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A Quick Family Get-away to Tunkwa Lake

Published on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

The rainbow trout fishing at lakes across Interior British Columbia is known to be excellent from April to June. It usually tapers off in July when the weather heats up, but picks up in late July and early August, when the “bomber” hatches begin. The term refers to the emergence of extraordinarily large chironomids, which creates a feeding frenzy among these rainbow trout.

When we found out the bite was once again on at Tunkwa Lake from the resort, I didn’t hesitate to book a couple of nights at the cabin for the family. The last time we stayed there was three years ago when Nina was about to give birth to our son Elliot, so we were pretty excited to bring him there for the first time. Joining us was our neighbour Bob and his three kids who have never experienced interior lake trout fishing.

Located just North of Logan Lake, Tunkwa Lake Resort has been operating for several decades and many families have made it their annual family get-away. During this trip, we met families who have been to the resort since 30 years ago, or even gotten married there.

On the first day when we arrived, the rain was pouring down. For some reason that seems to be the theme for me whenever I visit Tunkwa. Being 1,000m+ above sea level, it was also a bit cool, which was actually quite refreshing after enduring a long heat wave in the Fraser Valley since early July.

We settled in our cozy little cabin and lit up the fireplace so it was toasty for the evening.

The Morning View at Tunkwa Lake

We woke up the morning to drier weather and the clouds were dispersing. It looked like the rest of the trip was going to be great!

The Bird Life at Tunkwa Lake

Early Morning Keen Fisherman at Tunkwa Lake

Tunkwa Lake Resort is known to be a family resort. The biggest challenge we’ve discovered when going on a fishing trip with our little one is, obviously, to constantly come up with ideas to keep him occupied. While it’s nice to fish together, the reality is that a 2 year old’s attention span in a boat is no longer than one hour. After the one hour mark, it is time to be on dry land. The playground at the resort kept the kids occupied for hours each day, which was a great asset.

The Playground at Tunkwa Lake Resort

There have also been lots of new additions to the resort since we were last there. The new sheltered picnic area is ideal for lakeside meals.

New Picnic Area at Tunkwa Lake Resort

The kayaks and paddle boards provide options other than fishing for family members who don’t wish to fish.

Kayaks and Paddle Boards at Tunkwa Lake

Kayaking at Tunkwa Lake

Now onto the fishing, it was fabulous as expected! We finally ventured out on the boat in the afternoon after watching fish being caught left and right. The hatches were thick and in no time we were into fish.

Fish On!

Tunkwa Lake Rainbow Trout

Releasing a Rainbow Trout

The large chironomid patterns were suspended a couple of feet off the bottom in 15 feet of water. We either used a 4wt fly fishing rod with an indicator to accomplish this, or a spinning outfit with a sliding float. Both methods worked equally well.

Double Trouble!

A common sighting at Tunkwa Lake

Fish being caught were mostly in the 16 to 18 inches range, while at times a 19 inch long fish would emerge and once awhile a 20 incher was pulled in by a lucky angler. Double headers were also not uncommon, which made the day rather entertaining with two fish circling around the boat while avoiding tangles with each other’s lines and the anchor ropes.

Tunkwa Lake Rainbow Trout

Tunkwa Lake Rainbow Trout

The bite did not taper off during our full day of fishing. After dinner, we headed out again at 7:30pm and were treated with constant action until sunset.

Bent Rods at Tunkwa Lake

A Good Way to Finish the Day at Tunkwa Lake

The Night Sky at Tunkwa Lake

The kids also had a chance to dance with these fish. On our last day prior to departing, Bob brought his three kids out on my boat and they managed to brought six fish to the net in 30 minutes!

Catching Fish at Tunkwa Lake

If you are considering a family fishing trip and undecided on where you should go, then definitely consider Tunkwa Lake Resort. Like many other families who we met during this trip, we may start a same tradition by going back every year from now on!

