aggressively attacks whatever swims within its sight. They are also very abundant due to their ability to colonize and feed. There were really no reasons for us not being able to catch more, beside being at the wrong spots where the fish were not schooling.

There are still many unknowns, which I am eager to find out. Since the weather was still very warm and calm, we decided to give it a third attempt this evening. After an early dinner, we arrived at the dock at 6:30pm. Luckily there was a person who seemed to be a local old timer, so Nina’s brother Rune was able to gather some local knowledge. He pointed out a couple of specific spots where perch fishing is quite productive, which are opposite to the side of the lake where we have been focusing.

I decided to take a boat out on my own while Nina and Rune shared one, mostly because I decided to flyfish. Perhaps these fish would be more eager to bite if the presentation was slowed down a bit.

Our first stop had fair amount of surface activity, which was a good sign. Rune reported a bite immediately, Nina soon hooked the first fish of the evening. It was a perch that made a brief appearance on the surface before falling off the hook.

We moved to the second location not long after as some swimmers had taken over the area. Once anchored, I observed the surface and watched more small fish rising for a feed. A closer examination of the turbid water revealed that there were in fact thousands of these fish, swimming in schools just below the surface. With so much food in the water, I was no longer wondering why we were not getting as many bites as we should.

My first hook-up brought a perch similar to Nina’s in size to the boat, but it also fell off the hook rather quickly once leaving the water. The following cast also resulted in another hook-up, but it was a perch at its infancy, almost as small as the spinner that it tried to ingest.

Could it get smaller?

After a bit of action on the spinning rod, I switched to the fly rod. A minnow pattern was my choice, since these perch most likely feed on small baitfish. While stripping in my fly, I accidentally foul-hooked one of the small baitfish. The size 2 hook penetrated its abdomen, instantly killing it. It would not go to waste of course, because I handed to Rune so he could use it as bait under a float.

Yes, it could get smaller!

Until this evening I had no idea what were swimming around on the surface. These tiny baitfish are called bleak (Alburnus alburnus), a rather typical freshwater species that make up the base of the food web in European lakes.

I decided that it was time for another move. During our past two outings, we would anchor at one spot for a rather long time without detecting a bite. Perhaps being constantly on the move after thoroughly fished different areas would eventually lead me to multiple hook-ups.

The tactic definitely worked! Each spot where I anchored would produce several bites before fading away, which signalled me to move to the next spot. The fishing especially improved after 9:30pm, when the sun began to set. The northern shoreline was completely shaded, which seemed to make these fish feed without hesitation. At one point, I watched one fish chasing the spinner to the surface, pausing slightly as I re-submerged my lure after taking it out and attacking it again. The fly rod was also rewarded with a couple of aggressive fish.

As I made my way back to the dock at around 10:30pm, I watched large perch hunting on the surface with their dorsal fin and humped shoulder sticking out at times. The evening ended with thousands of bleaks dancing on the surface in front of the dock, where I was able to hook several fish in a row and watched more feeding frenzy on the surface. In total, I was able to connect with just over a dozen fish and land seven of them.

This evening outing was a satisfying finish of our exploration of a new lake. Although we did not find any exceptionally large fish, these smaller hunters were just as exciting to catch when the bites were consistent. Perhaps our return in the future will lead us to some trophy perch or pike.

Spiny perch can be hard to grip onto!

A simple game on a hot summer day

Published on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

The weather continues to be fantastic in Denmark. In fact, it is almost too fantastic. Daytime temperature has been hovering in the high twenties. Combining that with high humidity and only two hours of true darkness each day, it only makes sense to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible.

Because it is so hot, there really isn’t much fishing available during the day except coarse fishing. Even though it is not a fishery that many get excited about, I guess some coarse fishing is better than no fishing at all. We decided to visit a little swamp where we caught multiple species a few years ago. These included roach, bream, tench, crucian carp, perch and a large common carp that took me for a wild ride for close to ten minutes.

Battling the golden beast in 2006

Our first stop was the tacklestore so we could pick up a container of maggots. These wiggly creatures are actually one of the best bait for coarse fish. Other common bait being used include corn and bread dough.

This game is more than just throwing out a baited hook and waiting for a bite. Little details such as float size and shape, the number of split shots used can vary the catch result greatly. Unlike fishing for salmonids, minnows feed by grazing along the lake bottom so the float depth should always be the same as the water depth. We like to adjust the depth so that the deepest split shot lays on the bottom. This prevents the float from being carried around by the wind and ensures that the bait isn’t suspending too much.

The pond shore is heavily covered by vegetations, so our only spot to fish from is the little dock.

Corn and thin floats are just two of many important components in coarse fishing.

A well balanced float can detect more bites.

The bites came almost immediately once we had our bait in the water. They usually begin with a few sporatic dips of the float, followed by a towing motion of the float. This usually indicates that the fish is swimming away with the baited hook in its mouth. With a strike, the fish would usually be on. It could be a tiny roach, a feisty tench or a powerful carp. The unknown is the excitement in a fishery that has many target species at one time.

Hooking up under the bright sun.

A roach, the most common minnow species in European lakes.

Beside connecting with a few roach, we managed to entice some bream as well. Calling these fish slimy is an understatement. There is not a shortage of their slime, which is thick, almost jelly-like. It creeps up the fishing line when a bream is hooked. With a touch, your hands would be haunted with a strong odour that can lead to nausea with a few sniffs. Nevertheless, they are fun to float fish for. We did not catch as many as we used to, but Nina managed to find a good sized fish by using a combination of maggots and corn on her hook.

Although undesirable, float fishing for coarse fish is actually an exciting pastime on a hot summer day. Its simplicity and high success rate make it an universal activity that anyone with a fishing bug would enjoy.

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