Little Cozy Rustic Cabin at Tunkwa Lake

Selective Fishing for Fraser River Salmon Requested

Published on Friday, July 31st, 2015

Salmon fishing opens for the tidal portion of the Fraser River on August 1st and for the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River on August 3rd. The openings are for three species, chinook, pink and chum salmon, while sockeye salmon fishing remains closed because their abundance is currently not high enough for an opening.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has requested all anglers to fish selectively, meaning that you should specifically target species that are open while avoiding catching sockeye salmon.

“There is no retention of sockeye salmon permitted at this time. Given the low abundance of sockeye and the expected en-route mortality, impacts on sockeye are to be minimized and DFO is working with all users of the resource to limit impacts on sockeye.

While fishing for pink, chinook and chum salmon, anglers should avoid using fishing methods that catch sockeye salmon and fish selectively. The first principle of selective harvesting is to avoid catching non-targeted stocks. This means that anglers should use methods that do not catch sockeye. The following fishing methods enable anglers to catch pink, chinook and chum salmon and rarely intercept sockeye salmon:

Bar Fishing
Trolling Spoons at Creek mouths
Float Fishing
Pulling Plugs
Fly Fishing

We encourage anglers to continue to use these methods to target pink, chinook and chum while avoiding sockeye.

Please note that bottom bouncing is NOT considered a selective fishing method and is strongly discouraged. The Department requests that selective fishing techniques be used and will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure impacts on sockeye are at a minimum.

Should DFO feel that the rate of compliance is insufficient to ensure the adequate passage of sockeye, spot closures or a “no fishing for salmon” restriction may result.”

In the summer months, especially this year, water temperature is not as tolerable for salmonids so fish which are released always have a chance of dying due to stress. It is important for the recreational fishing community to demonstrate that selective fishing practices can be done while protecting runs which are closed for fishing so future stocks are not jeopardized. If the department observes too many sockeye salmon being caught and released, then the fishery will most likely be shut down once again to ensure the safe passage of these fish.

Sockeye salmon in the Lower Fraser River generally do not bite as they travel upstream. During a sockeye salmon recreational fishing opening, fish are usually caught by flossing (or more commonly referred to as bottom bouncing), which involves the use of a long leader so the fish are accidentally hooked in the mouth as it swept across the river. This technique is not encouraged when sockeye salmon are not open for fishing, because it is not selective. Instead, anglers are asked to catch chinook, pink and chum salmon by bar fishing, casting and retrieving lures, float fishing with bait, etc. The chance of hooking a sockeye by using these methods is significantly lower than flossing.

Bar fishing is done in the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River, usually between Hope and Chilliwack where the current is adequate enough to troll a spin-n-glow at a stationary spot. If you have never experienced bar fishing before, please check out the following links for more information.

In the tidal portion of the Fraser River, chinook salmon are typically caught by plunking freshly cured salmon roe. This technique can be very successful for jacks, which are males returning one year earlier than other fish in the same run. The video, Tidal Fraser Bottom Setup, gives you an idea how this is done.

For pink salmon, which don’t enter the Fraser River until the end of August, they can easily be caught by casting and retrieving spoons and spinners. The article, Fishing for Tidal Fraser Pink Salmon, provides an overview of this fishery and explains the technique used to catch these abundant fish.

Have a great long weekend! We will have some fantastic salmon fishing opportunities coming up in the next four months across Southern British Columbia so lets enjoy it without impacting closed species. By complying to these requests, the recreational fishing community can lead by example when it comes to protecting vulnerable salmon stocks.

First Q&A Video

Published on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Current Fishing Closures Dissected

Published on Friday, July 24th, 2015

If you participate in recreational fishing in British Columbia, by now you must have heard about all the closures which have been issued due to the exceptionally dry weather which this province has been experiencing in summer 2015. The low amount of rain in the last two months has resulted in extremely low water level for some rivers. Combining it with the high daytime temperature, it has resulted in high water temperature and low oxygen level which native salmonids cannot tolerate too well. To reduce mortality, the best action is to stop fishing at some of these streams until condition improves.

These closure announcements can be rather confusing, lately we have been getting plenty of questions on where people can still fish. This blog post is an attempt to clarify all these changes, so you know what they are and more importantly, where to look for future changes. By knowing the regulations, you can still enjoy lots of fishing opportunities that are still available in BC.

Who Regulate Our Fisheries

The first thing to note is that British Columbia’s fisheries are managed by two agencies. The province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations manages all freshwater fisheries (rivers, sloughs, lakes). Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for managing all saltwater fisheries, as well as the five Pacific salmon species when they are in rivers.

If the provincial ministry announces a stream fishing closure, it means all fishing, including salmon, is closed. If Fisheries and Oceans Canada announces a closure on salmon retention at a particular stream but the province has not announced a total closure for the same stream, then anglers can still fish for non-salmon species such as trout, kokanee and other freshwater species.

Important Links

These links take you to all the latest opening/closure announcements.

Current Closures by Region

This information is taken from all the announcements up to July 24th, so you should be aware that new announcements can be made since then. You should always check the above links for the latest opening/closure information. The information below is more of a guideline on how to read these notices.

Region 1 – Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands

The province has closed fishing for all the streams in Management Units 1-1 to 1-6, except Big Qualicum and Quinsam Rivers, since July 4th. You can find out where these Management Units are by looking at this map. While the map shows the units cover the saltwater region, the closure does not have anything to do with saltwater because remember, only Fisheries and Oceans Canada is in charge of managing saltwater fisheries.

Update (July 31st, 2015): The rest of the streams in Management Units 1-7 to 1-13 are closed to fishing starting on August 4th until September 30th. In addition, salmon fishing in all streams on Vancouver Island is now suspended until further notice. Three streams are exempted from these closures, they are Campbell, Qualicum and Quinsam Rivers.

All lake remain open for fishing (unless otherwise already stated in the regulation synopsis).

Region 2 – Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast

The province has closed fishing for all streams in Management Units 2-2 to 2-12 and 2-16 to 2-19 as of July 22nd. These closures include salmon. There are exceptions, some rivers remain open for fishing in these Management Units. These exceptions are: The Fraser (non-tidal portion), Chilliwack-Vedder, Harrison, Lillooet, non-tidal Squamish, non-tidal Pitt, Elaho, Cheakamus, Capilano (downstream of Highway 1 bridge). However, the tributaries of these named exceptions are closed.

Don’t forget, the province only manages freshwater so these closures only apply to non-tidal part of the rivers, so tidal portion of the Fraser River, Squamish River, Capilano River etc also remain open for fishing.

Salmon fishing in both the tidal and non-tidal portions of the Fraser River are now closed until further notice.

Fishing in Mamquam River is closed starting on August 22nd until further notice.

All lakes remain open for fishing (unless otherwise already stated in the regulation synopsis). Kokanee fishing remains open as they are not anadromous salmon.

Region 3 – Thompson-Nicola

The province has closed fishing for the Coldwater, Nicola and Spius Rivers on July 22nd.

In addition, DFO has closed all salmon fishing for the entire region 3 until further notice. You should note that fishing for other species than salmon remains open (except Coldwater, Nicola and Spius Rivers, or streams which already have a regular closure).

All lakes remain open for fishing (unless otherwise already stated in the regulation synopsis). Kokanee fishing remains open as they are not anadromous salmon.

Region 4 – Kootenays

From August 15th to September 15th, some streams in the Kootenays are closed. Please see this page for more information.

Region 5 – Cariboo

The province has closed fishing in the classified waters section of the Horsefly River starting on July 13th until August 31st. More information.

Region 8 – Okanagan

The province has closed fishing for all streams in Management Units 8-2 to 8-7, 8-12 to 8-15 (except Granby River).

In addition, DFO has closed all salmon fishing in Region 8, but fishing for non-salmon species such as trout, kokanee and other freshwater species remains open in streams not mentioned in the above Management Units (unless they already have a regular closure).

All lakes remain open for fishing (unless otherwise already stated in the regulation synopsis). Kokanee fishing remains open as they are not anadromous salmon.

To get the latest updates on new openings and closures, you should follow our Facebook page where announcements are posted as soon as they are made. If you have other questions on regulations, you can always ask us by sending in your questions from this page. Have a great fishing weekend!

Halibut Fishing from Pedder Bay

Published on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

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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